Shrubs serve so many purposes in the garden. They can create a hedge that adds privacy, provide a focal point in a foundation planting, add at least three seasons of color, and anchor a garden design. Dark-leaved shrubs are special because they have standalone interest due to their interesting foliage, but also offer the perfect backdrop against which you can plant any number of vibrant colors for an eye-catching garden montage.
We’ve teamed up with Bloomin’ Easy Plants to show you four stunning dark-leaved shrubs to consider for your next garden project.
Nightglow® Diervilla is named for its blooms, even though the foliage is also pretty stellar. The vibrant yellow clusters of flowers appear in late spring and look like fireflies, which inspired the name. The common name for Diervilla, which is native to North America, is bush honeysuckle.
This variety is adaptable to a variety of growing conditions, though it prefers six or more hours of full sun a day. It is hardy down to USDA zone 3, meaning it can handle temperatures down to -40 Celsius and Fahrenheit.
Low-maintenance and drought tolerant, Nightglow® Diervilla attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and is deer resistant.
Branches spring upwards from the ground, creating a fan-like effect. Full-grown, the shrub will reach about two to three feet (60 to 90 cm) tall and equally wide.
If you deadhead the flowers, you may get another bloom time. And that gorgeous red foliage? It becomes a deeper shade of burgundy as the season progresses. The plant blooms on new wood, so prune your shrub in the spring when all threat of frost has passed. You can cut it down to about six inches (15 cm). An organic, all-purpose fertilizer can be added in the spring when the leaves start to grow.
Plant it with blooms that are: Light and dark yellow (echinacea, coreopsis, delosperma, black-eyed Susans), white (Shasta daisies), purple (larkspur, liatris).
Afterglow™ Weigela and Stunner® Weigela
If you’re looking for a tidy, compact, perfect ball of a dark-leaved shrub that features eye-catching flowers, either Afterglow™ Weigela or Stunner® Weigela should be top contenders. You can go for the demure and pretty Afterglow™ or the vibrant, vivacious Stunner®.
Let’s start with the former. The cream and pink flowers of Afterglow™, which appear in the spring, are shaped like delicate little fog horns. The dark-leaved foliage starts out a rich green and deepens to red as the season progresses. Stunner® Weigela has brilliant fuchsia blooms with foliage that is more of a dark chocolate brown.
Both shrubs are low-maintenance members of the honeysuckle family that are hardy down to USDA zone 4 (they can handle temperatures down to -30F (-34 C). They love a full-sun spot in the garden and grow to be about three to four feet tall (90 to 120 cm) and equally as wide. You could also show off one of these shrubs in a large container. Make sure there is good drainage and it’s a good size, so the roots have lots of room to breathe and the plants have some room to grow.
Pollinators, including hummingbirds, love the blooms, but deer won’t bother these showy shrubs. Prune after they have bloomed, cutting branches back to healthy sets of lateral shoots. This will promote vigorous growth and next year’s flower buds. In the early spring, you can take out any obviously dead branches.
Position Afterglow™ or Stunner® Weigela with plants that are: Pale pink (echinacea, Japanese anemone), mauve (lavender, catmint, Russian sage), and lime green (heuchera, Japanese forest grass).
Ninebarks (Physocarpus) are a favorite of mine in the landscape. I think it’s because the clusters of pinkish-white flowers that look like pompoms are just so delicate and pretty when you get up close. Mine is constantly abuzz with a variety of pollinators when it’s in bloom, and you can barely see the leaves because there is such a profusion of these sweet flower bunches.
What makes Panther® Ninebark such a standout is the dark hue of the foliage. The leaves are a deep burgundy/purplish color that turn to a rich black tone. This shrub loves the sun. Plant yours in an area of the garden that gets at least six or more hours of sun a day.
Panther® Ninebark is pretty adaptable and will tolerate a variety of soil conditions. Once established, it is drought tolerant, making it a great choice for a low-maintenance garden. It’s also mildew resistant, and hardy down to USDA zone 3, which means it can withstand -40 Celsius/-40 Fahrenheit.
This isn’t a diminutive shrub. When it matures, Panther® Ninebark can stand up to four or five feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) tall and span three to four feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) across. I’ve found ninebarks don’t mind a good pruning. Wait until spring when all threat of frost has passed. A fertilizer with a higher middle number (for example, 15-30-15 or 5-10-5) is recommended. Apply it in the spring.
Plant Panther® Ninebark behind flowers that are: fuchsia (rose campion, dianthus), yellow (brown-eyed Susan, Baptisia, Heliopsis), red (Gaillardia), purple (lavender, salvia).
Planting your dark-leaved shrubs
All of these dark-leaved shrubs are easy to plant. Simply dig a hole twice the width of the pot. The depth should be the same height as the pot, so when you place the plant in the hole, the top of the root ball will be level with the ground. When you remove the plant from the pot, gently loosen the roots with your fingers. Fill in the space around the plant with the soil you removed and tamp the area down with your foot.
Water your plant thoroughly (for about 90 seconds) and then water weekly. You’ll want to water more if it’s hot, dry, or windy. Water if you notice the leaves are starting to curl or droop. Add a two- to three-inch layer of organic bark mulch to the garden, which will help to minimize weeds and reduce watering needs.
See more of these gorgeous shrubs in this video.
Where to shop for these dark-leaved shrubs
If you’re inspired to plant one or more of these dark-leaved shrubs in your garden, head to Bloomin’ Easy’s “Find a Retailer” page on their website. Enter your address to find a list of retailers in your area. There is also a list of online stores. These varieties are available across much of North America, with new retailers being added regularly.
A big thank you to Bloomin’ Easy Plants for sponsoring this article, and letting us share these gorgeous dark-leaved shrubs.
For more great landscape shrubs to add to your garden, check out the following articles:
- Unusual hydrangea varieties for the garden
- Flowering shrubs for your garden: 5 beauties for full sun
- Small evergreen shrubs for year-round interest
- The best early-spring flowering shrubs
- 18 low-maintenance shrubs for the landscape