Leaves Other Than Green

Just like you, I understand that the green color of leaves has everything to do with the presence of chlorophyll.  There are those dark green leaves.  There are those lime green leaves.  I want to say the amount of chlorophyll governs the appearance of that green, but I may be making that up.  Some plants have leaves with color other than green.  This Florida Sweetheart caladium-the leaves are shockingly pink.  A clear pink.  The color possibilities that this plant enables in a shady spot are many. 

white caladiums

I am both surprised and not surprised that I do not see more gardeners using them for seasonal color.  I do have clients that insist they want flowers, not colorful leaves.  I have no answer to that-it is a matter of taste.  But from a design perspective, caladiums provide an opportunity for a big splash of color that is constant throughout the summer season.  I suspect another reason why I do not see them much is that they require a lot of heat to grow well.  This means that gardeners in my zone who plant in mid or late May may not see caladiums available for sale.  My grower’s caladiums are just getting good-this third week of June.   

green and white caladiums
Caladiums are incredibly tolerant of shade.  If impatiens or wax begonias make you want to yawn, caladiums are refreshingly different, and quite splashy.  4 plants in one of my deck boxes last summer were the size of a small shrub by summer’s end.  A 4th of July trip to see a friend in Kalamazoo last year included a trip to a greenhouse.  I bought a suburban load of caladiums, most of which were varieties I had never seen.  I did persuade my grower to try some this year-they are just now coming into their own.
 white caladiums

Any client who tells me they need white flowers, as opposed to the color white might tempt me to call school into session.  White is white-no matter whether than color is represented by wax begonias, non stop begonias, angelonia, cosmos, cleome, dahlias, -or white leaved caladiums.  Amazingly, I saw 4 giant planters full of this all white caladium-in full sun, on a city plaza.  There was not so much as a single scorch mark.  I have not had the nerve to try this at home, as many plants lacking chlorophyll will burn if exposed to too much direct light.  


I realize that almost all of the seasonal plants that are available for me to plant are tropical, as in native to tropical locales.  But some remind me of of their exotic origins more than others.  I have clients for whom I plant bananas, alocasias and calocasias, though I would not want them in my own garden.  They seem so blatantly out of place in my Michigan garden.  But caladiums are more subtly splashly, given their smaller mature size.   


 They have a cool, watery, and juicy look.  As they thrive in the heat, they always look fresh.  If they get too dry, they protest dramatically by falling over.  I like plants that do not make a mystery of what it is they need to be happy.

pink and green caladiums

Caladium leaves are medium to large, and beautifully shaped.  It seems to me that so many more cultivars are available now than what used to be.  But should caladiums simply not appeal to you, there are other seasonal plants with colorful leaves from which to choose.

polka dot plant

The polka dot plants-there are those green and white cultivars.  There is a pale pink, and a hot pink.  The plants are fairly short-they may grow to 12 or 15 inches tall.  They respond well to pinching.

coleus Freckles

There are many varieties of coleus.  I am especially fond of those whose leaves feature bright and clear color.

green coleus

This subtly colored olive and dark carmine variety whose name I do not know is what I cal a chamaeleon plant.  Its coloration changes in appearance depending on its neighbor. 

coleus and caladiums

coleus chocolate mint

Coleus Chocolate mint is aptly named.  It is great looking with just about every other color.

multicolored coleus.jpg

This multi colored variety I hear tell wants full sun.  When I run into a plant that I am not familiar with, I like to try it at the shop or at home before I plant it for someone else. 

We’ll see how it works out-bullseye geraniums, and this fingerling coleus.

Coming Along

How I enjoyed my fourth of July holiday.  The weather was perfect-partly cloudy, and not too hot.  With only one annual planting left to go, I had time to catch my breath, and tinker in my own yard.  My container plantings are coming on just fine.  As usual, I planted caladiums in my planters on the north wall-they thrive in that bright shade.  This small leaved variety whose name I do not know looks a little like fireworks-does it not?   

I suppose the fireworks designation really belongs to the Janet Craig dracaenas.  The large strappy lime colored leaved make a big statement in shade.  It will grow readily in very low light; direct sun will burn the leaves.  I trimmed off the lower leaves, to make room for the caladiums.     

I have planted one color or another of solenia begonias in the terra cotta boxes for years.  Non-stop begonias are not that easy for me to keep-but here they are, in the most intense shade of orange.  They succumb to rot so easily.  My plantes are staked up for better air circulation, and I remove any deteriorating foliage at the first sign of trouble. The green and white caladium with terra cotta blotches face down some lime irisine that needs more time and heat to get tall.  I like the change of texture provided by the liriope in front; lots of perennials are great looking in containers. 

My potunia verbena pot has finally stabilized; the heavy and just about daily rains have abated.  I keep this pot on the dry side.  The container is placed between two chairs, so I plant for a top view, rather than a side view.

This pot always gets planted green in some form or another.  The nicotiana alata lime is in its usual spot.  Nicotiana is probably my most favorite annual flower.  The cooly lime green, simple star shaped single flowers are my idea of a really great looking flower.  Two varieties of coleus some lime licorice and selaginella complete the planting.  I have had a tough time with licorice this year-I suspect the early cold rain is to blame.  

Though I planted an embarrassment of riches in Orange Punch cannas at the shop, I had to bring one home; my olive jar is the perfect place for a tall growing plant.  A shrubby growing orange lantana, and a couple of purple wave petunias complete the ensemble.  The companion planter is planted with the same scheme orange and carmine color scheme.  The heat of July will bring on the flowering of the dahlia. 

The University series of dahlias is new to me; this purple variety is a great color.  My coleus needs a little pinching, and my tricolor geranium needs to grow up, for all of the volumes to balance out. Annuals in my zone shine in July and August.   

The lime irisine in this box has yet to make much of an appearance, but the solenia begonias are thriving.  Like the non-stop begonias, I stake them with bamboo.  The solenias will fall over with the weight of the flowers-this habit makes them great for hanging baskets. The vinca maculatum has grown so long, I swept it up on the ledge.  I will be interested to see if it continues to grow, in this horizontal position. 

 There are 5 containers on the drive, and 2 in ground plantings at different levels.  I have tried a lot of color schemes here; warm colors seem to look the best with the yellow and orange stone. 

I have never planted any yellow flowers here before, but I am liking how it looks.  Yellow butterfly marguerites are a nuisance in the deadheading department, but when they are good, they are very good.  It seems like they are happy; they should double in size before the end of the season.  As much as I love yellow petunias, they are not particularly vigorous.  We’ll see if I can manage to keep them happy. 

In the rose garden, a different color scheme all together. In deference to my pink and white roses, I have pink mandevillea, nicotiana mutabilis and alata lime, white angelonia pink and white petunias, and Persian Queen geraniums.  Faintly visible is my steel plant tower; the vine and nicotiana get a lot of help staying upright from it.  By summer’s end, it will vanish from view.  This Tuscan style square is a very large pot; it asks for a planting that will grow large.  Watching plants grow is my favorite channel.