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Sue’s Favorite Foliage Plants

Leaves that make a statement

Hi from Sue Webel in North Canton, Conneticut (Zone 6a).

Recently you asked for us to share some of our favorite foliage plants. Creating interesting foliage vignettes has always been my primary goal when making my gardens. Here are a few of my many favorites.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Zone 4 – 8 is one of my favorite large perennials for foliage. Often suggested for shade, I find it grows best in a fair amount of sun as long as the soil isn’t too dry. In this area of my garden, I love the foliage and textural contrast with another favorite foliage star, Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ (Zone 4 – 8), Aralia elata ‘Silver Umbrella’ (Zone 4 – 9) and Kalimeris integrifolia (Zone 5 – 9).

Aralia ‘Sun King’ growing happily in part shade with Acer palmatum ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’ (Zone 5 – 9), Gillenia trifoliata (Zone 4 – 8), and a Hosta (Zone 3 – 9).

Because I grow it all over my garden, I have many pictures of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Zone 5 – 9). Like Aralia ‘Sun King’, I find it grows well in a variety of soil qualities and sun exposures. Here I love it with Echinacea ‘White Swan’ (Zone 3 – 8) and Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ (Zone 6 – 8).

In the front garden with a hellebore (Helleborus hyrid, Zone 4 – 9) and Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’ (Zone 5 – 8).

Astilbe ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ (Zone 4 – 9) is relatively new to the perennial scene but well worth growing. I consider it one of the best new perennial introductions in years. The almost black foliage is sublime, doesn’t fade and holds up for most of the season. Dark purple flowers are the icing on the cake.

Chasmanthium latifolium ‘River Mist’ (Zone 3 – 8) may be hard to find but it shouldn’t be. Unlike its plain green cousin, it doesn’t reseed all over the garden.

I have been singing the praises of Phlox paniculate ‘Norah Leigh’ (Zone 4 – 8) for years. Like many of my other foliage favorites, it grows in a variety of sun and soil conditions, pairs well with many other plants, and holds up well all season.

Caryopteris (Zone 6 – 8) may not be on your radar as a foliage plant, but they are among my favorites. They prefer sunny spots with good drainage and tolerate relatively poor soil.

Some caryopteris varieties haven’t been reliably hardy here in zone 6a, but both ‘White Surprise’ and ‘Summer Sorbet’ have grown happily here for years.

I share my garden photos on Instagram: @musabasjoosue


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View Comments


  1. nwphilagardener 02/09/2024

    Thanks, Sue, for introducing us to some cultivars worth hunting down. The dark leaf Astilbe looks especially dramatic if planted in a drift.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 02/09/2024

      Dark Side of the Moon is a winner. I grow it in a few places in the garden in drifts of two :). So far around here it's been widely available at many nurseries.

  2. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 02/09/2024

    So many wonderful foliage options, and you've got great companion plantings throughout your garden. Wishing many of the plantings you have were available here in Finland. Despite a similar hardiness zone, the offerings here are often limited. Thanks for sharing your garden!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 02/09/2024

      Your garden is beautiful! I would never have guessed you face lack of plant availability!

  3. bottlegreen 02/09/2024

    gorgeous gardens, stunning foliage choices!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 02/09/2024

      Thank you! I've always loved creating foliage vignettes in the garden.

  4. margotnavarre 02/09/2024

    A lot of interest and excitement in your garden rooms. Thanks for sharing your beautiful gardens.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 02/09/2024

      Thank you, Margot! We all make gardens for ourselves, of course, but also to enjoy with family and friends.

  5. User avater
    cynthia2020 02/09/2024

    Sue - terrific garden! Thank you for the helpful comments on the various plants.

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 02/09/2024

      You're so welcome, Cynthia. I can talk plants all day :).

  6. btucker9675 02/09/2024

    You have a real talent for combining plants - the foliage specimens serve to make the blooms stand out beautifully. Dark Side of the Moon is now officially on my must-haves list!

    1. User avater
      musabasjoosue 02/09/2024

      Thank you! In the past couple of years, Dark Side of the Moon has become more available in nurseries. I also grow and enjoy Astilbe Chocolate Shogun but Dark Side of the Moon is better.

  7. perenniallycrazy 02/10/2024

    So many cool plants and even cooler plant combos! Will be on the lookout for some of these. Thank you Sue.

  8. User avater
    simplesue 02/10/2024

    I love beautiful foliage as much as flowers in a garden! Thanks for introducing me to Astilbe ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ (Zone 4 – 9)!!!! Gorgeous, it sure grows well in your garden. Very nice foliage garden.

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