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Foliage refers to the leaves grouped together on a single plant or a group of plants. Some plants are purposefully grown for their foliage qualities, perhaps because the foliage is large and beautiful or the foliage is interestingly shaped or the colour of the foliage creates an interesting look in a garden. Foliage plays a useful role in garden design and is often as important as the decisions on flowers and other decorative plants. Given the short flowering life of most plants, foliage will take the place of flowers once they die back and if it's a large area of a garden, then the foliage affects the garden's overall appearance.

Good foliage is usually found on perennial plants. Some foliage preferred plants either don't flower or have minimal flowers that aren't the reason for growing them. However, many gardeners are delighted by the plant that has both excellent flowers and lovely foliage, as such a plant tends to look good all year round, or at least during the months that the garden is being used.

When choosing foliage[edit]

Important considerations for foliage include:

  • Size –– Although larger leaves tend to be used for great foliage display, a bunch of smaller leaves can also look effective.
  • Colour –– not all foliage is green. There are also greys, yellows, blues, golds, a variety of green hues, reds, purples and more.
  • Shape –– differently shaped leaves provide for interesting contrasts within a garden.
  • Texture –– for touch-friendly gardens, texture of leaves becomes an important consideration.
  • Shininess –– shiny leaves can help brighten a dull area of the garden and will bounce back light.

Planting foliage[edit]

Foliage can be planted in varying sizes and can be used as breaks or borders between different sections of the garden.

Planting a range of colours together can add interesting contrast to foliage. For example, mixing greys, blues, purples and golds. Brightly colored foliage can be used to make an area seem lighter, especially in a shaded spot of the garden


Topiary is another interesting way to make the most of foliage, clipping such plants as box (Buxus spp.) and privet (Ligustrum spp.) into shapes such as balls, animals, figures, etc.

List of quality foliage perennials[edit]


Here is a list of quality foliage plants that are perennial. Remember to check what is appropriate for your local area before choosing any particular plant.

Feel free to expand this list of desirable foliage plants for gardens:

  • Canna
  • Cordyline
  • Cynara
  • Hosta
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Rheum
  • Rodgersia
  • Stachys byzantia