When it comes to planning your garden’s planting scheme, foliage is often neglected. Considered simply the backdrop against which spectacular floral displays are showcased. However, for many plants, it is the foliage that is actually the star of the show.
Selecting shrubs that have colorful, textured or unusually shaped foliage enables you to create year long, color filled displays. Red, in particular, is a popular color for shrubs, adding vibrant all year round interest to the garden and elevating planting schemes.
This list of shrubs with red leaves all year long has been created to help you select plants that can fill your garden with vibrant interest.
When selecting shrubs with red leaves all year long, try to pick a range of plants that produce not just red leaves but a range of different shades. Adding some colorful plants contrasts nicely with the greenery of other shrubs and plants, elevating and developing your garden’s planting scheme.
Planting shrubs which produce a range of differently colored leaves adds all year round interest to your garden.
1 Spiraea Double Play Big Bang
Despite its long name, the first entry on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long is also one of the most colorful and attractive.
Providing you with colorful interest and warming the garden throughout the year, the foliage of Spiraea Double Play Big Bang can easily steal the show as your garden’s star attraction. The leaves can turn shades of yellow, scarlet, pink and orange, providing you with further fall color.
As well as red leaves, Spirea can produce foliage in a range of colors.
Also known as Meadowsweet, Spirea shrubs produce small, pink flowers during the summer months.
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8, Spiraea Double Play Big Bang is a deciduous shrub guaranteed to bring color, lasting all year long, to your garden.
The plant achieves a height and spread of 2 to 3 ft, depending on the growing conditions. Best planted in full sun and well draining soil, you can also grow Spiraea Double Play Big Bang in pots or planters.
Part of the Spirea plant family, if you want to learn more about caring for these colorful shrubs, our How to Grow and Care for Spirea Guide is a good place to start. Not only does Spiraea Double Play Big Bang add color and interest to your garden, its flowers also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
The next entry on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long, Cordyline (Cordyline Australis) is sometimes known as the Cabbage Palm plant. This is because the cascading strap-like foliage can resemble that of a small palm tree. The foliage, which also comes in shades of green depending on the variety of plant, emerges from a central point, further adding to the plant’s palm-like appearance.
Popular varieties with red leaves include:
- Red Sensation,
- Pink Passion,
- Torbay Red,
- Red Star.
The strap-like foliage of Cordyline. Source: cordyline by Andy Fogg / CC 2.0
Cordyline shrubs are increasingly popular for their foliage which varies in color from vibrant pink-scarlets to warm deep burgundies. This intense color can last throughout the year. Like many of the plants on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long, Cordyline is an evergreen plant. This means that it retains its foliage and color throughout the year
Part of the Asparagaceae plant family, most varieties of Cordyline are hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 12. Depending on the variety the plant can achieve a height of between 2 and 20 ft and a spread of 2 to 10 ft.
If space is at a premium compact varieties such as Pink Passion, which rarely exceed 4 ft in height and spread are ideal. Smaller varieties can also be grown in pots or planters.
Native to New Zealand, Cordyline thrives in full sun and well draining soil. They also tolerate partial sun positions and, once established, can tolerate drought. Mature specimens can survive frosts. If you are growing your Cordyline in a pot, a Heavy Duty Plant Caddy with Wheels enables you to easily move it around your patio, keeping it in full sun or sheltering it from frosts.
3 Japanese Barberry
Sometimes known as Red Barberry, this entrant on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long is one of the most reliable, easy to care for plants on our list.
Part of the Berberidaceae family, while Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) makes our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long, it is technically a deciduous plant. This means that in late fall its foliage will crumple and drop from the plant before being replaced by new, vibrant red leaves in early spring.
As the seasons change the foliage turns from its original pink-scarlet shade to a more deep or vibrant color before it falls to the ground.
Japanese Barberry adds rich color to green borders. Source: japanese barberry by Mary Mason / CC 2.0
Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8 Japanese Barberry plants come in a range of different sizes. Many types are capable of achieving a height and spread of up to 6 ft. For smaller gardens more compact cultivars such as the Fireball cultivar, which archives a height and spread of just 1 to 2 ft is an ideal choice.
Other scarlet leaf varieties include:
- Red Chief,
- Crimson Pygmy,
- Atropurpurea Nana,
- Rosy Rocket,
- Burgundy Lace,
- Golden Ring,
- Red Glow,
- Pink Queen.
Unlike some flowering shrubs with red leaves all year long, Japanese Barberry is not grown for its floral display. The flowers, which emerge in the spring, are largely small and insignificant. Instead the plants are popular for their showy berries and colorful foliage which provide all year round interest.
The Japanese Barberry plant, while native to Asia, is today considered naturalized in many parts of the United States. In fact it is so common that in some areas it is now considered invasive. Check with your local extension office before planting.
If you are concerned about the plant spreading through your garden plant in a container. This prevents the roots from spreading through your garden.
Japanese Barberry is best planted in full or partial sun. However, this is an easy to grow plant that is tolerant of a wide range of conditions including drought, heavy or clay soils and pollution. This tolerance makes Japanese Barberry a good choice for urban gardens.
As well as being visually attractive, Japanese Barberry is one of a number of shrubs that repel cats.
4 Red Tip Photinia
Red Tip Photinia (Photinia x fraseri) are attractive, broadleaf shrubs which reliably bring all year round interest to the garden. Its name is inspired by the bright scarlet color of its young leaves.
A hybrid plant, meaning it is pleasingly easy to cultivate and largely disease resistant, Red Tip Photinia is a cross between the Japanese photinia (Photinia glabra) and the Chinese photinia (Photinia serratifolia).
Sometimes known as the Fraser photinia, this plant is a good choice if you want to create a living fence, hedge or introduce privacy screening to a space. You can use the plant to create a focal point, cultivating your Red Tip Photinia as a small, specimen tree.
The dense foliage of Photinia makes it a good hedge choice.
One of our many shrubs with red leaves all year long that is also part of the rose family, the foliage of the Fraser Photinia is not always scarlet in color.
As the seasons progress, the foliage matures to a shade of green. However, the leaves do still retain reddish dots or specks. Regularly trimming the ends of the shoots forces the plant to constantly produce new growth, meaning that the plant remains scarlet.
In addition to the colorful foliage the Fraser Photinia produces cream or white flowers. Many people dislike the aroma that the flowers produce and choose to trim them away before they bloom. If allowed to flower, the blooms give way to scarlet pome fruit.
Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9 the Fraser Photinia can achieve a mature height and spread of 10 to 15 ft, depending on the growing conditions. The plant is best placed in well draining soil and either full or partial sun.
Warning, while the Fraser Photinia hybrid is rarely included on such lists, the berries of many Photinia plants are considered toxic to both humans and animals. This includes both pets such as cats and dogs as well as grazing animals or livestock.
Ninebark, the next entry on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year round, is often known as Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). This attractive plant is part of the rose or Rosaceae family.
Native to Asia and North America, Ninebark is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7. In many areas it is considered a deciduous plant. However even if the red leaves, which are similar to maple leaves, do not remain on the shrub all year long, interest is retained thanks to its unusual, textured bark.
Further interest is also provided by the cream flowers which emerge in late spring. These contrast nicely with the dense scarlet foliage that the shrub produces.
Cream flowers sit above deeply colored flowers.
Ninebark typically achieves a height and spread of between 6 and 10 ft. A hardy, resilient plant, Ninebark tolerates cool climates and a range of soil conditions. While the plants can grow in shade, the more light they are exposed to the richer the foliage and heavier the flowering.
Red varieties of Ninebark include:
- Summer Wine,
6 Chinese Fringe Flower
An evergreen shrub, Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense) is popular for its all year round, vibrant scarlet leaves and showy flowers. Adding further interest, the ovate foliage is crinkly in texture.
The ovate foliage and rich, colorful flowers of the Chinese Fringe Flower.
Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10, Chinese Fringe Flower plants can, depending on the variety, reach a height of up to 4 ft and spread up to 6 ft wide. Part of the Hamamelidaceae plant family, the flowers with their long, slender petals can resemble those of its relative the Witch Hazel.
Chinese Fringe Flower is best planted in well draining, neutral or slightly acidic soil. If you are unaware of the acidity level of your soil, a soil test kit can be used before planting.
These compact shrubs are ideal for filling space between larger plants or planting in pots on a patio. Wherever you choose to grow them, the vibrant leaves of the Chinese Fringe Flower are a great way to add color and interest to winter gardens. Scarlet leaf varieties include:
- Black Pearl,
7 Eastern Redbud
The next of our shrubs with red leaves all year long is native to North America. The Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is part of the Papilionaceae plant family. Technically a deciduous plant, you can cultivate the Eastern Redbud as either a multi-stemmed tree or a shrub.
The state plant of Oklahoma, the Eastern Redbud is popular for its bright pink flowers that sit on bare, spring branches. As the flowers fade, richly colored, heart-shaped leaves emerge. Suitable, colorful varieties include:
- Forest Pansy
- Black Pearl,
- Burgundy Hearts,
- Flame Thrower.
Eastern redbud leaves change color as the seasons change.
Many of these varieties, such as Flame Thrower, produce leaves that change in color as the seasons change, turning from bright scarlet to rich oranges or pinks and purples before finally falling from the plant in late fall.
Eastern Redbud is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9. Like other Redbud varieties, the plants tolerate full and partial shade as long as the soil is well draining. Depending on the variety, the Eastern Redbud can reach a height of 12 to 30 ft and a spread of 20 to 30 ft.
8 Dog Hobble
Native to the southeast United States, Dog Hobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana) is one of the most distinctive entrants on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long. Dog Hobble grows as a fountain-shaped shrub. Its arching stems are typically scarlet in color and covered with glossy foliage in a range of scarlet, burgundy and pink shades.
Some of the most popular Dog Hobble shrubs with red leaves all year round include:
Scarletta is particularly popular for its bright, ruby foliage which fades to a burgundy color in the fall.
Another colorful cultivar is the Rainbow variety. These shrubs produce pink-scarlet foliage with a cream or white marble coloring and white floral clusters.
A versatile plant, you can grow Dog Hobble in most corners of your garden. Source: Leucothoe fontanensiana by Keith Murdock / CC 2.0
Dog Hobble is part of the Ericaceae or Heath plant family along with Rhododendrons, Heathers and Laurels. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8 the plants can achieve a height and spread of up to 6 ft, depending on the variety. A shade loving shrub, it is ideal for planting in darker corners of your garden. Just remember to keep the soil consistently moist.
Warning, Dog Hobble is toxic to animals. It is best avoided if you have pets or animals.
9 Plum Leaf Sand Cherry
Plum Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena) is another of the shrubs with red leaves all year long that is part of the Rosaceae family. An attractive member of the cherry family, you can cultivate Plum Leaf Sand Cherry as either a shrub or a dwarf tree.
Hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 8 this medium sized plant can achieve a mature height and spread of up to 8 ft, depending on the growing conditions.
While established specimens can tolerate cooler temperatures and frosts, younger or newly planted shrubs may require some help. A Remiawy Shrub Jacket is both easy to install and effective, safely covering and protecting your plant.
A hybrid plant, produced by crossing Prunus Cerasifera and Prunus Pumila, the Plum Leaf Sand Cherry is pleasingly hardy and disease resistant. Its name is derived from the plum-scarlet leaves which emerge on the branches alongside the pink-white flowers during the spring.
The foliage of the Plum Leaf Sand Cherry darkens in the fall to a scarlet-brown or golden color. This is an easy to care for plant that tolerates a wide range of growing conditions inducing, low temperatures, heat exposure, drought and over-pruning.
This resilience makes the Plum Leaf Sand Cherry an ideal choice for new or nervous gardeners. The plants also thrive in both full and partial sun.
One of the more unexpected entries on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year round, Hazel (Corylus avellana) is part of the Birch family (Betulaceae). More commonly grown as a tree, you can also cultivate Hazel as a shrub.
Native to the United Kingdom and some parts of Asia, the variety Red Majestic produces scarlet leaves that last all year long. Further adding to the attraction, Red Majestic, despite its spreading habit, is a pleasingly compact plant.
Hazel plants are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9. Red Majestic typically achieves a mature height and spread of 8 to 13 ft. However this is a slow growing plant.
It can take a Hazel shrub up to 20 years to achieve its mature height. The foliage of the Hazel is an attractive burgundy color during the spring and summer months. In the fall it can turn green. Further adding to the interest, attractive pink catkins can develop in the winter. Adding pops of warm color to otherwise dull gardens.
Pink catkins add color and warmth to dull, winter gardens.
11 Japanese Maple
One of the more versatile shrubs with red leaves all year long, you can plant Japanese Maples in the ground, raised beds or even large containers. A popular shrub, some varieties also grow as trees.
Depending on the variety, Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum) can reach a height and spread of between 4 and 25 ft. Before selecting your Japanese Maple, do a little research to find a variety that fits perfectly into your growing space.
Part of the Sapindaceae family, most varieties of Japanese Maple are considered deciduous. Most varieties of Japanese Maple are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9. Scarlet leafed varieties of Japanese Maple include:
- Crimson Queen,
- Geisha Gone Wild,
- Crimson King,
Acers can be planted alongside other plants, or used as a statement plant in the center of a lawn.
Red varieties typically produce fresh foliage in the spring. The color of the foliage can vary in intensity from deep purple-scarlet shades to lighter orange-scarlet foliage, depending on the variety. Often the foliage brightens in intensity during the summer months, bringing vibrant color to our garden before darkening in the fall.
As well as bringing lots of colorful interest, the Japanese Maple is also a low maintenance plant. An adaptable plant that tolerates a range of growing conditions, the Japanese Maple is best planted in partial shade and moist soil.
12 Smoke Bush
The final entry on our list of shrubs with red leaves all year long is also one of the most eye-catching.
A show stopping plant, Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria) is one of the most popular garden shrubs with red leaves all year long. As the leaves age and the seasons change the color can deepen or intensify to a rich scarlet-purple or plum color.
Adding further interest, flowers emerge in late spring or early summer. These fluffy pale pink or gray blooms can resemble smoky clouds that hover over the plant, hence the name Smoke Bush.
Wispy blooms sit above the foliage like clouds of smoke.
Part of the Anacardiaceae family, this is a large shrub that is native to the Southeastern United States. You can also cultivate the Smokebush plant as a small tree. Most varieties reach a height of up to 15 ft when mature and a spread of up to 20 ft. When planted in a pot or planter, growth is more compact.
Producing ovate foliage, in many conditions Smoke Bush is a deciduous plant. Smoke Bush is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. Varieties with red foliage include:
- Velvet Cloak,
- Royal Purple.
You can also find green and purple leaf varieties.
Once established Smokebush is pleasingly drought tolerant. One of the most resilient shrubs with red leaves all year long, Smokebush tolerates a range of poor soil types. It happily grows in both full and partial sun, however the more light that the plant is exposed to the richer the colorful foliage becomes.
Planting shrubs with red leaves all year round is a great way to introduce long lasting color to your garden, elevating planting schemes and providing interest long after summer flowers have faded. Adding just one or a few of the specimens listed above provides an easy, long-lasting way to enhance your garden’s visual appeal.