The Best Foliage Annuals for Your Garden

Annual garden plants are those that only last for one year. While there are many beautiful flowering annuals, there are also a large number of plants that are grown just for their foliage. A burst of interesting foliage can make your garden more beautiful by accenting the flowers you do have, or by creating textural interest. The following annual plants are great for foliage.


While many amaranthus annual plants also have long, drooping flowers throughout the summer, the foliage is really the major accent. Amaranthus can grow from two to five feet tall in full sun. They have large, oval-shaped, or narrow leaves that can be in any color range from bright green to rusty brown, to vibrant red.

Ornamental Cabbage

Ornamental cabbage is a very hardy foliage annual that is mostly seen in gardens in the fall right into the early parts of the winter. This annual plant forms green and white, or green and red, whorled cabbage leaf plants that are low growing and broad. They look best when clumped together or planted in tight rows.


Gardener’s everywhere know that the foliage annual Coleus has the most varied leaf colors and types in any plant. Coleus can be grown from six inches to almost two feet tall and prefers sun or light shade. Some coleus plants have bright orange leaves, others are deep velvety red, while others are chartreuse and white. Many types of coleus have foliage with stripes, variegations, and colored veins.


Euphorbia is a hardy annual that can grown into bushes almost three feet tall. They do have small flowers, but the foliage is the real breathtaking aspect of this plant. There are emerald green euphorbias, but the most impressive foliage is on the variegated type. These have light green leaves that are edge in brilliant white.

Castor Oil Plant

While the name of this plant does not conjure up pleasant ideas, the plant itself is an impressive foliage annual. The castor oil plant grows up to five feet tall and has massive green and red umbrella shaped leaves. It is a tropical plant that is actually a tender shrub. In temperate climates, it will grow large and die back in the course of one year.

Planting these special foliage annual plants in your garden will help you create a beautiful, natural look. Flowers are not the only things that a garden needs to look good. Differing textures and colors of foliage can be a great asset as well.


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