Deliciously Dark: Add Drama with Richly Colored Plants

Flowers will always be a garden staple. But, if you’re looking to add a touch of drama to your landscape, try incorporating plants with black and deep purple foliage. These bold hues add a hint of moodiness, infusing your plantings with an air of mystery that begs for a second look.

If you’ve never before designed with black or burgundy foliage, you’ll be surprised at how well these plants harmonize with a wide variety of colors. The options are varied – keep the composition cool with plants that have blue to purple flowers, or heat things up with a vivid, contrasting scarlet. Just remember, these plants are the stars of their spaces. If not placed in a focal point, they will recede into the shadows. Try the following three plants in your garden for a fresh take on dark and light.

Black Adder Phormium

This deeply hued showstopper has shiny, strappy foliage in a rich, nearly black color. The wide, grassy leaves cascade from a central point and hang down for a look that is both spiky and graceful. It’s become an instant classic in contemporary gardens, where it may be used in informal clusters or in neat rows to emphasize the architecture. Not only is it gorgeous, it’s also waterwise, deer resistant, and simple to maintain, since it only requires occasional pruning to remove any damaged leaf blades. Black Adder grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, prefers full sun to part shade, and is happy in Sunset zones 4-7 (with protection), 8-9, and 14-24.

Purple Pixie® Dwarf Weeping Loropetalum

Tired of typical green groundcovers? Look no further, as this petite charmer grows 1 foot tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. It is an ideal choice when you’re looking for a weeping plant to cascade over a garden wall, or simply need a colorful groundcover to hide the mulch and keep weeds at bay. The dark burgundy-purple foliage grows in elegant sprays, and in spring, vibrant pink fringe flowers explode like fireworks from each branch tip, contrasting with its elegantly dark leaves. Purple Pixie® holds its color year-round, unlike some older varieties of loropetalum, which tend to turn bronzy or green over time. It thrives in part sun to shade, has low water needs once established, and does well in Sunset zones 4-5 (with protection), 6-9, and 14-24.

‘Lemon Lime’ Nandina

You can’t enjoy the dark without the contrast of light, and this groundbreaking new nandina brightens the garden with its brilliant chartreuse new growth in spring. The soft texture makes it an excellent foil to nearly any type of landscaping plant, from the strong form of rhododendrons or the gently weeping foliage of loropetalums, to the verticality of many ornamental grasses. If you’re wondering when in the season it turns red, it doesn’t! Instead, as the year goes on, the lime green new growth turns a pleasant shade of grass green. ‘Lemon Lime’ stays right-sized in the landscape, growing only 3 to 4 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. It has low water needs, is deer resistant, and looks just as good planted en masse as it does standing alone where you can appreciate its individual form. It grows best in full sun to part shade, and is hardy to -10°F.

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