Red and Violet Plants: Come to the Dark Side

When we think of plants, the color that comes to mind is generally green. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the sometimes overlooked dark tones when it comes to garden design.

Gardeners, enthusiasts and hobbyists alike, know that introducing contrasting colors can create impact and depth in a garden plan. But are we aware of the wide varieties available?

Ornamental trees such as the flowering plum Prunus ‘Nigra’ and ‘Ruby Flare’ are a popular addition to the residential garden, and Cordyline cultivars such as ‘Red Star’ and ‘Electric Pink’ with their deciduous foliage are also a regular feature in the urban landscape.

Let’s look at some of the lesser known options for adding something darker to your garden color scheme and perhaps even creating an element of mystery and intrigue.

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

Begonia and coleus varieties grown as annuals can provide fast-growing sprays of burgundy and violet and can be planted in decorative pots or among existing garden beds.

Stunning shrubs and creeping groundcovers Ipomoea include ‘Blackie’ and ‘Black Heart’, which create shapes that flow down a rock wall or can creep along a path.

Cordyline “Red Star”

Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ is a glossy, low-growing shrub ideal for a border against a contrasting green lawn.

Lauriptalum ‘China Pink’ has an elegant weeping habit and stunning bright pink flowers in a tall pot or ceramic bowl.

Berberis thundergii ‘Golden Seal’ is ideal for colder climates like a falling frost
Hardy rambler.

Aeonium “Voodoo”

Heuchera ‘Black Pearl’ does well in pots or dotted around trees in dappled light.

Aeonium ‘Voodoo’ and Echeveria ‘Dark Moon’ are hardy succulents for an easy-to-grow option that requires little maintenance.

Add some height gracefully Acer Palmatum Available in many shapes and sizes, from formal weeping standards to beautiful little trees, they are commonly available as grafted cultivars beautifully represented by the Japanese maples ‘Bloodgood’ and ‘Red Dragon’.

Loropetalum flowers

Excellent drought tolerant citizens Dodonaea viscosa “Purpurea” and Leptospermum obovatum ‘Starry Night’ makes great informal hedges.

And my personal favourite, the ‘Forest Pansy’ variety. Cercis canadensisWith its color-changing leaves and flowers on exposed wood, it makes a stunning distinctive tree in almost any yard.

Ipomea “Black Heart”

And let’s not forget about indoor plants! With this enthusiastic return to the popularity of indoor plants, nurseries and plant growers have really advanced, and there is now an amazing array of plants available.

attempt Triple Oxalis “Purple Shamrock”, Strobilanthes dyeriana “Persian Shield”, Peperomia caperata “Burgandy Ripple”, Calathea rosupectta “Little Princess” or rubber ficus “Ruby”.

Japanese maple

Be amazed at the wide variety and excited about the opportunity to expand your collection while adding another level of color diversity to your slice of paradise. Don’t be afraid to get on the dark side.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of SALIFE Gardens & Outdoor Living magazine.

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