Plants with burgundy, plum colored, or dark purple foliage are becoming increasingly popular. People often come in and ask “what’s that shrub with the purple foliage?” Well…that could be any number of things! The following list should help you choose something purple to grow in your garden…just be careful. Too much purple can make your landscape appear dark and shapeless. Use caution! Less is more! Purple foliage is also most enhanced with sun- in a shady, dim corner most purple leaved plants will turn a dull green or bronze color.
Heuchera- Sometimes called coral bells, these are handsome perennials that produce large, attractive leaves that can be any number of shades of purple often attractively veined in silver. They do best in rich, moist soil and grow well in sun or light shade.
Birch ‘Purple Rain’- This is a form of the popular European birch with nearly black bark and lovely, dark purple leaves. It is semi-weeping and very attractive.
Sandcherry ‘Cistena’- This is a very popular, very hardy shrub with shiny, reddish purple foliage and small pink flowers in early spring. It grows very fast and size is variable- anywhere from 3-7 ft. tall and wide, depending on the location.
Weigela- These are popular shrubs in the honeysuckle family with tubular, showy blooms that attract hummingbirds. There are two forms of weigela that have dark purple foliage and pink flowers. (One is called ‘Wine & Roses’ and the other is called ‘Midnight Wine’) Both are beautiful but will require extra winter protection.
Ninebark ‘Diablo’- Ninebarks are popular landscaping shrubs and grow 6-8 ft. wall. ‘Diablo’ has dynamic, dark purple foliage and tiny clusters of white flowers. ‘Summer Wine’ and ‘Coppertina’ are similar. Be sure to remove any shoots that revert to green.
Chokecherry ‘Schubert’- These are very fast growing trees popular for boulevards and residential areas. The leaves emerge green in the spring and rapidly age to deep purple. Small clusters of white flowers appear in spring, followed by a small crop of tiny cherries that the birds will enjoy.
Flowering Crabapple- Flowering crabs are popular landscaping trees due to their lovely foliage, profusion of showy and fragrant spring flowers, and small fruits that are decorative in winter. ‘Thunderchild’ and ‘Fuchsia Girl’ are the most popular purple leaf varieties and they are both extremely beautiful. (Both have pink flowers.)
Elder- There are a number of excellent cultivars of purple elders available, all are beautiful and dramatic, but not fully hardy. (They often behave as perennials here rather then shrubs.) They can also be used in large containers and tubs and grown as fast growing annuals.