Plants With Colorful Foliage: Adding Indoor Color With Foliage Plants For The Home

Did you know that colorful houseplant foliage can actually provide year-round interest to your home? Different foliage plants offer a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, textures and even aromas so you’re sure to find something that sparks your interest. Let’s take a look at using foliage plants for color.

About Colorful Houseplant Foliage

Nearly every color imaginable is available through foliage plants alone, without the brilliant blooms of accompanying flowers, though these make exceptional additions too. From yellows, golds, reds and oranges to silver, creams, purples and various shades of green, there’s a foliage plant that will easily blend into your indoor decor.

Popular Foliage Plants for the Home

There are a number of plants with colorful foliage, far too many to name. But just to give you an idea of using indoor color with foliage, here are some popular foliage plants for the home that you may like to try:

Some of the most stunning foliage plants for the home can include the small, round, fuzzy leaves of the Brazilian begonia. With dark green foliage color highlighted by pale green veins and reddish undersides, this is a very striking plant.

Then there’s the Japanese euonymus with beautiful evergreen leaves edged with white or the large, cream-mottled foliage of the ever-popular dumbcane plant. Another exceptional beauty is that of crystal anthurium with large, velvety, dark green and white-veined foliage.

The rubber plant has large, leathery, dark green leaves and combines well with the interesting tufted grass of ornamental sedge, which is also dark green but edged with creamy white.

Add drama by incorporating the pointy green with purple under-toned foliage of the purple velvet plant. Create interesting contrast with the soft, fuzzy white leaves of the panda plant, also dotted with reddish edges. Set this combination off with the deep-red, heart-shaped leaves of Peperomia ‘Luna,’ which also happens to provide narrow spikes of white flowers.

Peperomia is also available with large, gold-variegated foliage that blends in nicely with the purple, clover-like leaves of oxalis. For an extra touch, this plant produces pink or purple blooms. If you’re looking for something with a wonderful aroma, try the Lemon-scented geranium. Its small, crinkly, green and cream leaves smell just like lemon, and the plant also produces pale mauve blossoms.

The pale blue blooms of the candle plant look quite attractive popping out from its round, scalloped, white-veined leaves. Wandering jew, with its dark green, silver-striped, and reddish undertone also looks nice with this plant.

English ivy is always a favorite but the ‘Eva’ variety is quite noteworthy. This lovely foliage plant has purple shoots and white-edged leaves. For variety, why not try some foxtail fern. This plant offers fluffy plumes of tiny green, needle-like branches that can easily add charm in the home.

If you’re simply looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, perhaps croton ‘Red Curl’ will appease your needs for indoor color with foliage. This unusual plant has long, narrow, corkscrew-like leaves in various color combinations. Speaking of foliage plants for color, coleus is well known for its numerous color variations, from green to those edged with pink, red, purple and gold or white.

Dracaena ‘tricolor’ has long, narrow green leaves that are edged in both cream and pink. Numerous types of succulent plants with colorful foliage can offer unusual interest as well.

With so many wonderful foliage plants for the home to choose from, adding interest and indoor color with foliage has never been easier.

Top 18 Plants for Dazzling Foliage

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The right selection of foliage can make a great impact in your garden. Choose foliage that will add bold shapes, fine textures, and brilliant color to your flowers. In addition, some foliage selections are best for filling in the shady patches of your garden without compromising visual interest. You'll also find foliage that changes its color throughout the season.

Here's a roundup up the 18 best foliage plants to intersperse among your blooms.

10 Shrubs With Colorful Foliage

by Matt Gibson

Shrubs play a pivotal role in garden aesthetics, providing a backdrop for colorful floral standouts. Most shrubs are the unsung heroes of the garden. Their solid green and variegated foliage is the perfect canvas for a gardener who paints with flowers.

But not all shrubs are suited to the supporting role. Some produce vibrant colorful foliage that can turn the shrubs into the standouts of the garden. With shrubs like these, flowers aren’t really necessary. These 10 shrubs are covered in showy, colorful foliage that draw the eye of passers by, and some that could even be the star of the show in a flower garden.

“Purple Picture” Hebe

The spikes of brilliant purple flowers that bedazzle the, “purple picture” hebe during the summer months, as well as its deep purple evergreen foliage, have made the purple picture hebe a go-to shrub for gardeners looking for a flowering shrub that provides a splash of color in the summer and a beautiful but subtle background of showy purplish leaves.

Hebe is hardy in USDA zones 8-9, this bushy shrub grows up to four feet tall and three feet wide. The purple picture variety is deer and drought resistant.


The medium size shrub, “Wine & Roses” Weigela is a showstopper when in bloom and a beautiful evergreen nearly all year long. The wine and roses shrub is actually quite large. If left unpruned, it can grow up to five feet high and six feet wide. Many gardeners prefer to keep their shrubs trimmed back to just over four feet high and wide, but pruning is completely optional. The weigela’s thick covering of dark purple foliage keeps the plant looking healthy and attractive from spring to fall each year. In the spring and summer months, the wine and roses weigela becomes a showstopper. Tons of light pink five-petaled flowerheads sprout up atop the bed of dark purple leaves. The contrast of the gentle pink against the bold purple leaves are a sight to behold. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8.

There are several other varieties of weigela that deserve an honorable mention on this list that were bred by hybrid farmers to create more compact varieties and more flower color options. “Fine Wine” weigela grows to about four feet in height. “Midnight Wine” is a much more compact variety, clocking in at a modest one foot high. “Ghost,” is another compact cultivar that produces golden leaves.

“Dart’s Gold” Ninebark

The “Dart’s Gold,” variety of ninebark is another shrub that doesn’t know how to play a supporting role. Though the ninebark does look wonderful in the background with flowers highlighted in the forefront, it could just as easily become the star of the show. Growing six feet tall and eight feet wide, Dart’s gold gets its name from the bright gold-yellow foliage which is so vibrantly yellow that it is often mistaken for forsythia.

Ninebark has become a popular shrub amongst gardeners because of its extreme resilience. For those who need plants that do not require much care, the ninebark shrub is about as close as you can get to a plant it and leave it undertaking. Hardy in USDA zones 3-7, Dart’s gold Ninebark’s chartreuse colored leaves turn a bright yellow in autumn. The Dart’s gold variety is more resistant to powdery mildew than the purple-leafed varieties of ninebark.

Gold Dust Plant

From a distance, the gold dust plant (Aucuba japonica “Variegata”) looks like any other shrub. Its leaves appear to be a yellowish-green from afar, but as you approach the six foot by six foot shrub, the deep green oval leaves that narrow to a point at the tips are all dusted with bright yellow specks. The name gold dust plant is a solid descriptive title that fits like a glove but the yellow blotches look more like flecked yellow paint on the leaf’s green canvas. Each leaf is like a miniature oval-shaped Jackson Pollock painting.

Those who live in cool climate areas may be familiar with the gold dust plant as an easy-to-grow houseplant. Gardeners who live in warm climate areas know the gold dust plant as a dense evergreen shrub that’s easy on the eyes. Hardy in USDA zones 7-10, this six foot tall shrub enjoys partial shade to full exposure.

Variegated False Holly

The foliage of the variegated false holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus, G) without a doubt, the most interesting, showy, and unique of all the leaves from the shrubs on this list. The leaves of the variegated false holly start off bearing a reddish-pink tint and then gently fade to show cream, white, and gray, all highlighted by yellow spotting.

The variegated false holly is hardy in USDA zones 7-9. It grows up to four feet tall and five feet wide. A slow-grower that thrives in sunny locations, the false holly’s leaves are simply spectacular. The leaves are so unique, in fact, that viewers might not notice that the shrub also produces pretty, delicate, white flowers.

“Carol Mackie” Daphne

The star shaped clusters of leaves on the, “Carol Mackie,” variety of the Daphne burkwoodii shrub, are each composed of around 20 leaf petals, all extending outwards from the core, Each leaf is dark green with a pretty cream-colored trim around the outside of the slender oval-shaped leaves. The showy foliage of this ornamental shrub are plenty pretty all by themselves, but when spring rolls around, the, “Carol Mackie,” begins to put on a show, producing clusters of fragrant bright pink flowers atop the compact bi-colored foliage for an elegant combination all in one shrub.

Hardy in USDA zones 4-7, the Daphne shrub grows to three feet tall and four feet wide. It’s low-lying size makes it the perfect shrub for pathways and borders. Grow ground covers around their base or add a thick layer of mulch to protect the roots during hot summer weather. .

“My Monet” Weigela

The second variety of weigela to make the list, “My Monet,” weigela (Weigela florida ‘Verweig’) produces large bluish-green foliage that is widely edged in a cream color with an underlying pink hue. That pink tint works perfectly to compliment the plant’s lovely pink springtime blooms. The shrub tends to grow in a very compact form, making it the perfect choice for garden bed edges.

“My Monet,” weigela is hardy in USDA zones 4-8, growing 18 inches high and three times as wide. Pairs exceptionally well with, “Midnight Wine,” weigela. These similar sized varieties produce contrastingly unique foliage. The blue-green leaves with pinkish cream trim looks outstanding next to the dark purple leaves of the midnight wine variety.

Diabolo Ninebark

Diabolo is the second variety of ninebark to make this list. The diabolo ninebark stands out in a crowd due to its beautiful, deep-purple to maroonish foliage. Hardy in USDA zones 3-7, the ninebark grows to a massive ten foot by ten foot size. In the early summer months, the shrub produces clusters of white flowers, while in the winter, the stalks and branches begin to peel away and fall to the ground. If you love the way ninebark shrubs look in your garden but you don’t have the room to devote to such a massive ornamental plant, try your greenthumb out on one of the dwarf varieties that only take up half the space that the diabolo occupies.

“Rainbow Fizz” Spirea

The “Rainbow Fizz,” variety of spirea is somewhat like a rainbow that sprouts up out of the soil of your garden. The new leaves that appear in spring start off coppery-red, but as the summer heat rolls around, the foliage starts to change to various hues of yellow, orange, and gold simultaneously. The fuzzy pink blooms sprout atop the spirea’s stems throughout the summer months. Autumn weather brings the foliage back to its original coppery-red tint. At just three to four feet high and wide, the rainbow fizz spirea is a wonderful addition to garden walkways and large containers.

“Sutherland Gold” Elderberry

The “Sutherland Gold” variety of Elderberry can be spotted from a block away due to the electric, eye-catching, finely-cut, fern-like, chartreuse-colored foliage. The Sambucus racemosa or, “Sutherland Gold,” grows to a massive size of ten foot by ten foot, and thrives in partial sun and partial shade. Like any other variety of elderberry, the sutherland gold variety produces clusters of red fruit that attracts birds to your garden.

These 10 colorful shrubberies are all perfect examples of how the shrub doesn’t have to be a backdrop for flowers and other ornamental plants. Many of the shrubs on this list are so ornamental in their own right, that using them as background filler seems out of the question. So, the next time you are planning out what you are going to plant in the coming growing season, consider adding one or more of these standout shrubs with colorful foliage as a garden centerpiece.

3. Philodendron ‘Birkin’

From Costa Farms’ Trending Tropicals collection, ‘Birkin’ is a stunning new philodendron whose creamy, one-of-a-kind variegation appears almost white as it unfurls large pin-striped leaves on an upright plant. The variegation of each individual leaf is dramatically different and adds to its appeal. White may not technically be a color, but the variegation is so unusual, and so strong, that it squeaks in under the wire for me.

The care couldn’t be easier: bright indirect light and water on the dry side. Overwater this precious find and you’ll, unfortunately, be hunting for a replacement.

Brighten the Home With Colorful Foliage

Think "houseplant" and invariably an image of a green leafy plant comes to mind. But that's not the only option. Many plants sport foliage in bright colors such as red, yellow and orange.

"Plants with colorful leaves are a nice alternative to blooming plants, which often flower only temporarily indoors," says Lin Shradar, who is in charge of sales and design of indoor and outdoor plants at Burlingame Garden Center in Burlingame. "Houseplants with colorful leaves give you color indefinitely."

An increasing number of houseplants with colorful foliage are available today, says Ray Moore, an indoor plant salesman at Broadway Terrace Nursery in Oakland.

"In today's market of interior- scaping, the demand for plants with colorful foliage has really increased," he says. "Most people can find a plant in the colors they desire."

Plants such as croton, for example, can light up a corner of a room. Its large, tropical, glossy leaves in colors such as yellow, orange, red and purple make an impressive display.

Calathea (peacock plant) is another eye-catcher. The graceful markings on this plant's purple and green leaves resemble a peacock's tail.

Adequate light is the secret to keeping houseplants with colorful leaves colorful. Most require medium to bright light, says Moore.

If a foliage plant doesn't get enough light, the colors will fade and become dull, and the plant will begin to lose leaves, says Shradar. Move the plant into a brighter location, and it should recover.

Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' can take lower light conditions. The leaves of this plant have a medium- to dark-green border with silver or chartreuse horizontal laces.

Keep houseplants healthy by watering properly. Check with the nursery expert about watering (and other cultural requirements) at the time you buy the plant. Some plants prefer to remain moist, while others like to go slightly dry.

If a plant prefers dry conditions, thoroughly soak the pot whenever you do water, says Shradar. Also remember that plants in shady areas generally require less water than those in brighter locations.

Fertilize foliage plants regularly. Feed monthly according to package directions, or use a dilute fertilizer mix every time you water. This will give the plant a constant supply of nutrients and allow for even, vigorous growth.


Hybridizers create new and more dazzling varieties of colorful houseplants every year. The following plants have striking foliage in a variety of colors.

-- Aglaonema: A hardy tropical plant with graceful, oblong leaves marked or mottled in various colors including white, silver and chartreuse. It likes warm temperatures, good light and moist soil, but can adapt to poor lighting. The optimum environment is a moist one, such as on a wet bed of pebbles.

-- Aphelandra (zebra plant): This plant's showy, dark-green, waxy leaves are striped with white veins.

The plant, which grows to about one foot high, should be kept moist at all times. It requires high humidity (mist) and filtered sun.

-- Begonia masoniana (iron cross begonia): This plant has big, puckered, apple-green leaves with deep burgundy to brown veins. In ideal conditions, it grows a foot tall and two feet wide. Keep the plant moderately moist, but never soggy, in a location with filtered light.

-- Rex begonia: Often considered the most striking of foliage begonias, this plant has large, broad fleshy leaves that come in a variety of colors such as deep burgundy, dark red, maroon, lilac, rose and silvery gray.

In ideal conditions, it can grow two feet wide and two feet tall. It needs good light and high humidity, with regular misting.

-- Caladium bicolor: This colorful plant has arrow-shaped leaves on long stalks. The paper-thin leaves have bands and blotches in red, rose, pink, white, bronze or green.

It grows 12 to 18 inches high and needs a warm, humid location with bright light. It needs moist soil.

-- Calathea: This plant has large ornamental leaves marked in various patterns in shades of green, white, pink and purple. It requires warm, humid temperatures and filtered sun. Mist frequently to keep humidity high keep the soil constantly moist, but not soggy.

-- Codiaeum variegatum (croton): This stunning plant has glossy leaves that come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, red, purple, orange, bronze and pink.

The plant usually grows about 15 inches tall but can grow up to four feet in ideal conditions. It tends to be picky about its growing conditions. The croton likes bright light, warm temperatures, high humidity and constantly moist soil. Mist frequently.

-- Coleus: This plant has vividly colored velvety leaves in a variety of colors, including chartreuse, yellow, salmon, peach, orange, red, magenta and purple.

It needs constant bright light to retain leaf colors. The plant generally grows to 12 inches indoors, although it can get taller, and needs constant moisture and humidity.

-- Cordyline (ti plant): This plant can get tall, sometimes eventually reaching four or five feet.

Varieties of C. fruticosa with colored leaves include 'Amabilis,' with wide dark green leaves and white or red spots 'Firebrand,' with crimson ovals and 'Tricolor,' with green-yellow and red-flecked leaves. Give filtered light and warm conditions. Keep plant evenly moist, but don't overwater.

-- Ctenanthe: This plant's long leaves come in a variety of colors: yellow-green, crimson and silver. The plant grows up to three feet.

Keep it in a warm area and provide humidity with frequent misting. It likes filtered light and must have good drainage.

-- Draceana fragrans 'Massangeana': This striking plant has green, cornlike leaves with a broad yellow stripe down the center and dark- green margins. The leaves can reach four inches wide and 18 to 20 inches long. Keep it in filtered light in a warm, humid location. Likes to be misted, and needs moist soil.

-- Draceana Warneckei: This plant has elongated green and white leaves with gray-green stripes. The leaves can reach two feet and the plant itself can reach a height of 10 feet indoors. Keep in filtered light in a warm, humid location. Mist often and keep soil moist.

-- Hypoestes phyllostachya (pink polka-dot plant): Common in terrariums, this colorful plant doesn't grow very large, often reaching no higher than eight inches to a foot. The plant has small leaves that come in several color combinations, including green leaves with pink polka-dots, pink leaves with green splotches and green leaves with red splotches. It requires moderate to bright light and moist soil.

-- Pothos: This is one of the easiest houseplants to grow. It is a vine with shiny, heart-shaped green leaves that are marbled with gold or cream. Unlike other houseplants, it doesn't lose its leaf colorings in low light conditions. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings.

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