Be Creative,   Be Inspired,   Be Selective   |   M-F: 9-6,  Sat: 9-5    |   937-845-0093

Designing With Dark Foliage

July 1, 2022


To Your Garden!

Dark-leaved plants are ideal for bringing some contrast to the garden. 

Many dark-leaved plants have an unusual beauty. Examples include the burgundy leaves of Tiny Wine Ninebark (zones 3 to 7) and the delicate plum foliage of Japanese maple ‘Tamukeyama’.

Display their rich colors and interesting leaf forms against the backdrop of rusted metal walls, pale fences or spilling over large boulders. These are a few of our favorites. 


Heuchera Forever Purple displays unfaltering color, with intensely purple, glossy foliage with fluted edges. Produces short airy sprays of small soft violet-colored flowers on deep purple stems from late spring through summer. Outstanding color for borders, rock gardens, and mixed containers. An herbaceous perennial; evergreen in mild winter areas.

Requires filtered sun, part shade. The foliage reaches 12 in. tall, 22 in. wide; flowers reach 15 in. tall and blooms late spring to late summer which attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Penstemon Blackbeard

This variety’s striking combination of dark eggplant purple leaves with lilac purple flowers will create a focal point in the garden. 

Penstemon Blackbeard produces strong flower stems and longer, wide foliage blades that hold flowers upright all season. Dried seed pods after flowering adds late-season interest and supplies food for your backyard birds during the fall and winter season. Beardtongue is a versatile perennial that tolerates a wide range of garden conditions. Prolific snapdragon-like flowers highlight the linear foliage. A cinch to grow – no pampering needed.

It will attract butterflies and hummingbirds and does well in a drier climate. Drought resistant once established. Waxy green foliage stays lush through summer’s heat. Avoid too moist (wet feet). 

Penstemon Beardtongue Onyx and Pearls


Tiny Wine is extra bushy shrub, with small, refined leaves. The dark bronze-maroon foliage is colorful all season and contrasts beautifully with the white flowers in late spring. The flower show is exceptional, with dainty flowers blooming up and down the stem in a very showy display. This durable plant may be used in the landscape for season-long color and is also a great choice for patio containers.

Japanese Maple

Tamukeyama Japanese Maple is a graceful, mounding, dwarf tree with waxy, deep red bark and beautiful cascading branches. Deeply lobed foliage is a beautiful purple-red throughout the summer and turns bright red in the fall. An ideal accent for Asian-themed gardens. Well-suited for use as a container specimen. Slowly reaches 6 to 10 ft. tall, 10 to 12 ft. wide.

Plant beside a stream or pond where its cascading branches will look superb. Use the extremely fine texture and reddish hue of its leaves to contrast areas of coarser green plants. Beautiful above a large rock or wall where the limbs can spill over. A great specimen plant for the woodsy landscape. Keep away from full sun, which can burn leaves.

Deciduous. Needs filtered sun or part shade.

Acer P Diss Tamkeyama Japanese Maple
Blackie Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potato Vine

The dramatic dark leaves of the Blackie Sweet Potato Vine will look beautiful in combination annual planters and hanging baskets. It looks especially beautiful with pale pinks, reds and violets. In hot and humid places it makes a great ground cover, it will grow in a snap, and reseed freely. The flowers are stunning in their unique trumpet form and pale purple hues that accentuate the leaves’ purple tones. And these blooms will keep coming all summer long. Technically there will be some tubers you can harvest and eat, they’re just very starchy and not as sweet as the commercial varieties. Prefers full sun.

Persian Shield

Tropical Persian shield, aka royal purple plant, thrives on heat and humidity, yielding its most brilliant color in bright, indirect sunlight and partially shaded locations. It prefers temperatures above 60°F.

The characteristic broadleaf foliage positively shimmers. Neon shades of purple veined with green seem to be overlaid with a silver gloss.

The Persian Shield prefers well-drained, organic-rich soil. Keep it growing vigorously by fertilizing monthly with a light application of a slow-release fertilizer.

Persian Shield Plant
Redhead Coleus

Redhead Coleus

Coleus ‘Redhead’ displays bright red leaves that are well-branched. It maintains its great from form late into the season.  Great for combinations and the landscape. They are quite spectacular and preserve their brilliant color in the shade. Deer dislike this plant and will typically leave it alone in favor of better goodies.

Coleus come from a tropical climate and need warm temperatures to thrive. Do not plant outdoors until temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees at night. Optimal temperature range for coleus is 70°F to 100°F. This plant thrives in both full sun and full shade. However, keep it away from hot, dry spots that get direct afternoon sun or reflected sunlight, such as against the south side of a white wall.

Individual plants should be spaced roughly 22 inches apart, whether grown in bulk or as a bedding plant. It grows best in evenly wet, well-drained soil, but will perish in standing water.

Black Ray Petunia

This compact variety lives up to its name, having almost true-black blooms. Black Ray, bred by Danziger. This unique breed is loved for its unique velvet-like blossoms which provide both a unique floral texture and a deep accent to support almost any color combination. It has a spread of 12-14 inches, requiring a space of 8-10 inches to properly grow, and an optimal height of 6-10 inches.

Petunias are a great plant to add to any floral environment. Their high versatility makes them a wise feature in planters and flower gardens. Create beautiful potted combinations and garden landscapes that will last all season with a canopy of trumpeting blossoms.

Nightglow™ Diervilla

Nightglow Diervilla

Turn up the drama with Nightglow™ Diervilla. Also known as Diervilla splendens Nightglow™ (‘El Madrigal’), this bush honeysuckle has dark, moody burgundy foliage that becomes more vivid in the fall. The high-contrast flowers in yellow are trumpet shaped and frequented by both butterflies and bees. This tough little shrub flowers from spring to summer and looks amazing next to plants with chartreuse or golden foliage.

This is an upright multi stemmed shrub with a mounding form. It is small and compact, maxing out at 2 – 3 feet high and as wide. It is deciduous and hardy to zone 4. It is usually ignored by deer and tolerant of dry and clay sites. Because of their short stature, Nightglow works well in foundation planting for a pop of color, as a low hedge, as an accent focal point, and in containers.