Add Contrast to Your Landscape with Dark Foliage Plants
One of gardening’s hottest trends is growing dark-leafed plants. In the garden or containers, deep-hued leaves stand out, displaying non-stop, season-long color. Dark leaves unfurl in shades of black, near black, deep purple or burgundy.
No need to fear these dark plants. Learn how to make them shine in your yard – and discover a few dark foliage favorites.
Design with the Dark
- Use dark-leaf plants in planting beds or containers.
- Pair dark hues with lighter colors, such as gold, pink, lavender, white or bright green. Dark leaves also dazzle alongside plants with leaves in metallic tints, like bronze or silver.
- Try to site in full sun or a sun-splashed site. Deep tones tend to disappear in shade.
- Position dark plants as a backdrop for lighter-toned bloomers.
Favorite Dark Plants
Check out our favorite dark-leaf plants. Most are sold and treated as annuals, although some act like perennials in the warmest parts of the country.
Use for Bedding or Containers
These dark foliage plants perform well in planting beds. In containers, draft these deep-toned beauties to play the role of thriller, filler or spiller, depending on plant and pot size.
This foliage beauty has broad or narrow leaves in deep burgundy shades (as well as bright gold and pink hues). Plants tolerate heat and sun, but need consistently moist soil.
Varieties: Purple Knight, Little Ruby, Red Threads
Modern coleus offer varieties that thrive in full sun and/or shade with burgundy to near-black leaves. Check plant tags to be sure you’re buying the right type for your growing situation.
Varieties: Colorblaze Velvet Mocha, Midnight Rambler, Black Jack
Dark leaves dress peppers in formal finery accented with small fruits that are round or finger-like. Plants tolerate heat and humidity.
Varieties: Purple Flash, Black Pearl
Use as Ground Covers or in Containers
In planting beds, these trailers quickly blanket the ground. In containers, tuck along pot edges and let them cascade as spiller plants.
Purple Heart Setcreasea
Deep purple leaves cover plants that thrive in hot, dry sites. Great planting partners include lantana and purple fountain grass.
Varieties: The straight species —Setcreasea pallida, has the deepest hue.
Sweet potato vine
In warm regions, vines grow up to 3 feet a day, reaching lengths up to 8-10 feet. Lobed leaves unfurl in shades of burgundy or near-black.
Varities: Blackie, Black Heart, Midnight Lace
Use in Beds or Containers
This group of dark-leafed plants boasts a bold stature and strong presence. Count on them to add structure to beds, or add them to large containers in the thriller role.
Exotic and easy-care, cannas add tropical flair to plantings. This plant tolerates poorly-drained soil, growing even in standing water.
Varieties: Canna indica “Purpurea,” Tropicanna, Tropicanna Black
Deep burgundy leaves are strap-like. This plant is typically used in containers in the thriller role. Low-maintenance plants tolerate high heat and humidity.
Varieties: Festival Red, Burgundy Spire
Purple fountain grass
Deep burgundy, grassy leaves command attention, especially when topped with feathery seed-heads. Plants tolerate high heat, drought and humidity.
Varieties: Rubrum, Fireworks, Red Riding Hood
Purple Majesty Millet
Purple-black leaves and seedheads give this plant a dark, striking persona. A low-maintenance beauty, millet thrives in high heat. Seedheads resemble fat bottlebrushes.
Varieties: Purple Majesty