The 2005 Way Hot 100: Leaves That Light Up

I Love This Plant

The 2005 Way Hot 100: Leaves That Light Up

March 17, 2005


  • Alternanthera Dentata 'Purple Knight' Annuals have an invaluable place in borders, whether annual or perennial. 'Purple Knight' quickly makes a deep and informal cover, with brilliant purple foliage with a silvery sheen on bold, ranging stems about 16 to 20 inches tall. Great in containers, too.
  • Impatiens Super Sonic® Dark Salmon (New Guinea impatiens) "The most striking New Guinea varieties have red stems, bronzy leaves and a flower color that harmonizes well with the deep bronze-red leaves and red stems. Against them, the salmon shades are simply electric." (HL)


  • Astilbe 'Color Flash' The first variegated astilbe, it has handsome leaves?green and chartreuse, heavily blushed with burgundy at the margins. The spikes of pink flowers rise 10 inches above the ground. Zones 4 to 8.
  • Brunnera Macrophylla 'Looking Glass' "In spring you get bright blue forget-me-nots, but even better is the 12- to 15-inch silvered foliage that lasts all summer. Much more striking than the old standard 'Jack Frost' because the variegation is a brighter white." (SC) Zone 3 to 7.
  • Helleborus 'Sunmarble' "It looks like the tender Majorcan hellebore, but is very hardy, to at least -8 degrees. The leaves are gorgeous year round, a deep green heavily marbled with white. The flowers appear in mid-January, white at first, then age to chartreuse." (BG) Zones 5 to 10.
  • Hemerocallis 'Golden Zebra' (daylily) Flowers are gold, which sounds like 'Stella d'Oro' and a thousand other daylilies, but this slow-growing dwarf also has strikingly striped foliage. Best in half sun. Zones 5 to 9.
  • Hosta 'Striptease' "The American Hosta Growers Association voted it Hosta of the Year for 2005. It's a medium-sized variety, about 20 inches tall. What makes it stand out are two clear white stripes dividing the creamy centers from the green leaf edges?just stunning." (TM) Zones 3 to 8.
  • Ligularia Dentata 'Britt-Marie Crawford' The glossy, brown-burgundy leaves are 6 inches long and form bold mounds of foliage. In midsummer, butterscotch-yellow daisylike flowers open on 3-foot-tall stems. Does best in half shade; plants prefer damp soil and will thrive in full sun. It's a great companion for golden hostas. Zones 4 to 7.
  • Matteuccia Struthiopteris  (Ostrich fern) This once-popular native produces magnificent upright, feathery fronds that are 2 to 5 feet tall and nearly a foot across. No wonder it's making a comeback in modern shade gardens. Zones 2 to 8.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Acer palmatum 'Koto-no-ito' (Japanese maple) "The bright green foliage looks more like bamboo than maple, always in motion in the slightest breeze. In fall the leaves turn gold pink. Tree grows to about 20 feet at maturity." (DJ) Zones 6 to 9.
  • Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' "Pink with dark brown is a more harmonious match than pink and green, and that's why we were so excited to see this new mimosa. The hotter it gets, the better the brown color gets." (TF) Zones 6 to 9.
  • Caryopteris Sunshine Blue TM "This is a much stronger grower, with a stronger yellow color than the standard 'Worcester Gold.' The contrast of the blue flowers against yellow foliage is superb. Looks its best grown in a little shade." (SH) Zone 6 to 8.
  • Cedrus deodara 'Feelin' Blue'  (Dwarf weeping deodar cedar) Brighter blue and much more compact (slow growing) than the classic weeping blue cedar.  As an informal, cascading mound, it will be 2 to 3 feet tall and twice as wide, and it can be trained into a draping espalier. Zones 6b to 9.
  • Cotinus Coggygria 'Golden Spirit' (Golden smokebush) "An exciting gold-leaved companion for the esteemed and widely grown purple variety of smokebush. The leaves are a marvelous soft yellow in spring, becoming lime in summer, then finally a burning golden-pink in fall." (NS) Zones 5 to 8.
  • Hydrangea macrophylla Sun Goddess TM (bigleaf hydrangea) "In spring the foliage is a screaming gold; in summer it shifts to chartreuse. A super plant for lighting up the shady garden. The 8-inch-wide flowers are bright pink." (TF) Zones 6 to 9.
  • Juniperus Gold Coast Improved TM   This new variety sports much brighter yellow foliage than its "parent," the widely planted Gold Coast®. This improved form will become a spreading mound 3 to 4 feet tall. Zones 4 to 9.
  • Physocarpus Coppertina TM (Ninebark) The leaves open orange in spring and become bronzy red as summer progresses. The brilliant foliage is wonderful cut for indoor arrangements. Plants get 8 to 10 feet tall. Zone 3 to 7.
  • Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes TM (Cutleaf staghorn sumac) "As if the cutleaf form of the native sumac were not beautiful enough, Tiger EyesTM opens chartreuse in spring, turns gold in summer, then finishes a glowing orange-red in fall." (AB) Zones 4 to 8.


And a few more great foliage plants that didn't make it into the April issue:

  • Picea glauca 'Haal'  (Blue dwarf Alberta spruce) "There is no more widely beloved conifer than the dwarf Alberta spruce. And now we have a bright blue form that is just as compact with similar soft, fine-as-moss foliage. It's stunning." (NS) Zones 3 to 8.
  • Magnolia grandiflora  'Edith Bogue' (Southern magnolia) An exceptionally hardy form of the southern magnolia, with its most desirable features: huge, fragrant blossoms and broad, shiny leaves with teddy-bear-brown felt on the reverse side. Zones 5b to 9.
  • Sambucus 'Black Beauty' (Black elderberry) A fantastic shrub with nearly black leaves and edible fruit. It flowers bright pink in early summer. This elderberry is a striking companion for any yellow-leaved shrub or small tree. Zones 4 to 8.