Happy Valentine’s Day to you! We often think of red flowers on this day, so let’s spread the love throughout the year. Red along with yellow and orange is a warm color on the color wheel and brings excitement to the garden. And red is a complimentary color to green, bringing balance to the green foliage in the garden. Thirdly, red is one of the primary colors along with yellow and blue. Picking a color theme can help harmonize the garden. Red is a color that demands attention and causes people to focus on it. In design, red makes a great accent and focal point. So let’s think about red in the garden.
Of course there are lots of red flowers we can use such as roses, gaillardia, beebalm, daylilies, penstemon, salvia, iceplant and many more. Flowers can be easy to add to the garden. But have you thought about plants with red foliage? Foliage can provide a longer source of the color red then the flowers.
So here are some red leafed plants to consider:
Shubert’s Chokecherry aka Canada Red Chokecherry- Prunus x virginiana- Shrub or tree form available. New leaves emerge green and turn red with maturity. Try the new variety ‘Sucker Punch’ by Plant Select that provides a tree form without all the suckers at the base. Grows up to 20’ with a similar spread. Has racemes of white flowers in spring followed by dark berries that the birds love. For human consumption, best is fruit is picked after a light frost and cooked to make jelly or jam. Boiling or drying the fruit breaks down the hydrocyanic acid that is contained in the fresh berries.
Purpleleaf Sandcherry or Cistena Plum- Prunus x cistena- a medium sized shrub (6’x6’) with white to pink flowers that emerge with the foliage in spring. Leaves are maroon red all season. Rarely fruits. Can acquire diseases and insects of other plums if under stress. Makes a nice focal point in the garden. Does best in full sun with low to moderate moisture.
Diablo Ninebark- Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo'
The color purple-red foliage named after the devil can be a cupid in the garden. This plant obviously named after the later. A lovely small shrub, cultivar of a native, bearing many creamy white flowers that contrast the foliage. Prefers moist situations and part sun in Colorado. In cooler climates, it is more drought tolerant. Named ninebark because the bark can be peeled off in layers. Can grow to a height of 6-8’.
Red Barberry- Berberis thunbergii cvs. ‘Fireball’- If you want a low shrub to add color to a border and don’t mind a few thorns, this is a good choice. Most similar cultivars grow 2-3’ in width with a 2’ height. Deer and drought resistant and very low maintenance.
Husker’s Red Beardtongue- Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’- A penstemon selection with red foliage and white flowers. The foliage is very attractive with the flowers lasting more than one month. This plant prefers mostly full sun. An upright grower reaching 2.5’ ht with a 1.5’ spread. A drought tolerant plant that attracts hummingbirds and is rabbit resistant.
Windwalker Big Bluestem-Andropogon gerardii ‘Windwalker’ - A Plant Select grass with bluestems in summer turning a lovely red in fall thru a good part of winter. This grass prefers full sun and grows 6-7’. It is a selection of native big bluestem. It is a very hardy grass and is resistant to deer.For wetter areas at higher elevations, consider using Red twig dogwood, Cornus sericea that has red stems and twigs that are very evident from fall till spring when there is no foliage.
Remember to match your plants to your landscape: Right Plant, Right Place, Right Reason.
Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. Be brave and put some red in your garden.
By Susan Carter, Horticulture and Natural Resource Agent, CSU Ext. Tri River Area