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This dark-leaved, tropical foliage plant loves heat, and is useful spreading through a bed, border, or in a container where its deep purple leaves can contrast with brightly colored flowers or foliage. Alternanthera are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Central and South America. Their flowers are generally an afterthought. This plant works well for edging, as an annual groundcover, or in a formal knot garden.
Amaranthus cruentus makes a striking statement in beds or borders. Growing to 6 feet in height, it bears somewhat fuzzy-looking spires of purplish red flowers in summer, followed by seed heads that can be red, purple, or yellow. It is native to tropical regions of North and South America, and is one of three Amaranthus species cultivated for their grain.
This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
This tuberous begonia bears green heart-shaped foliage with red veining and claret-stained undersides that steal the show when backlit. Pendent clusters of slightly fragrant, satiny pink or white blossoms open from midsummer until frost. It makes a good perennial companion for ferns and hostas.
This is a sweet Swiss chard with beautiful candy-apple-red stalks and dark green, crinkly leaves with touches of red. Both the leaves and the stalks are very ornamental and 'Ruby Red' is great in a vegetable or cottage garden, or in an ornamental bed or border. It is especially attractive when grown with plants whose colors call attention to the red coloring. Although related to beets, the root is inedible, but the leafy greens are valued for their mild flavor and high nutritional value.
These fast-growing plants with succulent, bristly stems are old-fashioned favorites of the border or herb garden. They self sow to produce a succession throughout the season of new plants and blossoms. The beautiful flowers are edible and are particularly bequiling on salad or floating in summer drinks.
Rosettes of cabbage foliage are grown as annuals for fall and winter interest. Color intensifies in cooler temperatures (below 50°F). Good for bedding and containers.
This plant produces distinct, 2-inch blossoms primarily in rich blue (but also in shades of purple and white), with dark eyes smudged white. It is suitable for sun and partial shade.
Pot marigolds bloom most of the summer, but are intolerant of intense heat and may die out during periods of hot humid weather. Their branching stems are covered with simple, alternate leaves and they produce large flowers in different hues of yellow and orange in the summer.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
The disease-resistant Cora™ series of periwinkles comes in a range of flower colors—from white to lavender to burgundy—and looks great until the first fall frost.
A rare and graceful beauty, this plant is not a true foxglove, but its flowers are similarly shaped and hang in clusters. They come in shades of white and pink with pale violet stripes highlighting the inner throats. This plant’s soft coloring brings the delicacy typical of spring-blooming plants into the summer garden. The gray-green foliage has a distinctly nutty fragrance and is deer resistant. As a large-scale plant, South African foxglove holds its own when planted among shrubs and is best complemented by plants with deep purple foliage. It also makes a good cutting flower.
Though subtly colored, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ draws comment wherever it inserts itself. The steely purple bracts and leathery gray foliage of this annual seem extraterrestrial poking up among more conventional herbaceous plants. It is an annual from the Mediterranean region with leaves like a eucalyptus and flowers like a purple euphorbia. This plant produces large black seeds that drop to the ground in late summer and germinate in fall to start the cycle all over again if growing conditions are right.
This colorful annual legume bears attractive yellow flowers that have reddish-purple spots at their base. The compound, feathery leaves look like those of sensitive plant. Fruit is contained in a pea pod, which adds additional garden interest and may attract birds.
This species produces copious purplish-blue flowers in spring and fall. It has light green ferny leaves with a mid-rib of silver.
Cosmos are branching annuals with ferny foliage and pink, crimson, or white flowers that work well in the back of a border. Although introduced in 1799, cosmos did not beome popular for the garden or as the subject of breeding efforts until the early 1900s. The rest is now history. The variety 'Sensation' won the All-American Selection Award of Merit in 1936 for its clear colors of pink and white, on early-blooming, 3- to 4-foot-tall plants. 'Purity' is the glistening white form of cosmos in the 'Sensation' series. 'Sea Shells' has quilled florets. The Sonata Series cultivars are dwarf plants only growing to about a foot or two tall.
Totally Tempted™ cuphea has nonstop, bright red summer flowers that don't need deadheading. It doesn't mind summer heat and has a more compact habit than most cultivars in this species, growing to just a foot tall and a little wider.
'Blue Bird' is a Pacific Hybrid delphinium grown as an annual or biennial. Its mid-blue flowers have white centers. The flowers are large but short-lived and bloom on tall stems from early summer to midsummer. Grow at the back of a border or in the middle of an island bed. There is nothing quite like delphiniums in the garden.
These modern hybrids bear salmon-pink blossoms ('Doris' has scarlet in the center) and bloom freely with moderate fragrance.
A captivating little plant for the front of the border, tassel flower produces small, scarlet-orange pompons which, when viewed from a distance, seem like they’re floating in air. The flowers cluster at the top of wiry stems that rise from a basal rosette of blue-green leaves. Plants occasionally self-sow when sited in a good location. With its small habit, tassel flower lends itself well to container gardens and fresh-cut flower arrangements, adding an element of whimsy. Its delicate and airy nature looks best with bold-leaved or showy plants in the background, creating a see-through effect. To magnify their magic, mass several plants together.
Don't Judge Peonies On Looks Alone
All three types offer something different, from shade tolerance to long bloom seasons
by Ann Stratton
Alliums All Season Long
Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
Spectacular Spring Bloomers
These perennials are the light at the end of the long, wintry tunnel
by Dave Demers
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
Find out what all the buzz is about by planting these colorful perennials
by Sally Roth
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