9 Foliage Plants You Can’t Live Without


When you rely on foliage over flowers, a plant rarely experiences a “down period.” The following are all plants that play an important role in my garden’s composition.

See how Curtis utilizes this fabulous foliage in his immersive garden oasis

Interesting Form


1. Chinese mayapple

Photo: Danielle Sherry

Name: Podophyllum pleianthum

Zones: 6–8

Size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Northern China

This bold wonder has large, juicy leaves that cannot be ignored.

 

2. Western sword fern

Western sword fern
Photo: courtesy of Curtis Steiner

Name: Polystichum munitum

Zones: 3–8

Size: 2 to 4 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; rich, well-drained soil

Native range: Western United States

Watching the upright amber fronds of our native sword fern unfurling is one of the great pleasures of spring.

 

3. ‘Guacamole’ hosta

Guacamole hosta
Photo: Michelle Gervais

Name: Hosta ‘Guacamole’

Zones: 3–9

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Northeast Asia

Tucked in the cool shade of the brick courtyard, this hosta makes a statement with its bold outline.

 

Alluring Color


4. ‘Mrs. Pollock’ geranium

Mrs Pollock geranium
Photo: millettephotomedia.com

Name: Pelargonium ‘Mrs. Pollock’

Zones: 11

Size: 1 foot tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Europe

In fall many plants are past their prime, but ‘Mrs. Pollock’ geranium remains radiant until a hard freeze. This is a season’s worth of color laid out in gradients—red to chartreuse, pink to spring green.

 

5. ‘Lemon Daddy’ bigleaf hydrangea

Lemon Daddy bigleaf hydrangea
Photo: Danielle Sherry

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lemon Daddy’

Zones: 6–9

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: East Asia

I love the blushes of color on this chartreuse hydrangea, with its purple, pink, yellow, green, and lavender edges.

 

6. Chinese Virginia creeper

Chinese Virginia creeper
Photo: courtesy of Curtis Steiner

Name: Parthenocissus henryana

Zones: 6–9

Size: Up to 30 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide

Conditions: Partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: China

With its silver veins and brilliant fall color, this plant thrives on the east side of my fence. It is a perfect alternative to invasive vines because it won’t run rampant.

 

Dynamic Texture


7. ‘Teddy Bear’ rhododendron

Teddy Bear rhododendron
Photo: Danielle Sherry

Name: Rhododendron ‘Teddy Bear’

Zones: 5–9

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native Range: Asia, North America, Europe, Australia

If I had to pick a favorite plant in my garden, this would be it, particularly during the time of year when its pubescent leaves are covered with fuzzy terra-cotta suede indumentum.

 

8. ‘Aureola’ Japanese forest grass

Aureola Japanese forest grass
Photo: Kathryn Geruntho Frank

Name: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Zones: 5–9

Size: 1 to 1½ feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Japan

Give it a haircut on the coldest day of year, and in spring chartreuse blades will shoot from its suddenly red crown. By mid-spring you won’t be able to believe the magnificent bright fountain of foliage.

 

9. Korean fir

Korean fir
Photo: courtesy of Curtis Steiner

Name: Abies koreana

Zones: 5–7

Size: 15 to 30 feet tall and 6 to 12 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; average, well-drained soil

Native range: Korea

The needled foliage sets the stage for perfectly formed, upright cones that start off a deep plum and become bluer and bluer and bigger and bigger as the season progresses.


Curtis Steiner is a professional artist and avid gardener from the Pacific Northwest.


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