The Purple Landscape - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

The Purple Landscape

Trees and shrubs with colorful foliage can add a steady supply of interest in the landscape throughout the growing season. Purple foliage is quite popular among plant breeders and garden enthusiasts.  Here’s a look at some possibilities to consider.

Photo of Redbud forest pansy tree in a foundation planting next to a building

Redbud forest pansy tree
Photo credit: Purdue Arboretum

Small to Medium Trees

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.

Large Trees

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.

Photo of Ninebark Diabolo shrub in a foundation planting

Ninebark Diabolo shrub
Photo credit: Purdue Arboretum


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 available featuring purple foliage. This plant can be grown either as a large, mult-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” feature dark purple foliage throughout the growing season – 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” is a dark purple leaved cultivar of the native shrub that also bears yellow flowers in summer. This species is also known as bush honeysuckle, not to be confused with the invasive alien honeysuckle species.

Share This Article
Disclaimer: Reference to products is not intended to be an endorsement to the exclusion of others which may have similar uses. Any person using products listed in these articles assumes full responsibility for their use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.
Indiana Yard and Garden – Purdue Consumer Horticulture - Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, 625 Agriculture Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907

© 2024 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Indiana Yard and Garden – Purdue Consumer Horticulture

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact Indiana Yard and Garden – Purdue Consumer Horticulture at | Accessibility Resources