Ornamental Plants Ornamental Plants

Ornamental foliage plants have a strong place in our gardens. When the brief bloom of flowers fade, these lovely plants continue to delight onlookers with their colors, leaf shapes, sizes and textures. Whatever your garden style - minimalist, Oriental, English Cottage, etc. - the right combination of ornamental plants in the right location will enhance any landscape. The following article discusses a variety of such plants as well as their care.

Please note: Pay attention to your own climate limitations before purchasing ornamental foliage plants. Be sure each particular species will grow under the conditions of your area.

When incorporating ornamental plants into your garden, study your space to see where you need height, and where you need borders. Perhaps there are niches that need filling or flowerbeds that need separating. Certain plants thrive near water and some appear to do best in containers. Whatever your garden situation, there is a wide selection of plants to choose from.

  • Suitable for many temperate zones, the cast iron plant, Aspidistra, sports broad leaves of a deep green hue. It mixes well with other broad-leafed plants. For best results, it requires a moist, well-drained soil and shade. This tough plant also boasts tiny purple flowers, and is somewhat frost hardy as well.

  • The Lady Fern has been popular with gardeners since the Victorian era. Its lacy fronds grow to about eight inches in length. Preferring the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, this fern varies in size but always seems to thrive in a moist, fertile soil with shade.

  • The Necklace Fern is the perfect compliment for any rock garden. It is sometimes seen growing in baskets. It is a small fern with trailing fronds that prefers moist soil and shade.

  • The lovely Japanese Painted Fern has gray-green fronds that stretch about 14 inches in length. It needs a rich, moist soil and some shade. It is an excellent choice for cooler zones as it is frost hardy.

  • The Cleopatra Begonia has yellow-green leaves of magnificent hue. The leaves are rather star-shaped and the plant itself grows upwards of about eight inches. It does well in containers and is pretty enough as a focal point near water or rocks. It is sensitive to frost, and needs a moist soil and some shade.

  • The Metal-Leaf Begonia is stunning - its green leaves appear metallic and grow about eight inches. It needs shade, with a bit of sun in the morning as well as a humus-rich soil.

  • The Spotted Laurel is a bushy-like shrub that may grow about six inches high. Its speckled broad leaves sport red flowers in spring. The variegated forms of the species are much sought after for gardens. They need a moist soil and plenty of shade.

  • New Zealand Hair Sedge will add some color to a mostly green landscape. Its yellow-green foliage changes to a nutmeg color in the fall. It spreads densely from a mound to reach about 28 inches wide. It requires well-drained soil and some shade.

  • The foliage of the European Fan Palm is shaped like a fan and is blue-green in color. It is often seen in tropical settings where it adds a lush, slightly romantic feel to the landscape. It needs a sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil.

  • The fronds of the Rasp Fern boast a slightly pink hue. Each well-delineated frond grows about sixteen inches in length. It prefers a moist, well-drained soil in the shade.

  • Virginian Witch Hazel is a great shrub to mingle in the background. Growing upwards of about 17 feet, it requires a rich, well-drained soil and full sun. It is also frost hardy.

  • There are many varieties of English Ivy that is always a nice elegant addition to gardens. They mainly prefer a well-drained soil with light shade. Some varieties do quite well in containers.

  • There are also many different varieties of hostas that are popular in gardens today. They do well in cool shady spots. Their broad leaves are somewhat vulnerable to snails and slugs. As there are many species to consider, you’ll want to find one most appropriate for your setting.

  • Yellow Skunk Cabbage works well in a water garden. Frost hardy, it requires some shade and a moist soil. Its flowers have a slightly scent of musk.

  • Common Myrtle is a shrub often used as a border plant. Its dark leaves are slightly fragrant and sometimes are dried and used in potpourri. It needs a well-drained soil and full sun.


There are many different types of ornamental foliage plants. Finding the right ones for your landscape and garden is just a matter of deciding what works best for you. Most are low-maintenance and they range from small plants to shrubs to trees. Those listed here are merely a sample to get you thinking about the plant’s role in your garden - a border, a niche-filler, a focal-point.

Many fine specimens can be bought from local garden centers or ordered via mail catalogs. Know your soil when you go shopping so you can pick a plant most adaptable to your surroundings.

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