Horticulture Magazine

35 Plants With Purple Foliage

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens' leaves up close

Choosing plants with purple leaves can help break up the green and add interest to your garden.

Purple leaves can add drama to a planting scheme, they can break up the verdant hues and help you play around with perspective and draw the eye.

They can help you in creating the perfect colour scheme for your space, and in creating diverse and interesting planting schemes – even helping you beautify food-producing spaces.

Read on for suggestions of trees, shrubs, perennials and even edible plants with purple foliage.

Top Trees With Purple Leaves

First of all, consider trees with purple leaves, as these larger plants can often have the most impact.

There are a huge range of trees with purple leaves that can work very well in a garden.

No matter how large or small your garden may be, you should have no difficulty finding one or more purple foliage trees to suit.

Some great trees with purple leaves to consider are:

1) Acer palmatum

purple leaves of Acer palmatum Atropurpureum
  • COMMON NAME(S): JAPANESE MAPLE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Atropurpureum’, ‘Burgundy Lace’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

2) Acer platanoides

fully grown norway maple tree with purple foliage
  • COMMON NAME(S): NORWAY MAPLE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Crimson king’, ‘Crimson sentry’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7

3) Betula pendula

Betula pendula 'Purpurea' with blue sky and clouds in backgrouns
  • COMMON NAME(S): BIRCH TREE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Purpurea’, ‘Dark Prince’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7

4) Cercis canadensis

Cercis canadensis 'Ruby Falls' in a woodland garden
  • COMMON NAME(S): REDBUD
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Merlot’, ‘Ruby Falls’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5

5) Fagus sylvatica

purple leaves of Fagus sylvatica purpurea
  • COMMON NAME(S): COPPER BEECH
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Atropurpurea’, ‘Purpurea’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

6) Prunus cerasifera

Prunus cerasifera with dark red foliage
  • COMMON NAME(S): ORNAMENTAL PLUM
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Princess’, ‘Pendula’ or ‘Thundercloud’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

7) Prunus serrulata

bright pink flowers and dark purple leaves of flowering cherry
  • COMMON NAME(S): FLOWERING CHERRY
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Royal Burgundy’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

8) Sambucus nigra

pink flowering umbels of elder with purple foliage
  • COMMON NAME(S): ELDER
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Black lace’, ‘Purpurea’ or ‘Black Beauty’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

A number of the choices above not only have ornamental appeal, but also produce fruits that can have edible uses.

Crab apples, for example, and elderberries, are useful crops that can be used in making preserves, wines, and more.

Get the trees right first, and the rest of the planting scheme should follow.

Layered planting below your trees with beneficial guild plants can help you make the most of your space, and achieve lush and impressive results.

Top Shrubs With Purple Foliage

To complement any trees with purple leaves you have planted, you should next consider adding some purple leaved shrubs.

Shrubs might be placed below or around your trees, at the back of garden borders, or even included in mixed hedgerows.

Consider including some evergreen shrubs with purple leaves as well as some which lose their leaves in winter.

The more variety you add to your garden, the better it will be for wildlife, and the more interest there will be throughout the year.

Some interesting shrubs with purple leaves to consider are:

9) Berberis thunbergii

dark red foliage and yellow flowers of Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea
  • COMMON NAME(S): BARBERRY
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Royal burgundy’, ‘Bagatelle’ or ‘Royal Cloak’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7

10) Cotinus coggygria

Cotinus coggygria Royal purple leaves
  • COMMON NAME(S): PURPLE SMOKE BUSH
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Royal purple’, ‘Velvet Cloak’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5

11) Corylopsis sinensis

purple witch hazel leaves with water droplets
  • COMMON NAME(S): WINTER HAZEL, WITCH HAZEL
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Spring purple’
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5

12) Corylus maxima

Corylus maxima 'Purpurea'
  • COMMON NAME(S): PURPLE-LEAVED FILBERT
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Purpurea’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

13) Hebe

variegated foliage of Hebe silver dollar
  • COMMON NAME(S): HEBE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Burning heart’, ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Caledonian’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4

14) Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum chinense rubrum 'Chinese Pink' with burgundy leaves and pink flowers
  • COMMON NAME(S): CHINESE FRINGE FLOWER / STRAP FLOWER
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Fire dancer’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4

15) Pittosporum tenuifolium

purple winter foliage of Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'
  • COMMON NAME(S): TAWHIWHI
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Tom Thumb’, ‘Breeway’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4

16) Rincinus communis

Castor oil plant with red prickly fruits
  • COMMON NAME(S): CASTOR OIL PLANT
  • HARDINESS RATING: H2

17) Salvia Officinalis

Salvia officinalis Purpurascens
  • COMMON NAME(S): PURPLE SAGE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Purpurascens’
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5

18) Weigela Florida

Weigela florida leaves turning purple
  • COMMON NAME(S): WEIGELA FLORIDA
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Foliis purpureis’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

Remember, deep, dramatic purple leaves can really stand out amongst lighter green hues.

Purple leaved shrubs can make a marvellous backdrop for lighter green, yellowish or silvery foliage.

Sometimes, those with cooler hues can help make the garden boundaries recede into the background, and might even make your garden seem larger.

Perennials With Purple Leaves

Using purple foliage plants in your garden, of course, does not have to end with the trees and shrubs.

Some further perennials with purple leaves should also be considered.

Some interesting options, for example, are:

19) Actaea

Actaea simplex Atropurpurea Brunette
  • COMMON NAME(S): BANEBERRY / BUGBANE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Brunette’, ‘Queen of Sheba’, ‘Pink Spike’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7

20) Ajuga reptans

Ajuga reptans Mahogany purple foliage
  • COMMON NAME(S): BUGLE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Atropurpurea’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7

21) Anthriscus sylvestris

violet coloured cow parsley leaf
  • COMMON NAME(S): COW PARSLEY
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Ravenswing’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

22) Canna

Large red and green leaves of Canna indica plant
  • COMMON NAME(S): CANNA INDICA
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Russian Red’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H3

23) Dahlias

pink dahlia flower with very dark foliage
  • COMMON NAME(S): DAHLIAS
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Magenta star’, ‘David Howard’, or ‘Tally Ho’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H3

24) Euphorbia dulcis

Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'
  • COMMON NAME(S): CHAMELEON
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Chameleon’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

25) Heuchera

Heuchera foliage with cream coloured rocks
  • COMMON NAME(S): CORAL BELLS
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Sugar berry’, ‘Purple petticoats’ or ‘Fireworks’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

26) Ophiopogon planiscapus

Flowering black mondo grass
  • COMMON NAME(S): BLACK MONDO GRASS
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Nigrescens’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5

27) Rheum palmatum

Rheum palmatum in the garden
  • COMMON NAME(S): RHUBARB Atrosanguineum
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Atrosanguineum’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6

28) Sedum telephium

Sedum telephium
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Xenox’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7

Of course, this is by no means a complete list.

You could not only plant these and a range of other purple cultivars of perennial flowers, but should also consider many different grasses and sedges to introduce russet, red, bronze and purplish tones into your garden.

Of all the options on this list, Heuchera is perhaps one of the most impressive and the most versatile – though any of the plants listed above should be considered if you can meet the right conditions for their growth in your garden.

Purple-Leaved Edibles for the Vegetable Garden

The largely ornamental plants mentioned above can all really bring interest and drama to your garden.

But a garden should ideally be productive and provide yields as well as visual appeal.

Fortunately, growing food and giving some space over for vegetable cultivation does not need to mean that you sacrifice aesthetics.

A vegetable garden can also be a beautiful space – filled not just with companion plant flowers, but also with visually arresting vegetable varieties and herbs.

There are actually a wide range of edible plants with purple leaves to grow in a vegetable garden. For example:

29) Amaranthus cruentus

Amaranth 'Velvet Curtains' on a timber surface
  • COMMON NAME(S): PURPLE AMARANTH
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Velvet Curtains’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H2

30) Atriplex hortensis var. rubra

Red orach plants in a vegetable garden
  • COMMON NAME(S): RED ORACH / RED MOUNTAIN SPINACH
  • HARDINESS RATING: H2

31) Chenopodium quinoa

Chenopodium quinoa leaves
  • COMMON NAME(S): QUINOA
  • BACKGROUND: Leaves often turn purple as they age.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H4

32) Cichorium intybus

red chicory growing in a vegetable garden
  • COMMON NAME(S): CHICORY / RADICCHIO
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Palla rossa’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5

33) Lactuca sativa

lettuce in a vegetable garden with purple and green foliage
  • COMMON NAME(S): LETTUCE
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Ruby’, ‘Red fire’, ‘Merlot’, ‘Red Leprechaun’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H2

34) Ocimum basilicum

dark purple leaves of Ocimum basilicum in a vegetable garden
  • COMMON NAME(S): PURPLE BASIL
  • RECOMMENDED VARIETIES: ‘Dark Opal’, ‘Crimson King’.
  • HARDINESS RATING: H1C

35) Perilla frutescens var.crispa

dark red leaves of Perilla frutescens var.crispa
  • COMMON NAME(S): CHINESE BASIL
  • HARDINESS RATING: H3

There are also many, many Brassica cultivars which have purple leaves.

Many varieties of cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, mustards, tatsoi, pak choi, and kohlrabi can bring vibrant purple hues to your garden.

Some of these have a particularly vibrant and arresting purple hue.

Redbore kale growing in a garden
Redbore kale

Remember, too, that these edibles do not have to be relegated to your vegetable plot, you can integrate these with other plants in your garden.

Perennial brassicas with purplish leaves, in particular, can be very useful ornamentally as well as for culinary use.

Plants with purple leaves can be found on the above list which will suit many different gardens, with many different climates, microclimates and soil types.

But of course, when choosing any plants for your garden, you need to think about the conditions where you live.

You need to choose the right plants for the right locations.

© 2021 TKO DIGITAL LTD | Registered in England and Wales No. 10866260 | This website uses cookies.