Perennials with striking foliage add a strong presence to the garden that doesn’t fade as quickly as floral finery can. Leaves linger all season long, weaving steady notes of color, texture and interest into a planting bed. Try a few of these perennials that unfurl eye-catching foliage.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
With velvety leaves that are pest- and disease-free, lady’s mantle brings carefree elegance to a planting. Chartreuse flowers appear from late spring to midsummer. Plants self-sow freely; remove spent blooms to keep plants from spreading. Plants grow 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. Part shade to full sun in cooler regions. USDA zones 4–9.
Coral bells (Heuchera)
Coral bells paint the garden in nearly any shade – pink, silver, chartreuse, purple, amber and many others. Colors may coat leaves solidly or mix in multihued blends. Plants grow 6 to 10 inches tall and wide. Full sun to part shade. USDA zones 3–10.
Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’)
Delicate silver fronds glisten on burgundy stems in this deer-resistant perennial. A splash of morning sunshine develops strongest leaf color. Plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. Cultivar ‘Ursula’s Red’ has silver leaves with red veins. Full to part shade. USDA zones 4–9.
Jack Frost brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’)
Silver heart-shaped leaves boast green veins and edges and are slug- and deer-resistant. Remove spent flowers. If allowed to self-sow, seedlings won’t likely resemble parents. Plants grow 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Part shade; full sun in areas with cool summers. USDA zones 3–10.
Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrechtii)
In spring, blue blooms sparkle among finely textured foliage. Deer- and rabbit-resistant leaves are soft to the touch and turn traffic-stopping gold in autumn. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and up to 4 feet wide. Full sun (ideal) to part shade. USDA zones 4–9.
Bonfire cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’)
Bright chartreuse blooms top stems in spring; leaves blaze coppery red in fall. After flowering, cut plants back by half to encourage branching and eliminate flopping. Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant; plants grow 18 to 20 inches tall and wide. Sun to part sun. USDA zones 5–9.
Leaves embody variety – in textures (puckered, smooth, wavy, shiny) and hues (blue, gold, green, white or variegated). Look for new slug-resistant selections. Part to full shade (ideal in hot regions). Size varies, from 2 inches tall by 4 to 6 inches wide, to 4 feet tall by 6 feet wide. USDA zones 3–9.
Golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’)
Green-striped yellow leaves set shady corners aglow. Wonderful planting partners include hosta and Corydalis lutea. ‘Nicolas’ variety has brilliant fall color. Deer-resistant plants grow 18 inches tall and wide. Part sun to full shade. USDA zones 4–9.
Foliage features silver speckles, splotches or all-over color. Spring blooms open pink, fading to blue. Allow plants to self-sow, and you’ll discover more leaf patterns as seedlings won’t come true to parents. Deer-resistant plants grow 8 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide. Part sun to full shade. USDA Zones 3–8.
Thick foliage comes in an assortment of colors on plant forms from ground cover to upright clump. Low-maintenance sedum stands up to heat, high humidity and drought.
Plants grow from 2 to 18 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. Full sun to part sun. USDA zones 3–10.