Add Gold Foliage to Your Garden

Find out how to add plants that provide color worth its weight in gold to your garden.
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Golden Foliage

Golden Foliage

When people think of color in the garden, they naturally think of flowers. But there are many plants that exhibit eye-catching foliage color. Gold foliage includes a range of light yellow to pure gold. The list of golden plants includes everything from annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs.

Tropicals, Perennials and Grasses

  • Croton is a tropical beauty that's grown as an annual in containers or as a houseplant throughout all but the warmest parts of the U.S. There are more than 100 varieties of croton in cultivation, featuring an array of leaf shapes and colors.
  • Canna 'Tropicanna Gold' has striped golden foliage that makes a bold statement in the garden. This selection produces brilliant yellow-orange flowers. It's hardy to USDA Zone 7 and, in colder climates, makes an outstanding container plant.
  • Dicentra spectabilis 'Goldheart' is a golden bleeding heart with rosy pink flowers. The foliage maintains its golden color throughout the growing season. This shade-loving perennial is extremely hardy, tolerating sub-zero temperatures.
  • Hosta 'Sun Power' is equally hardy as the golden bleeding heart. It too requires shade, especially in the South, and is long-lived, assuming slugs don't devour it.
  • Lamium 'Golden Anniversary' has greenish-yellow leaves complemented by light pink blooms. It's a dynamite groundcover for shady sites, although it can spread quickly. Lamium is closely related to the notorious lawn weed henbit. Both have square stems which means they're in the mint family. Many plants with square stems have a tendency to spread, sometimes to the point of being invasive. But in all fairness to plants that have a tendency to spread, most can be kept in check by digging them up or cutting them back as they begin to jump their borders. In many cases, a spreading plant is a plus, especially if you have a lot of ground to cover.
  • Vinca minor 'Illumination' is another groundcover that has a tendency to spread, but it's easy to control. 'Illumination' has golden yellow leaves edged in green. USDA Zone 4.
  • Heucherella 'Sunspot' has bright yellow foliage with red veining. Bright pink flowers appear in spring. USDA Zone 4.
  • Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' is an excellent choice for the shade garden. This golden Japanese forest grass grows to about 18 inches and doesn't spread.
  • Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', better known as sweet flag, reaches 12 inches tall. This golden grass grows well in wet soils and is often planted in and around water gardens.
  • Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus' has green foliage highlighted by golden horizontal bands. This particular maiden grass grows to about eight feet tall and three feet wide, but it stays in-bounds and is extremely easy to grow. USDA Zone 4.

Shrubs and Trees

  • Golden junipers are hardy evergreens that remain ever-gold, even during the winter months. One of the newer introductions is 'Gold Lace'. Notice the golden foliage at the tip of the branches.
  • Aucuba japonica, or gold dust plant, is another evergreen shrub. This variety 'Mr. Goldstrik' is a terrific shrub for shady spots. A slow grower, it ultimately reaches six feet tall. USDA Zones 6 to 10.
  • Euonymus fortunei 'Canadale Gold' is hardy to 20 degrees below zero and reaches 20 feet tall. Euonymus often gets a bad rap because the genus is often plagued by scale. But this pest is relatively easy to control with highly refined horticultural oil or Neem, an all-natural insecticide.
  • Spirea 'Goldmound' is a deciduous shrub that grows in full sun and reaches three feet tall and wide. USDA Zone 4.
  • Golden barberry is an excellent shrub for poor soils and trying conditions. It grows to about seven feet tall. But beware, barberry is very thorny. USDA Zone 4.
  • Sambucus racemosa 'Southerland Gold', or elderberry, is an under-utilized shrub that offers beautiful fine-textured, golden foliage.
  • Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis 'Sunburst', or golden honey locust, is a tree that grows to about 35 feet tall. It's not very popular because a lot of people associate locust trees with thorns and seed pods that litter the ground. However, 'Sunburst' is different because it's both thornless and seedless. USDA Zone 4.
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