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Posted by Faye Green

There’s more to a garden than blooms. Add brilliance to your beds or containers with plants whose showiest feature is foliage.

Blooming plants love to strut their stuff, but only as long as conditions are right. August in the South does not by any means make for the right conditions, so lackluster blooming often prevails in late summer. Plants await the more moderate temperatures of early autumn before producing a last flush of color.

You can counter the loss of blooms by adding colorful foliage plants to your mix during spring planting. Your choices are magnificent. Keep in mind that blooms do indeed provide spectacle, but peacock leaves don’t even hiccup in a heat wave—as long as you place them well and keep them watered.

Among my favorites:

Potato Vine: The chartreuse ones almost glow and provide a stellar contrast to companion plants. In addition to the green, you might also like the nearly black, bronze, or variegated green/cream/pink varieties. If you give them some sun, fertilizer, and water, they will reward you by cascading dramatically from pots or creeping across the ground to form a mat of color. Pinch back tips to encourage branching, thus adding to this plant’s lushness. (sun; part-sun)

Persian Shield: Also called strobilanthes, the Persian Shield is among the most beautiful plants I have ever seen. They sport colors of deep purple with mid-green veining and edges, but overlay the unusual color combination with a pearl-like finish, and you get a winner. Protect from afternoon sun to prevent fading, provide adequate water and nutrition, and pinch back to keep them in bound, and you will have a truly impressive display. (part-sun; avoid afternoon sun)

rex begonia

Dusty Miller: This trusted sun-lover is in a category of its own. Silver, almost white, lacy leaves provide a wonderful companion to darker colors. (sun)

Tradescantia: The purple tradescantia with a gray-green stripe seemed to have disappeared for a while, but it appears to be making a comeback, and no wonder. It isn’t picky about location, can take either sun or shade, and even a bit of abuse. If you find a companion that echoes the green stripe, you have a stellar combination. (sun to shade)

Coleus: These usually love the shade, but sun coleus can adapt to direct sunlight. There are so many color combinations of coleus that the problem is not whether you will find one that you like, but how you will possibly choose among them. Give them food and water, and pinch out blooms, and they just keep pouring on the charm. (varies by type)

Dichondra: I love this plant. The delicate silvery gray-green leaves cascade. . . forever. They like sun but will take a good deal of shade. They look lovely cascading out of every pot. The name ‘Silver Falls’ is also a good descriptive. (sun to part-shade)

Creeping Jenny: This chartreuse groundcover loves to grow. . .and grow. . . and grow, so keep it in pots and under control. The more sun you give it, the more intense the color. (sun to shade; can be invasive)

Rex Begonia: I saved the best for last: This king of foliage plants comes in a breathtaking array of color combinations, all of them impossibly, ethereally beautiful. Give them shade and bright light (no direct sun), food, and water, and your rex begonia will provide stunning color all season long. (bright shade)