Purple is the New Green

Dark-leaved huechera and lavender tinged ornamental kale add depth to this entry garden. The spike plant echoes the dark theme.

Dark-leaved huechera and lavender tinged ornamental kale add depth to this entry garden. The spike plant echoes the dark theme.

It’s garden tour season, and I’ve been fortunate to attend several — with a couple more scheduled for later this week! What I love about touring gardens is you get a chance to see what others are trying in their gardens. Tours show you the real trends in garden design, and I always come away with an idea or two for my own spaces..

This year, I’m seeing a lot of purple—and not just in blooms. Purple foliage seems to be the new green. Whether it’s a dark-colored heuchera, a deep, deep purple sedum, a lovely eggplant-colored ninebark or lavender ornamental kale, purple is everywhere.

Is it purple, magenta, red—whatever the color that edges this canna plant—it adds to the drama of the container.

Is it purple, magenta, red—whatever the color that edges this canna plant—it adds to the drama of the container.

What’s the best way to use purple or other dark foliage plants? Here are a few tips we found:

  • Put it in the sun. Darker colors tend to fade into the background in shady gardens.
  • Use it as an accent. A full-on border of dark foliage might be too much for some spaces. But when you place dark foliage near lighter toned greens or yellows, both plants really shine.
  • Try it in containers. Many gardeners love the purple foliage of ‘Black Heart’ sweet potato vine, a container annual that creates a waterfall of dark leaves against light containers. Other dark-leaved sweet potato vines are ‘Blackie’ with its maple-like leaf shape or Illusion® Midnight Lace.
  • Go purple in shrubs. Smokebush is one of my favorite shrubs. While the chartreuse-colored ‘Golden Spirit’ smokebush is terrific, Royal Purple is a stunning dark option.

Here are some more tips on using dark colored plants from a Wisconsin Master Gardener.  What are your favorite purple-foliaged plants?

—Mary Lahr Schier

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