begonia 'rex'

Five great foliage plants

While many of these plants do flower, they are grown more for their flamboyant leaves than their blooms. Foliage plants can make a great foil for other flowering plants or why not be a little more adventurous and create a leafy tapestry for the garden. Here are five great foliage plants from five different nurseries for you to consider for your home and garden.

Leafy begonias

Don’t get me wrong I simply love flowering begonias, they are one of the easiest summer flowering plants and put on a fantastic floral display all summer. But the begonia plant group has some other great plant types that are better known for their simply stunning leaves than their flowers. They do flower, but the blooms are pretty insignificant compared to the fabulous leaves. Specialist grower Dibleys Nurseries is a RHS Gold Medal winner for its display of begonias, coleus and other houseplants. The leafy begonias make perfect houseplants and are available in a huge range of types and varieties. The Rex begonias are among the most stunning.

Begonia 'Rex'
The stunning leaves of Rex Begonias.

Ivy trees

Fibrex Nurseries is a RHS Gold medal winner for its display of ferns and ivy and it was the ivy ‘trees’ that really caught my eye, offering leafy green balls above waist height and adding colour and interest to the border. Ivies are hardy, evergreen and will cling and climb creating a beautiful fresh green carpet on walls, fences and over tree stumps, or plant them in hanging baskets, window boxes or pots for year round interest. The nursery holds a National Collection of ivy with 390 varieties highlighting the tremendous range of foliage types, growth habits and uses. Ivies clean the air that we breathe and offer safe nesting and roosting sites for birds. And used in the right context these plants can be very beautiful too.

Leaves of an ivy tree
Ivies clean the air and offer safe nesting and roosting sites for birds.


If you want some really stunning foliage colour in your garden then take a look at the Heucheras. These are great evergreen plants ideal for borders, containers, ground cover and even pots and hanging baskets. Plantagogo and Heucheraholics have both been awarded coveted RHS Gold Medals in the past for their displays in the floral marquee at RHS Hampton Court. The glorious hues of rich purple, marmalade orange, lime green and more created fantastic and colourful displays. Heucheras flower as well with strong, slender stems and small tiny bells of flowers that are a magnet for bees. Plant heucheras in partial shade for the best results in a moist well drained soil.

Heuchera lime marmalade
The beautiful leaves of Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’.

Garden ferns

Fernatix is a RHS Gold Medal winner for its fabulous leafy display of ferns. These feathery foliaged plants add a fresh, green dimension to the garden, but if you thought that they all needed shade you would be wrong. While most prefer full shade or semi shade one or two are as tough as old boots and will take full sun too. Dryopteris filix mas ‘Crispa cristata’ more commonly known as the crested male fern, has a wavy frond with cresting and is a good example of this. But most hardy ferns will tolerate some degree of sun, but will do much better in shady conditions. Keeping the roots moist is more important. These plants die back for the winter and then form dramatic unfurling fronds in spring. For masses of information on growing these fronds, check out the very comprehensive Fernatix website.

Ferns and Hostas growing together
Ferns and Hostas grow well together.


If you thought hostas are just great foliage plants you might be surprised that many of them have beautiful and fragrant flowers as well as simply stunning leaves. Mickfield Hostas is a previous RHS Gold Medal winner at Hampton Court for its educational exhibit of these fascinating plants. Information boards with interesting facts seasoned its comprehensive display of these versatile garden plants. Did you know, for example, that in Korea hosta shoots (Hosta lancifolia types) are cooked like asparagus or added to salads for their peppery flavour? Mickfield Hostas holds a National Collection with over 2000 varieties, of which over 1000 are offered for sale from its website. There’s everything from miniature mouse ear varieties to the giant varieties in a range of leaf forms.

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