These 22 Shrubs Have the Most Colorful Foliage All Season Long

'Thompsonii' Flowering Maple
Photo: Marty Baldwin

If a plain green bush comes to mind when you picture a shrub, think again. We rounded up some varieties that feature colorful leaves in glowing golden hues, vibrant shades of red, and almost black. Other shrubs have more subtle splashes of white, cream, or gold. Put on a spring-to-fall show in your landscape with these shrubs that offer spectacular foliage (and some are even evergreen).

01 of 22

Diabolo Ninebark

Diabolo Ninebark
Kim Cornelison

A North American native shrub, ninebark stands up to heat, drought, and winter cold and is usually ignored by deer and rabbits. Diabolo is a variety that offers beautiful purple foliage that shines in any garden, as well as clusters of white flowers in early summer and attractive peeling bark in the winter. If you're 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).

Name: Physocarpus 'Monlo'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: Diabolo Ninebark ($40, The Tree Center)

02 of 22

Black Lace Elderberry

Black Lace Elderberry
Marty Baldwin

Many 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 lacy texture. It's also a fast grower and, once established, is essentially maintenance free. The shrub also offers pink flowers in early summer and clusters of berries in fall (if there's a pollinator nearby such as Black Beauty or Laced Up elderberry). However, both take a backseat to the stunning foliage.

Name: Sambucus nigra 'Eva'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 8 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4-7

Buy It: 'Black Lace' Elderberry Plant ($56, The Home Depot)

03 of 22

Smokebush

garden with golden smokebush
Laurie Black

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, thrives in a wide range of soil types, and is deer-resistant. If you're looking to brighten your landscape, try Winecraft Gold smokebush, which features cheery chartreuse foliage.

Name: Cotinus coggygria

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 15 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-8

Buy It: Winecraft Gold Smokebush ($35, The Home Depot)

04 of 22

Wine & Roses Weigela

Wine & Roses Weigela
Todd Dacquisto

Wine & Roses is a medium-size colorful 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 type and it also holds up to drought. 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 (Sonic Bloom Ghost).

Name: Weigela florida 'Alexandra'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: 'Wine & Roses Weigela Plant ($17, The Home Depot)

05 of 22

Fringe Flower

Loropetalum Razzleberri
Jamie Hadley

For warmer climates, fringe flower is a great example of a flowering shrub that also has spectacular evergreen foliage. In addition to clusters of pink, red, or white blooms in spring, several varieties also boast burgundy or purple leaves such as 'Purple Majesty', 'Razzleberri', and 'Sizzling Pink'. Use these fringe flowers as a backdrop to draw attention to your favorite pink- or white-flowering perennials.

Name: Loropetalum chinense

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide

Zones: 7-9

Buy It: Jazz Hands Variegated Fringe Flower ($16, Etsy)

06 of 22

'Dart's Gold' Ninebark

'Dart's Gold' Ninebark
Jay Wilde

'Dart's Gold' ninebark offers golden-green foliage that is so yellow as it emerges in spring that many mistake it for 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. 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.

Name: Physocarpus opulifolius 'Dart's Gold'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in lightly moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

07 of 22

'Sutherland Gold' Elderberry

'Sutherland Gold' Elderberry
Marty Baldwin

You'll be able to see this dramatic and colorful 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 and like other elderberries, this shrub produces red clusters of fruit that attract birds.

Name: Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in medium to wet, well-drained soil

Size: To 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: 'Sutherland Gold' Elderberry Plant ($40, Sooner Plant Farm)

08 of 22

Golden Threadleaf False Cypress

Golden Threadleaf False Cypress
Marty Baldwin

It's name may be a mouthful, but golden threadleaf false cypress is worth taking the time to know and grow. This colorful evergreen shrub offers beautiful golden foliage that looks a bit like strings dangling from an attractive dense plant. 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.

Name: Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 20 feet tall and 7 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: 'Gold Threadbranch' Cypress Shrub ($32, The Home Depot)

09 of 22

Tiger Eyes Sumac

Tiger Eyes Sumac
Marty Baldwin

A dramatic shrub because of both its shape and color, Tiger Eyes sumac features brilliant golden-yellow foliage in spring and summer that turns blaze-orange in autumn. It has a unique branching habit, too. Plant Tiger Eyes in front of an evergreen with deep green foliage to make its bright color stand out even more.

Name: Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in lightly moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Tiger Eyes Sumac Plant ($130, The Tree Center)

10 of 22

Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia

Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia
Peter Krumhardt

You'll love Chardonnay Pearls deutzia's rich golden color and its small size, so you can mix it in with your favorite annuals and perennials, or grow it in containers. The colorful shrub offers white flowers in spring, but the foliage puts on the real show. It 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.

Name: Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-8

Buy It: Deutzia Chardonnay Pearls ($55, Woodies Garden Goods)

11 of 22

Golden Princess Spirea

Golden Princess Spiraea
Allen Rokach

Tough as nails, spireas have become landscape staples in municipal and commercial plantings across many regions of the country. 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 spireas; this beauty offers pink flowers in early summer and golden foliage that doesn't fade in heat. This shrub also puts on a fine display of colorful fall foliage. Spirea may be considered invasive in some areas; check for local restrictions before planting it.

Name: Spiraea japonica 'Lisp'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: 'Double Play' Gold Spirea Plant ($17, The Home Depot)

12 of 22

Dappled Willow

Dappled Willow
Marty Baldwin

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 range of soil conditions. You'll sometimes find this shrub sold as a standard (in a tree form). It's equally beautiful as a shrub or small tree.

Name: Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 7 feet wide

Zones: 5-7

13 of 22

Gold-Dust Plant

Gold Dust Plant
Denny Schrock

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'

Growing Conditions: Grow in part or full shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 10 feet tall and 9 feet wide

Zones: 7-9

Buy It: Variegated Gold-Dust Aucuba Plant ($33, The Home Depot)

14 of 22

'Thompsonii' Flowering Maple

'Thompsonii' Flowering Maple
Marty Baldwin

Commonly grown as an annual or houseplant in the North, this variegated flowering maple is a colorful evergreen shrub for southern gardeners. It features maple-shape foliage (hence the name; it's not actually related to maple trees) liberally splashed with golden speckles. You may also enjoy the orange bell-shaped flowers. Put on a big show by growing this plant as an espalier against a fence or wall.

Name: Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide

Zones: 9-12

Buy It: Variegated Peach 'Thomsonii' Plant ($18, Little Prince Plants)

15 of 22

Variegated False Holly

Goshiki variegated false holly prickly leaves
Denny Schrock

Variegated false holly is an evergreen shrub that offers rich green, holly-shape leaves. They emerge reddish-pink and then fade to show cream, white, gray, and yellow spotting. It's a slow grower for sunny spots. Variegated false holly also bears fragrant white flowers, but with such spectacular leaves you may never notice them.

Name: Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 10 feet tall and 9 feet wide

Zones: 7-9

16 of 22

Variegated English Holly

Variegated English Holly
Marty Baldwin

Bearing dark green leaves with stark creamy-white edges, variegated English holly is one of the most show-stopping colorful evergreen shrubs. 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. English holly may be considered invasive in some areas; check for local restrictions before planting it.

Name: Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide

Zones: 6-9

Buy It: Variegated English Holly ($60, The Tree Center)

17 of 22

Ivory Halo Dogwood

Ivory Halo Dogwood
Marty Baldwin

Thanks to its bright red stems, this shrub puts on an eye-catching 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. Young stems have the best color; prune out a quarter of the oldest stems every three years to keep your plant bright.

Name: Cornus alba 'Bailhalo'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: 'Ivory Halo' (Varigated Dogwood) Shrub ($63, Walmart)

18 of 22

Light-O-Day Hydrangea

Light-O-Day Hydrangea
Studio Au

Known for their beautiful blooms, hydrangeas come in scores of varieties. A few up the ante with pretty leaf colors as well, such as Light-O-Day that offers wonderfully variegated foliage. That way, you can enjoy this shrub's color even when it's not in bloom. This variety is a lacecap-type hydrangea that produces bluish flowers in acidic soil and pinkish flowers in alkaline soil.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla 'Bailday'

Growing Conditions: Plant in part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9

19 of 22

'Carol Mackie' Daphne

'Carol Mackie' Daphne
Marty Baldwin

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. 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.

Name: Daphne burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'

Growing Conditions: Plant in part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

20 of 22

My Monet Weigela

My Monet Weigela
Denny Schrock

My Monet weigela 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 it an excellent edging plant.

Name: Weigela florida 'Verweig'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall and wide

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: My Monet Weigela Plant ($20, Proven Winners)

21 of 22

'Blue Shadow' Fothergilla

'Blue Shadow' Fothergilla
Dean Schoeppner

Why love fothergilla? There are a number of reasons: It tolerates shade, has fragrant flowers, offers spectacular fall color, and has a compact size. But you'll probably end up loving 'Blue Shadow' most for its silvery blue leaves. Pair this beauty with blue-leaved hostas to brighten a shady corner of your landscape.

Name: Fothergilla major 'Blue Shadow'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in sharply drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-8

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'Antonow's Blue' Honeybush

'Antonow's Blue' Honeybush
Denny Schrock

Big and bold 'Antonow's Blue' honeybush is an architectural shrub that features steely-blue silvery foliage. The finely divided leaves resemble the plumage of a tropical bird. In spring and early summer it bears spikes of rusty-red flowers. Northerners sometimes grow this striking shrub as an annual; it makes for an eye-catching container shrub.

Name: Melianthus major 'Antonow's Blue'

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide

Zones: 7-11

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