Oh, beautiful … For purple landscapes majesty

Posted on Jul 01 2016 in Backyard
Redbud Forest Pansy Tree

This is a redbud “forest pansy,” a small- to medium-sized tree that has purple leaves which fade to deep greenish purple by summer’s end.

‘Hooray for the red, white and blue” is a favorite July hue and cry — with emphasis on “hue.” But if all this “red state”/“blue state” talk this political season has gotten you leaning too far one way or the other in the yard, then how about going with the good ol’ U.S. of A. melting pot purple? Purple foliage is quite popular among plant breeders and garden enthusiasts.

Purdue University’s Rosie Lerner gives us a look at some possibilities to consider:


Japanese Maple – There are many cultivars available in the trade. Some have purple foliage all summer while others may be purple only in spring and/or autumn.

Redbud “Forest Pansy” – This particular cultivar of redbud has rich purple leaves as they emerge in spring fading to deep greenish purple by summer’s end. Some specimens may have purplish red to orange fall color.

Crabapples – There are a number of cultivars with purplish green foliage. Look also for those that are resistant to apple scab and fireblight diseases.

Purple-leaf Plum – While quite popular, this species is quite susceptible to a number of insect and disease problems, so it may be short-lived in the landscape.

Purple-leaf European Beech – There are a number of purple-leaved cultivars of this large specimen tree. Be sure you have room for it to achieve its large, graceful stature.

Note: Purple-leaved selections of Norway maple used to be popular but are no longer recommended for planting due to invasive self-seeding.


Weigela – There are several cultivars of Weigela in the trade that feature purple foliage in addition to pink flowers that are particularly attractive to hummingbirds.

Ninebark – Several cultivars of this native shrub feature pinkish white blooms in spring and interesting peeling bark for winter interest in addition to purple foliage during the growing season.

Smokebush (also known as Smoketree) Numerous cultivars are available featuring purple foliage. This plant can be grown either as a large, multi-stemmed shrub or a small, single trunk tree. The name smoke refers to the pinkish-purple hairy puffs of flower stalks that remain on the plant throughout the summer.

Elderberry “Black Beauty” and “Black Lace” — These shrubs feature dark purple foliage throughout the growing season, with large clusters of small pink flowers in early summer, followed by dark purple berries. Plants can get quite large but can tolerate hard pruning.

Diervilla “Kodiak Black” — A dark purple leaved cultivar of the native shrub bears yellow flowers in summer. This species is also known as bush honeysuckle, not to be confused with the invasive alien honeysuckle species.