Colorful foliage revives hot summer landscapes | Home & Garden
By Gary R. Bachman
Coastal Research & Extension Center
Summer’s heat can be pretty hard on flowering annual and perennial plants, but colorful foliage plants can fill in those gaps in the landscape and containers.
Foliage plants provide color without relying on flowers, so you don’t have to wait for the show to begin. Plants with colorful foliage are attractive the moment they are transplanted into your landscape.
Foliage standbys in the landscape are caladium, ginger and cannas, but there are lots of other choices. One colorful foliage plant that is underused in our Mississippi landscapes is the copperleaf plant.
This plant lives up to its very descriptive name. Its leaves are a mix of coppery tones, from those that look brightly polished to those that look like they have an aged patina finish. In fact, copperleaf plant is more colorful than many flowers.
Known botanically as Acalypha, copperleaf plant is attractive in both landscapes and containers.
Perhaps the copperleaf plant I like best is the variety Bronze Pink. This plant will grow up to 30 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The foliage has a variable mix of colors from a bright, bronze red to a deep, dark pink.
I have paired Bronze Pink with red and light green Sweetheart sweet potato vine in a mixed container in my landscape. The upright growth habit of Bronze Pink makes for the perfect thriller plant, and the sweet potato vines are the fillers and spillers.
Not all copperleaf plants have coppery foliage. Loco’s primarily green foliage variegated with white has coppery accents. This plant’s growth habit and potential are similar to Bronze Pink’s.
Copperleaf plant is usually well behaved, but sometimes it has wayward branching. Go ahead and remove any offending branches. Light pruning promotes lateral growth and maintains a dense, foliar form.
These plants are heat tolerant and thrive in full sun. In fact, the colors intensify as the temperatures increase, which means these should be beautiful during our Mississippi summers.
As always, be sure to plant in well-drained, fertile soil. Maintaining well-drained landscape planting beds is probably the best way any Mississippi gardener can help ensure planting success.
Fertilize at planting with 14-14-14 controlled-release fertilizer. Supplement with water-soluble fertilizer once a month through the summer and into autumn.
Copperleaf plant is fairly tolerant of droughty conditions, but it really benefits from consistent soil moisture. During prolonged periods of drought, supplemental irrigation will help keep the plants going strong.
So if you notice some trouble spots in your summer landscape, consider using the colorful copperleaf plant to liven up your space next year.