Create a Bright Spot in Your Garden With Colorful Foliage

Flame nettles, parrot's beak and Arisaema bring splashes of color to containers, shade gardens and planting beds in need of a colorful lift.
Protect Coleus Against Fall Frosts

Protect Coleus Against Fall Frosts

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Flame nettles' are tender tropicals generally grown as annuals. Leaves of these popular bedding plants typically combine several colors, such as chartreuse, rust red, cream and purple black.

Photo by: DK - Grow Plants in Pots © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Grow Plants in Pots , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Flame nettles' are tender tropicals generally grown as annuals. Leaves of these popular bedding plants typically combine several colors, such as chartreuse, rust red, cream and purple black.

Inject some red, purple and black into an all-green bed with tropical-looking flowers and foliage plants. Flame nettles are perfect for filling gaps in borders when spring or summer flowers have faded, or use them in a mixed container display. Parrot’s beak provides interest at head-height in baskets or along the sides of of tall pots. Arisaema is ideal for brightening up shady spots.

Flame nettles or coleus

Known to generations of gardeners as coleus, and often sold as such, these leafy plants were long considered outdated, but are now back in vogue thanks to striking new forms with colorful and patterned foliage. Their vibrancy gives patio displays a lift and adds color to border designs. Another idea is to use pots of flame nettles as underplanting around the stems of trees or shrubs in large containers. Easy to grow from seed, young plants are also available from nurseries. Keep them well-watered and repot young plants several times during the growing season. Prune stems to maintain a bushy shape. The foliage loses intensity when plants bloom, so remove buds as they form. 

Exotic Addition

Exotic Addition

To add a touch of uniqueness to a hanging basket, consider the parrot's beak. Lobster claw shaped blooms add a spike of deep orange-red.

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Parrot's beak

A close look at the red flowers that cover this evergreen plant immediately reveals how the parrot’s beak got its common name. The other feature that makes it so popular is the trailing stems of gray, ferny foliage, which makes its tumbling leaves ideal for a hanging basket or  large container. Although it needs protection from frost in the winter, Parrot’s beak is perfectly happy outside in the summer.

Elegant Spathes Protect Flowers of Arisaemas

Elegant Spathes Protect Flowers of Arisaemas

Arisaema candidissimum is one of the easiest to grow and most exciting of the cobra lilies. Emerging in very late spring are stalks of pink pitchers dramatically striped with translucent, white vertical veins and giant three lobed leaves.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited


A group of tuberous spring- and summer-flowering perennials originating from China, Japan, North America and the Himalayas, arisaemas have curious flowers that in some species resemble the head of a cobra about to strike. The flowers are generally held on long stems and covered with large leaves. Their sinister appearance is perhaps a hint that the plants are poisonous, but not all look quite so gruesome. Arisaema candidissimum appears more like whipped ice cream with its pink and white flowerhead, which is also delightfully scented.

Arisaemas prefer the shade and are perfect for small, sheltered, urban gardens where they can survive the winter outside. Either display a group of plants together or use them to plug gaps in a bed or border. You can then take the pots out of the border when they’ve finished flowering and the leaves have died back. Water regularly during the growing season, but keep compost just moist when plants are dormant in winter.

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