Colorful Shrubs for Your Garden

Melianthus major honey bush plant
Put on a spring-to-fall show in your landscape with shrubs that feature spectacular foliage.

Diabolo Ninebark

A North American native, ninebark stands up to heat, drought, and winter cold and is usually ignored by deer and rabbits. Plus, it has beautiful purple foliage and looks terrific in any garden. This variety also features clusters of white flowers in early summer and attractive peeling bark in the winter.
Name: Physocarpus 'Monlo'
Size: To 10 feet tall and wide
Zones: 3-7
Bonus: Short on space? Look for dwarf selections such as 'Center Glow' (6-8 feet tall and wide) or Summer Wine (5-6 feet tall and wide).

Black Lace Elderberry

Scores of gardeners have fallen in love with Black Lace elderberry -- and it's easy to see why. The shrub offers purple-black foliage that has a wonderful lacy texture. It's a fast grower and, once established, is essentially carefree.
Name: Sambucus 'Eva'
Size: To 8 feet tall, 10 feet wide
Zones: 4-7
Bonus: The shrub also offers pink flowers in early summer and clusters of berries in fall. However, both take a backseat to the stunning foliage.

'Velvet Cloak' Smokebush

Ideal for back-of-the-border locations, smokebush shows off velvet-purple foliage that turns a rich shade of orange-red in the fall. It also bears fluffy clusters of pink flowers in early summer. The plant is quite easy to grow, thriving in a wide range of soil types.
Name: Cotinus 'Velvet Cloak'
Size: To 15 feet tall and wide
Zones: 5-8
Bonus: If you're looking to brighten your landscape, try Golden Spirit smokebush, which features chartreuse foliage.

Wine & Roses Weigela

Wine & Roses is a medium-size shrub with big impact. The dark purple foliage looks great from spring to fall and is decorated by pink flowers in spring and summer. Deer usually don't eat this weigela and it also holds up to drought.
Name: Weigela 'Alexandra'
Size: To 5 feet tall, 6 feet wide
Zones: 4-8
Bonus: Plant breeders have created more compact purple-leaf varieties such as Fine Wine (4 feet tall) and Midnight Wine (1 foot tall), as well as types with golden foliage (Ghost).

'Purple Picture' Hebe

Here's an example of a beautiful flowering shrub that also offers fantastic leaves. 'Purple Picture' hebe bears rich purple evergreen foliage that slowly fades to green. Its spikes of purple flowers appear in summer.
Name: Hebe 'Purple Picture'
Size: To 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Zones: 8-9
Bonus: Other hebe varieties, such as Hebe 'Variegata' offer exciting white-variegated foliage; 'Dazzler' shows off purple-ringed foliage; and 'Red Edge' bears silvery leaves.

Purple-Leaf Rose

Most roses are grown for their spectacular flowers, but purple-leaf rose's main attraction is the gorgeous gray-purple foliage. The single pink blooms appear for a few weeks in late spring; they become attractive orange-red hips that attract birds in the fall.
Name: Rosa glauca
Size: To 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide
Zones: 2-8
Bonus: Purple-leaf rose will also do well in part shade, where its leaves develop more of a silvery, gray-green coloring.

Plum Passion Heavenly Bamboo

Enjoy Plum Passion heavenly bamboo for its year-round interest: The new growth is a deep purple-red color that matures to dark bronzy green. The evergreen foliage goes reddish-purple again in winter.
Name: Nandina 'Monum'
Size: To 5 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Zones: 6-10
Bonus: Bright red fruits appear in autumn, creating extra interest.
Note: Heavenly bamboo may be considered invasive in some areas; check for local restrictions before planting it.

'Sizzling Pink' Fringe Flower

'Sizzling Pink' fringe flower is a great example of a flowering shrub that also has spectacular evergreen foliage. It offers clusters of pink blooms from winter into spring and bold burgundy leaves that fade to purple-tinted green.
Name: Loropetalum chinense 'Sizzling Pink'
Size: To 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide
Zones: 7-9
Bonus: Use this fringe flower as a backdrop to draw attention to your favorite pink- or white-flowering perennials.
Photo courtesy of Monrovia Nursery,

'Rose Glow' Barberry

Use this thorny plant to create a beautiful, but nearly impenetrable hedge. 'Rose Glow' barberry offers purple foliage liberally splashed with pink and white. Though you don't usually notice the flowers, the bright red fruits are showy in autumn.
Name: Berberis thunbergii 'Rose Glow'
Size: To 5 feet tall, 4 feet wide
Zones: 4-8
Bonus: Look for a wide variety of barberries, including golden Sunjoy Gold Pillar, which features an upright habit; Sunjoy Gold Beret, which is a low, mounding form; and 'Helmond Pillar', which offers purple foliage and a columnar habit.
Note: Barberries may be considered invasive in some areas; check for local restrictions before planting them.

'Dart's Gold' Ninebark

'Dart's Gold' ninebark offers golden-green foliage that is so yellow in spring as it emerges many people think it's a forsythia! Like Diabolo ninebark, this variety is very resilient. It's about as close to a plant-it-and-forget-it shrub as you can get.
Name: Physocarpus 'Dart's Gold'
Size: To 6 feet tall, 8 feet wide
Zones: 3-7
Bonus: The chartreuse foliage turns a nice shade of yellow (flushed with bronze) come autumn. It also has better resistance to powdery mildew than many of the purple-leaf varieties.

'Sutherland Gold' Elderberry

You'll be able to see this dramatic shrub from a block away. 'Sutherland Gold' offers finely cut, ferny foliage in a stunning shade of chartreuse. It's a perfect plant for part shade.
Name: Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold'
Size: To 10 feet tall and wide
Zones: 3-7
Bonus: Like other elderberries, this shrub produces red clusters of fruit that attract birds.

Golden Threadleaf False Cypress

It's name may be a mouthful, but golden threadleaf false cypress is worth taking the time to know and grow. This evergreen offers beautiful golden foliage that looks a bit like strings dangling from an attractive dense mound.
Name: Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea'
Size: To 20 feet tall, 15 feet wide
Zones: 4-8
Bonus: Create a combo that looks good year-round by planting golden threadleaf false cypress with an evergreen with blue foliage, such as 'Fat Albert' spruce or 'Baby Blue' false cypress.

'Emerald n Gold' Wintercreeper

'Emerald 'n Gold' wintercreeper is a wonderful evergreen for adding color to shaded areas of the garden. The rich green leaves are decorated with a broad yellow edge that takes on a pink or burgundy tinge in winter. If you plant it up against a wall, it may climb like a vine.
Name: Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n Gold'
Size: To 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Zones: 5-9
Bonus: There are scores of varieties available; look for types with different-sized leaves, white-variegated leaves, and more.
Note: Wintercreeper may be considered an invasive pest in some areas; check local restrictions before planting it.

Tiger Eyes Sumac

A dramatic shrub that puts on an amazing show, Tiger Eyes features brilliant golden-yellow foliage in spring and summer that turns blaze-orange in autumn. It has a unique branching habit, too.
Name: Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'
Size: To 10 feet tall and wide
Zones: 3-8
Bonus: Plant Tiger Eyes in front of an evergreen with deep green foliage to make its bright color stand out even more.

Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia

You'll love Chardonnay Pearls deutzia's bright golden color and its small size, so you can mix it in with your favorite annuals and perennials, or grow it in it containers. It offers white flowers in spring, but the foliage puts on the real show.
Name: Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan'
Size: To 3 feet tall, 4 feet wide
Zones: 5-8
Bonus: This shrub develops the best color in a sunny spot. If it gets too much afternoon sun in hot-summer climates, though, the leaves may start to burn.
Photo courtesy of Proven Winners,

Golden Princess Spiraea

Spiraeas are so easy to grow that they've become landscape staples in municipal and commercial plantings. And you can bet a plant that thrives in front of your local gas station will do well in your yard, too. Golden Princess is a step up from most spiraea; this beauty offers golden foliage that doesn't fade in summer heat as well as pink flowers in early summer.
Name: Spiraea japonica 'Lisp'
Size: To 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Zones: 3-8
Bonus: This shrub also puts on a fine display of colorful fall foliage.
Note: Spiraea may be considered invasive in some areas; check for local restrictions before planting it

Dream Catcher Beautybush

Most beautybush put on a big show with their pink flowers in spring. But this stunning variety looks great from spring to fall because of its bronze-flushed golden foliage.
Name: Kolkwitzia 'Maradco'
Size: To 9 feet tall, 10 feet wide
Zones: 4-8
Bonus: Blue and gold are a surefire color combination; try it in a blue container or with blue-flowering annuals or perennials such as saliva and delphinium.
Photo courtesy of Proven Winners,

Dappled Willow

Dappled willow is a fast-growing shrub that's great for making an impact in the landscape. Its blue-green leaves are liberally dappled in pink and white, giving it an airy look. Dappled willow is versatile, loving full sun or part shade and tolerating a wide range of soil conditions.
Name: Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'
Size: To 9 feet tall and feet wide
Zones: 5-8
Bonus: You'll sometimes find this shrub sold as a standard (in a tree form). It's equally beautiful as a shrub or small tree.

Gold Dust Plant

Gardeners in the North know this easy-growing shrub as a houseplant, but Southern gardeners are familiar with it as a dense evergreen shrub for part shade. As its name suggests, gold dust plant bears rounded leaves heavily speckled in golden-yellow.
Name: Aucuba japonica 'Variegata'
Size: To 6 feet tall and feet wide
Zones: 7-10
Bonus: Grow a dwarf shrub with gold foliage (such as variegated wintercreeper) with it to highlight the spotted leaves.

'Thompsonii' Flowering Maple

Commonly grown as an annual or houseplant in the North, this variegated flowering maple is a bold evergreen shrub for southern gardeners. It features maple-shaped foliage liberally splashed with golden speckles. You may also enjoy the orange bell-shaped flowers.
Name: Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii'
Size: To 15 feet tall and wide
Zones: 8-10
Bonus: Put on a big show by growing this plant as an espalier against a wall or fence.

Variegated False Holly

Variegated false holly is an evergreen shrub that offers rich green, holly-shaped leaves. They emerge reddish-pink and then fade to show cream, white, gray, and yellow spotting. It's a slow grower for sunny spots.
Name: Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'
Size: To 4 feet tall, 5 feet wide
Zones: 7-9
Bonus: Variegated false holly also bears fragrant white flowers, but with such spectacular leaves you may never notice them.
Photo courtesy of Monrovia Nursery,

Variegated English Holly

Bearing dark green leaves with stark creamy-white edges, variegated English holly is one of the most showstopping evergreen shrubs.
Name: Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'
Size: To 20 feet tall, 15 feet wide
Zones: 7-9
Bonus: Holly plants are either male or female; 'Argentea Marginata' is female and will bear red fruits in winter if there's a compatible male variety nearby to pollinate it.
Note: English holly may be considered invasive in some areas; check for local restrictions before planting it.

Ivory Halo Dogwood

Thanks to its bright red stems, this shrub puts on a great winter show. In the spring and summer, Ivory Halo dogwood is adorned by white-edged, blue-green leaves. It has a more compact form than many other red-twig dogwoods, so it's easy to fit in the garden or grow as a hedge.
Name: Cornus alba 'Bailhalo'
Size: To 6 feet tall and wide
Zones: 3-7
Bonus: Young stems have the best color; prune out a quarter of the oldest stems every three years to keep your plant bright.

Light-O-Day Hydrangea

Hydrangeas can be difficult to get to bloom, so make it easy on yourself and select a variety such as Light-O-Day that offers wonderfully variegated foliage. That way you can enjoy it even if the shrub doesn't produce flowers.
Name: Hydrangea macrophylla 'Bailday'
Size: To 5 feet tall and wide
Zones: 5-9
Bonus: This variety is a lacecap-type hydrangea that produces bluish flowers in acidic soil and pinkish flowers in alkaline soil.

'Carol Mackie' Daphne

You'll love this variety for its stunning cream-edged leaves, as well as its clusters of fragrant pink flowers in spring. Its low size makes 'Carol Mackie' perfect for growing along a pathway or in the middle of a perennial border.
Name: Daphne burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'
Size: To 3 feet tall, 4 feet wide
Zones: 4-7
Bonus: Daphnes don't like warm temperatures around their roots; spread a layer of mulch or grow groundcovers around their base to help keep the roots cool in summer.

My Monet Weigela

My Monet produces pink flowers in spring, but you may not notice them much because the shrub's blue-green foliage is broadly edged in pink-blushed cream. It has a very compact habit, making a great edging plant.
Name: Weigela florida 'Verweig'
Size: To 18 inches tall, 36 inches wide
Zones: 4-8
Bonus: Make this variety shine even brighter by planting it with Midnight Wine weigela, which grows about the same size but features dark purple foliage.

'Blue Shadow' Fothergilla

Why love fothergilla? There are lots of reasons: It tolerates shade, it has fragrant flowers, it offers spectacular fall color, and it has a nice compact size. But you'll probably end up loving 'Blue Shadow' most for its silvery blue leaves.
Name: Fothergilla major 'Blue Shadow'
Size: To 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide
Zones: 5-8
Bonus: Pair this beauty with blue hostas to brighten a shady corner of your landscape.

'Antonow's Blue' Honeybush

Big and bold 'Antonow's Blue' honeybush is a wonderful architectural shrub that features silvery steely-blue foliage. The finely divided leaves resemble the plumage of a tropical bird. In spring and early summer it bears spikes of rusty-red flowers.
Name: Melianthus major 'Antonow's Blue'
Size: To 6 feet tall and wide
Zones: 8-10
Bonus: Northerners sometimes grow this striking shrub as an annual; it makes for a wonderful container plant.

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