Crotons have intense colour all year round and are easy to grow.
Crotons have intense colour all year round and are easy to grow.

Using foliage to add colour and interest in your garden

ISN’T it beautiful to have some colourful plants growing between all the green in your garden?

Every garden needs some colour and normally flowers do this job. Of course, flowers are beautiful, but they come and go and make a lot of work. You have to prune them at the right time, have to get rid of the old flowers, sometimes they need special fertiliser and so on.

Coloured foliage plants in comparison are colourful throughout the year, rain or sunshine, and need much less maintenance.

My favourites are cordylines. There are so many different species in different colours and diverse shapes. We have the cordyline Australis with the thin leaves and we have the cordyline fruticosa with the wider leaves. They are also hardy and so easy to propagate. By the time they are established they don’t need much attention any more.

Same for dracaenas. My favourite is the dracaena marginata tricolor – thin leaves in cream, white and pink – and a newer species called dracaena colorama with pink/red foliage.

The tricolor with its white foliage makes a very good contrast to the green in your garden. But there are many more, croton mammy, a cocktail of colours, or the yellowish croton speckled.

Dracaenas, cordylines and crotons have quite large leaves and give every garden a tropical touch.

There are also colourful plants with smaller leaves, like acalyphas, alternantheras in pink or red colours. They are very easy to shape, so they are also good for small hedges, or you can keep them low as a colourful ground cover. If you keep them high enough, they will keep the weeds down.

Or durantha with yellow foliage would be a beautiful hedge. Wouldn’t it be very nice to have pink, red or yellow ground cover?

I also like grey or silver plants because they can blend in with all the other colours. Agaves, even pineapples or westringias, some grasses like festucas, or as features a yucca desmetiana or even a Bismarck palm. It is very interesting to see the sunlight reflected in silver foliage palms.

Most of the plants I mentioned so far are tropicals.

When planting tropicals you should always consider the pH. They usually don’t like acid soil, so better add some lime or dolomite.

Thinking about hedges, photinias with their beautiful pink shoots or waterhousia floribunda, the weeping lilly pilly, make beautiful colourful hedges.

Other colourful foliage plants are phormium, New Zealand flax, in a variety of colours. They look beautiful and are very low maintenance. You just have to clean them out once or twice a year. Sometimes they look like sitting and meditating. For smaller gardens, you could use dianellas.

So hurry up, buy some colourful plants and plant them in. It is still planting time.

Dirk is available for residential gardens as well as acreages. You can contact him by phone, 0429 020 215, or by emailing