More in Garden Planning

4 Foliage Planting Ideas

Spotlight one plant or combine several in schemes that play up their individual assets

foliage plant arrangement ideas
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

1. Mass a single type of plant for impact. With so many foliage plants to choose from, it can be daunting to decide which ones to grow. Go easy on yourself and start with just one. To enliven a bed in partial shade, try golden Japanese forest grass (shown, left image 1). For a long border in full sun, consider edging it with dusty miller, and to brighten a shady spot, try variegated white-and-green hosta.

2. Go for bold color combos. Focus on color pairings, such as light silver foliage plant with a dark shade. Here, pale artemisia 'Powis Castle' contrasts beautifully with deep 'Purple Knight' calico plant (shown, left image 2) . Yellow hostas pair well with red or chocolate-brown coral bells. Chartreuse and purple are sensational in shade; look for a coleus that has both colors and pair it with another purple or chartreuse plant. In sun, try gray (perhaps dusty miller) and red (canna) together.

3. Create variations on a theme. Choose one leaf shape, and select plants that carry out that theme in various colors or sizes. Here, a sun-loving light-green grass is paired with New Zealand flax (shown, left image 3), which has big spiky leaves. In partial shade, you might play off leatherleaf sedge (Carex buchananii), which forms 3-foot-tall clumps of reddish-bronze blades, against the dark-green stiff leaves of 'Ice Dance' (C. morrowii), a low-growing sedge only 1 to 2 feet tall.

4. Choose contrasting shapes. Place a plant that's soft and round next to one with tall arching leaves, and both will stand out. A good combination would include purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) forming a striking backdrop for green-leafed 'Lance Corporal' fleeceflower (shown, left image 4), and another leaf shape, 'Caramel' coral bells, running like a river through the fleeceflower.

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Japanese Forest Grass

 

Japanese Forest Grass

japanese forest grass
Photo by Cillas

Try massing Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) in partial shade

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Calico

 

Calico

purple knight calico
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Pale growers will contrast beautifully with this deep 'Purple Knight' calico (Alternanthera dentata)

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New Zealand Flax

 

New Zealand Flax

new zealand flax
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Create variations on a theme by choosing a leaf-shape, like the New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), and pairing it with another sun-loving grass with a different texture and shade

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'Lance Corporal' Fleeceflower

 

'Lance Corporal' Fleeceflower

'lance corporal' fleeceflower
Photo by Peter Halasz

Purple moor grass would make a striking backdrop for this green-leafed 'Lance Corporal' fleeceflower (Persicaria virginiana)

 
 

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