Foliage gives your garden all year-round interest. Not only does it fill the gaps between flowers, it’s a good way to add vibrancy to shady areas. We’ve chosen 18 of our favourite plants including conifers, herbaceous perennials and evergreen shrubs to provide all the interesting foliage you could possibly wish for. Some of these shrubs produce flowers and berries as well!
1. Our first foliage plant is Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’. This RHS AGM variety is an attractive evergreen shrub that makes a useful addition to any garden. The golden yellow variegated foliage brings a bright splash of year-round colour which turns to shades of pinkish red during periods of cold weather. A must have plant for low-maintenance gardens, it’s tough, versatile, and thrives in almost any position.
2. Brunnera Macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ boasts heart-shaped, silver leaves guaranteed to brighten up your winter garden and, come spring, its sprays of pale blue flowers are a delight. ‘Jack Frost’ is a quick growing and resilient hardy perennial that makes a fantastic ground cover plant in those tricky shady areas.
3. Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ has a lovely dwarf habit which perfectly provides evergreen structure to rockeries and small gardens. With a compact, vertical habit and blue-green, aromatic foliage, this slow growing conifer takes many years to reach its mature height of 80cm, needing virtually no maintenance whatsoever.
4. Mahonia aquifolium is the foliage plant that keeps on giving. You get acid-yellow flowers during the spring, blue black fruit, and then in the autumn the foliage flushes purple. Mahonia has waxy, weatherproof leaves which because of their prickly habit, make an excellent choice for security planting.
5. Choisya ternata retains its glossy green foliage during the winter and produces two flushes of small white flowers, once during the spring and then during the late summer and autumn. Otherwise known as Mexican Orange Blossom, Choisya ternata has a wonderfully fragrant perfume. Compact, neat and dependable, this is one foliage plant you’ll want to keep.
6. Laburnum Anagyroides is a large robust tree which makes a superb centrepiece for a small garden or as a plant to grow over an archway. The lovely evergreen foliage brings all year interest and its spring display of tumbling golden yellow flowers is absolutely spectacular. Once the long racemes have finished, the display continues with highly attractive silvery pods.
7. Weigela florida ‘Monet’ has delightfully variegated leaves edged in pink and cream. It also blooms during April and May when it produces soft pink flowers. A compact habit makes this shrub perfect for smaller gardens – all in all, Weigela florida ‘Monet’ is a wonderfully decorative yet hardy addition to your borders.
8. Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ is a compact shrub that looks superb in the middle of borders or in a pot on the patio. Its fern-like foliage changes in appearance through the seasons, rotating through yellow, green and bronze, with feathered white flowers appearing in midsummer. This shrub is exceptionally hardy.
9. Also called Sweet Box or Chocolate Box, Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna produces winter blooms so fragrant the perfume penetrates even the chillest of winter air. Sarcococca thrives in deep and partial shade and can be grown into a low hedge similar to Box.
10. Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ is popular for its cool green and cream leaves during the summer months, but is usually chosen for the winter when it loses its foliage and really comes into its own! At this time of year, the vivid red bare stems offer a highly desirable streak of colour. The ideal shrub for livening up your winter garden, this dogwood is a tough, easy-care shrub that loves a sunny border.
11. Festuca Glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ is an easy-to-grow evergreen plant for patio pots, borders and rockeries. Its grass-like leaves are an unusual shade of cobalt blue. Festuca Glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ has a tidy habit and works particularly well as an architectural feature.
12. Heptacodium miconioides provides an exotic feel to your garden and also happens to be very hardy. Quick growing and easy to maintain, it sports pairs of evergreen glossy leaves and produces fragrant, creamy white blooms right through the late summer and autumn. A very appealing plant, this is definitely one to add to your planting schedule.
13. Cornus Canadensis is a great choice if you’re looking for weed-defeating ground cover for a difficult area of the garden or underneath trees. This pretty creeping dogwood grows to just 6” in height, has attractive green foliage, and produces cheerful white blooms followed by vibrant red berries.
14. Garrya elliptica, also called the Silk Tassel Shrub, is perfect for a sunny or shady position. Its unique shade of green is hugely attractive and the tough foliage and beautiful hanging catkins make it an ideal addition to your winter garden.
15. Gaultheria procumbens is the perfect evergreen ground-cover plant for tricky areas of the garden. With tough, rounded, green leaves, small bell-shaped flowers and vibrant red berries during the autumn, Gaultheria procumbens offers striking colour and interest while also helping to feed the birds.
16. Taxus cuspidata ‘Dwarf Bright Gold’ is a delightful Japanese yew with gold-variegated, green, needle-like leaves and an upright to spreading habit. Both attractive and highly versatile, choose this plant if you’re looking for topiary, screens, hedges, mass planting or a stand-alone specimen.
17. Excellent for carpeting the area beneath trees with green foliage, Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’ forms a weed-proof mat. With textured leaves and white flower spikes during the month of June, this is one ground-cover plant that’s well worth your consideration.
18. Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ is a sun-loving ornamental grass with evergreen, slender leaves, etched in green and gold. Carex ‘Evergold’ can also be planted in shady areas, making it a great choice for brightening up dark corners.
For more inspiration and to help you plan your low-maintenance garden, visit our perennial hub page for tips and guidance. If you have a problem area you’re trying to fill, you’ll also find plenty of advice over at our plants for shade hub page.
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.