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Using Foliage Plants for Year Round Interest

Using Foliage Plants for Year Round Interest

By Glenn Jacobsen (472 words)
Posted in Bergen County Landscape Design Ideas

There are (1) comments permalink

Foliage plants can be an important part of designing a low-maintenance landscape planting. 


One of the situations that I face regularly as a designer is a clients request for “year-round color, but it needs to be low maintenance”.  Another popular request is, “I want color, lots and lots of color, but we don’t get much sun here”.  So, as a result of these common requests, I have developed planting strategies for each situation which utilize plants featuring colorful and/or textural foliage as there main accessory.  In a sunnier situation, I employ a combination late season blooming, sturdy perennials alongside more textural plants.  The reason why I choose later blooming perennial varieties is because, generally speaking, a perennial tends to lose its luster once it has bloomed.  So, as an example, aSedum x ‘Autumn Joy’ spends most of the growing season producing strong upright succulent foliage followed by pink flowers in late August, early September.  Where shade dominates, something like a Cimicifuga sp. will spend most of the growing season producing striking dark foliage and in late summer it puts forth its creamy white fronds.

Another great textural addition to the full sun garden is the ornamental grass.  Many varieties produce beautiful, textural clumps of foliage throughout the growing season.  This foliage also masks earlier bloomers in the border who may look the worse for wear after their flowering is finished.  Some examples of these types of grasses are Pennisetum sp. and smaller cultivars of Miscanthus sp.  In a shadier sight, Hachenachloe sp. or as it is commonly called, Japanese Forest Grass, is a beautiful punch of golden yellow color which lights up a shady border from spring until first frost.  Like its sunnier counterparts, the forest grass emerges just as the early spring woodland bulbs are done flowering and it hides the spent bulb foliage as it declines.  Similarly, in the shade, one can utilize the plantain lily or Hosta sp. to much the same effect.  The hosta, although it does flower, is planted for its no maintenance foliage.  There are more cultivars and varieties than anyone could ever need, so depending on the size of your planting beds there is a Hosta to fit the bill.

The following list of plants feature foliage color and texture at the top of their resume.  Be sure to make them the beautiful, low maintenance workhorses of your plantings:

Hakenachloe macra ‘Aureola’ Japanese Forest Grass



Pennisetum alopercoides ‘Hameln’  Dwarf Fountain Grass


Hosta x ‘Guacamole’  Plantain Lily



Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy

Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Brunette’


Don’t always look to flower color as the main criteria for choosing a plant.  Most perennials only bloom for a few weeks per season.  Look to plants with foliar color and textural interest because they will look good for the entire growing season.  They also help to mask other flowers decline after they bloom. 

Comments (1)

J Pacheco

Great tip! This adds such a nice touch to any area and they are easy to up keep!

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