Monday, September 9, 2013

Desperately seeking dark “evergreen” foliage hardy in USDA zone 8…

Aeonium 'Zwartkop' - not hardy

I’m addicted to dark leaves. Love them, can’t get enough of them. However most of them are either not hardy in my zone 8 climate or not evergreen (either losing their leaves for the winter or dying back to the ground). What’s the story?
Albizia julibrissin ‘Summer Chocolate' - deciduous
Canna NOID - dies back in the winter
Canna NOID - dies back in the winter
Canna x generalis 'Tropical Bronze Scarlet' - dies back in the winter

I’ve put on my research cap and tried to get to the bottom of this mystery. There must be a reason, right? But sadly I haven’t been able to answer my own question. Can you? Why aren't there any great evergreen leaves that are dark and hardy in USDA zone 8? Is it so obvious I’m going to be embarrassed when someone tells me why? (Like why you don’t see many all white leaves on plants).
Colocasia NOID - marginally hardy, dies back in the winter
Cordyline NOID - marginally hardy and evergreen!...will make it through a mild winter
Cotinus ‘Royal Purple' - deciduous
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' - my fall back plant for dark evergreen (and hardy) foliage!
Pennisetum purpureum 'Vertigo' - not hardy
Pennisetum purpureum 'Vertigo' - not hardy
Pseuderanthemum 'Rubrum' - not hardy

In the mean time I’ll appreciate my black mondo grass and hope for a mild winter. I‘d love hear about your favorite hardy, evergreen and dark foliage plants!
Zingiber malayensis - not hardy (front view)
Zingiber malayensis - not hardy (back-lit)

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

49 comments:

  1. I never really thought about it before, but you know, I think you're right. Black mondo grass is the only hardy dark foliage plant I know about that I grow. You have some really beautiful specimens pictured here.

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    1. What would we do without the black mondo!

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  2. Euphorbia 'Blackbird' is the only one I can think of that stays throughout the winter (at least I think it does?).

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    1. Oh yes...that's a good one! I really should have put my plants in more sun, they're turning green.

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  3. How about semi-evergreen? I've seen this daphne around town: http://www.tandlnursery.com/detail.php?id=5325&sp=1. There is also some phormium research going on, looking for those that won't break our hearts all over again.

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    1. I like the sound of phormium research, and I forgot all about that daphne, thank you! I love it but have held off buying because its so expensive, maybe it's time to take the plunge...

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  4. Hi Loree, the shrub Loropetalum chinense - Razzleberry - is. I have one (was here when we moved in), easily pruned, has odd Wich Hazel like HOT PINK blooms. Nice plant, really. It's in my last blog entry http://chickadeegardens.blogspot.com/ 8th photo from the bottom.

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    1. Thanks Tamara! I've never grown Loropetalum but did a little research kept reading they weren't evergreen, good to know they are!

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  5. I'm no help. I hardly have any dark-leaved plants and every one I have is deciduous (Physocarpus, Eucomis.) I have some sedges that stay brown (she says, helpfully.)

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    1. Actually it's nice I'm not the only one drawing a blank!

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  6. What about Loropetalum chinense red-leaved cultivars and Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Purpureum'?

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    1. Oh that Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Purpureum!!!!' I almost grabbed one at the Heronswood plant sale this weekend, it just looked a little less than happy so I passed. Now I am on the hunt!

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  7. Loropetalum, yes and Euphorbia 'Blackbird' keep their dark foliage in my garden. Do you like Nandinas? They are evergreen in our climate and look their best in winter with all shades of gorgeous. Also 'Sunshine Blue' blueberry keeps a dark, bluish/maroon color all winter. For a conifer, Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans' turns a bronzy/maroon in winter. There are several heathers that turn bronzy in winter. This is about all my brain will allow at present. Great question.

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    1. Thank you Grace you've got some great suggestions there!

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  8. I know you're not big into rhodo's, but this one has beautiful dark foliage all year round, and bright red flowers http://www.rhododendron.no/Artikler/2004-2-ojl.htm .... R. 'Ever Red'.

    Also barberry, blackbird Euphorbia, lots of heucheras!!

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    1. Actually I saw a gorgeous dark leaved rhody also at Heronswood over the weekend. Took about a million photos to remind myself, thank you for an even better photo in that link!

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  9. I was going to say Opuntia 'Dark Knight', but that's not really foliage, is it?

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    1. Sure it is...I love it!!! (and don't have one, must right that wrong)

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  10. Big fan, love your blog! Jealous though that you have an easier time with most of your Agaves being outside than I do down here in Ashland!

    Here's some dark foliage that came to mind:

    -Ajuga pyramidalis "Metalica", or repens "Braunherz", "Bronze Beauty", and others.

    -Euphorbia "Blackbird", like Heather mentioned, is a good one too; I think in harsh winters it dies back but will probably hang around a long time in your area. It's also one of my favorite spurges.

    -Sempervivum "Dark Beauty" and others, though these are probably too small for what you're wanting.

    Good luck on your hunt!
    -Jordan

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    1. Thanks for the list Jordan! I had a couple of gorgeous Phormium tenax 'Altopurporeum' that got wiped out in the back to back bad winters of a few years ago. I'm still sad about that because those are such gorgeous plants.

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  11. Oh, forgot one: Phormium tenax "Altopurporeum". It's borderline here so it should be plenty tough up there. It does get large though.

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  12. There are some rhododendrons that durn a beautiful dark burgundy color in the winter also some nandinas but they're more bright red. Some Bergenias turn but you're looking for year round darkness, right?

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    1. Yes sir...I'm terribly picky and would like year round color. I am seriously thinking about one of those dark rhody's though, or maybe the daphne.

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  13. I can't think of anything short of artificial plants :-).

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    1. And you know I'm not going there!

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  14. I notice your examples are in the red/burgundy/black range. Can't help there, but Rhodies are evergreen and there are some nice dark leaved ones, maybe a few even venturing into your categories. There's Ilex 'Sky Pencil', a green so dark it could almost pass for black.

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    1. It is that red/burgundy/black range that really makes me happy but a super dark green might work as well!

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  15. I echo the above...Lorapetalum was the first thing that came to mind. Watch out for that 'Vertigo', mine overwintered...and in pots, no less! Of course, it was June before I realized it...and by then, had already purchased replacements ;-)

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    1. Seriously? I didn't realize...now I'm kind of scared after reading Denise's post about them getting the size of a bus...

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  16. This is my favorite kind of plant question. What about Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea'? I don't know anything about it other than Monrovia says 8-11, and I've drooled over it because I can't grow it. Gastrolobium (Brachysema) 'Bronze Butterfly' is more Z9ish, but maybe worth a shot if you can get it? Opuntia santa-rita? Are there any heathers or heaths that turn black/purple in winter, like Calluna 'Orange Queen' turns orange? A little googling produced something called Eurya japonica 'Winter Wine', but not a lot of info out there on that one. And Loropetalum can be pruned like crazy and was hardy in the part of the South I grew up in, so it should definitely be hardy for you.

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    1. How do I know nothing about Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea?' This has great potential!!!

      Opuntia santa-rita SHOULD be perfect but the darn plant tugs with my emotions not always turning purple here, maybe it's not cold enough? I'm definitely going to have to do some Loropetalum hunting...

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  17. If you are considering shrubs, I have some, I could photograph some for foliage follow-up this month-

    Berberis darwinii
    Berberis stenophylla 'Corallina'
    Boxwood
    Ceanothus glorious 'Point Reyes'- wide ground cover, trailing;
    Ceanothus 'Victoria' shrub
    Choisya ternata, sundance, 'Aztec Pearl'
    Daphne 'Lawrence Crocker, stays small, dark green leaves, purple flower in spring fragrant;
    Dapne tangutica 3-4' rounded mound, white/pink flowers in spring fragrant
    Epimedium- some get fairly tall
    Lonicera nitida
    Mahonia Oregon Holly grape really pretty cultivar with feathery symmetrical foliage- Soft Caress
    Osmanthus delavayi fragrant
    Sarcococca hookeriana 'Humulis' short fragrant;
    Sarcococca ruscifolia taller, 3' fragrant
    Ternstroemia
    Camellia sinensis (tea)
    Evergreen blueberry (turns red in fall)

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  18. Oops, I was thinking dark green, I just looked at your photos again and saw you were talking burgundy. That is a lot harder. Silly me. I had a Loropetallum but it died. BTW I saw a joke on FB that reminded me of your post, It's Dead, Jim-

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152579754310500&set=a.10151922682945500.871442.273227155499&type=1&permPage=1

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    1. Oops again, that was Alison's "It's Dead, Jim" post. I was seeing my Salvia lyrata plants when I was working outside this evening, I don't know if they have enough presence for you, they are mostly a basal rosette with sprays of small flowers in spring. I had mine in a basket for a couple of years but this summer I planted some I grew from seed in the garden and they are looking great, I haven't seen them through the winter there. Also I found this plant on google and don't have experience with it, Kopper King Hibiscus with copper red leaves to 3-4' tall and hardy to zone 4-

      http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/2685/kopper-king-hardy-hibiscus.php

      Also some Heucheras have purple or bronze foliage, and can make a nice clump but maybe not more than 12" tall?

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    2. Funny I couldn't get your link to open but I was wondering if it was Alison's post! Thank you so much for the huge plant list Hannah...I can't wait to start researching them all!

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  19. Choose your Loropetalum carefully. They claim that 'Purple Pixie' stays small and dark. I haven't tried it. I have Loropetalum trees, species seedlings in all shades.

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    1. Thanks for the reminder to think carefully Jean. Sometimes when I'm at the nursery and plant lust takes over all reasoning goes right out the window!

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  20. I was going to echo Andrews suggestion for Dodonea v. pupurea, but you have to site it properly (full sun) to get the purple action.You would use it like Bamboo, as a tall screen. See this post here for some photos..http://gardenbook-ks.blogspot.com/2011/03/landscapes-of-commerce-part-1.html

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    1. Thank you for the link! It's one thing to see a plant close up shot but another to see it in the landscape like that.

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  21. Adding on to Andrew and ks: If Dodonaea interests you, Garden Fever might have one left -- I have been watching them disappear from there over the last week or two. What about Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Purpureus?' Also, I saw Ceanothus 'Tuxedo' at the Powell Blvd Seven Dees on Saturday. I love that purple/burgundy foliage too...

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    1. Garden Fever to the rescue! Thanks Julie, it's been awhile since I've stopped there. Oh and that Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Purpureus' deserves a look too!

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  22. your 'NOID' canna is durban and the one below it looks like australia

    I have a dark red euphorbia that stays evergreen- rubra.
    black or purple phormiums are mostly hardy in zone 8
    dark semperviums

    ?

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    1. Thanks for the canna ID! Phormiums were my go to for dark foliage, then along came the Phormium killing winters (PKW's) and that went right out the door. A few have crept back into my garden but I'm hesitant to rely on them too much.

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  23. I see why you want that color (texture)...no matter what, you can enjoy what you have in the growing season!

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    1. True...there is a wealth of options in the growing season!

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  24. I thought I had found a perfect plant, Monrovia's 'Little John' Azalea. Burgundy leaves and with a name like Little... but it grows to 6 feet tall and wide! Then I read further that it was discontinued for lack of hardiness.

    I hope you find a nice shrub that fits your space and gives you pleasure.

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    1. Thank you Jean...at least it will be fun trying!

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  25. I heard about an Illicium this weekend and thought of your quest. It is evergreen, but only the new growth is black:

    http://jcraulstonarboretum.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/plant-of-the-day-illicium-anisatum-murasaki-no-sato/

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    1. Oh Les I love that!!! Thank you, plus now I know about their plant of the day feature too!

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