We tend to overlook plants that are grown just for their foliage, but they are no less beautiful than those we grow for their flowers.
Plants with flower-like foliage often have prettier foliage than the flowers they produce, and come in some striking colors that you wouldn’t imagine leaves to naturally develop.
While most are cultivated as houseplants across the world, some are more popularly grown in gardens.
Let’s take a look at some of the most enchanting plants that produce unusual leaves.
Many succulents are known to produce leaves that arrange in a flower-like pattern, and one of the best examples is the Aeonium, which is shaped like a rose.
One of the most striking variegated varieties of Aeonium around, this particular cultivar even changes color with the seasons.
In cooler months, this plant features yellow borders alongside lime green leaves, and in spring, as the temperatures warm, the yellow borders turn a bright red, and the green turns to burgundy.
Alternanthera ficoidea ‘Party Time’
Also known as Jacob’s Coat, ‘Party Time’ is aptly named, featuring emerald green foliage with nearly fluorescent pink variegation.
It’s common practice for gardeners to take off the flowers as they emerge, to keep the plant’s energy focused on growing more leaves.
Amaranthus tricolor ‘Joseph’s Coat Amaranthus’
As you might have noticed, this plant shares its name with the one above. Many plants with the most striking colors take their name from the story in the Bible, and the Amaranthus tricolor is no exception.
This particular Amaranth shows off with variegated splotches along the leaves, in yellow, red, and pink.
Caladium ‘Red Flash’
Caladiums are particularly beautiful plants, famous for their brightly colored and paper-like leaves.
‘Red Flash’ features deep olive green leaves with bright red-pink veins and white or pink freckles along the green borders.
Calathea concinna ‘Freddie’
All calatheas are beautiful, and among the many to choose from, Calathea concinna ‘Freddie’ loves bright and indirect light, and like all calatheas, it opens its leaves in bright light and closes them up at night.
It features arrow-headed leaves that are lime green, with deep green stripes in the middle and dark stalks. Keep it happy enough, and it may even give you some white flowers, too.
Codiaeum variegatum ‘Croton’
Croton plants are somewhat famous for being difficult to care for outside their native range, but they are beautiful, with bright variegation in different colors, depending on the variety.
It’s not unusual to see deep green leaves with bright orange splotches, for instance.
Coleus ‘Black Dragon’
Coleus plants are among the most hybridized ornamentals, and the sheer possibilities can be overwhelming.
All coleuses have stunning leaves in bright colors. Some are annuals, while others are tender perennials, and can be grown as houseplants.
Grown as a stunning annual plant, ‘Black Dragon’ features deep purple leaves with dark pink centers, and the frilly edging around the leaves makes for a stunning, almost Gothic display.
One of the most popular types of succulents is the echeveria. It’s easy to grow, as long as you give it enough light and warmth, and plenty of free-draining soil.
‘Orion’ is a silvery blue variety that takes on a purple or pink tinge when grown in direct sunlight. This particular variety grows wide and low, with beautiful thick leaves.
Among the most popular bromeliads is the Guzmania genus. These gorgeous plants feature column-like stems with lots of leaves, the top of which will turn orange, yellow, purple, red, or even white.
Most bromeliads are short-lived, but you will often find pups growing at the bottom of an adult plant, and if you propagate them, this will give you more bromeliads.
Heuchera ‘Coral Bells’
Once known for their green leaves with gorgeous flowers, these plants are now available in a huge range of colors, from purple, pink, gold, and emerald, the leaves themselves looking as beautiful as the flowers they produce.
Maranta leuconeura ‘Prayer Plant’
One of the most beautiful houseplants available is the Maranta. It features oval leaves with striking variegation which range depending on the cultivar you go for, but some have pink or lime-green veins and dark red undersides.
Oxalis triangularis ‘Purpleleaf false shamrock’
Oxalis plants are fabulous houseplants, but they also make striking ornamentals in the garden, too.
Many plants in the Oxalis genus have three leaves that look like clover, hence the name shamrock. Oxalis triangularis is particularly striking, featuring deep purple leaves, and white or pink flowers.
It’s worth noting that some species are incredibly invasive outdoors, so make sure you choose carefully.
Pieris japonica ‘Japanese Pieris’
A striking shrub no matter the time of year, Japanese Pieris is famous for its new growth. The deep green leaves emerge as a stunning bronze, making a lovely contrast to the mature foliage.
Rex Begonia ‘Escargot’
One of the most widely grown houseplants, rex begonias feature unique foliage in many different shades, shapes, and patterns.
‘Escargot’ features snail-shell-shaped leaves in shades of silver and deep green.
Strobilanthes dyeriana ‘Persian Shield’
A shrub that features deep purple and green leaves, this is a dramatic tender perennial that works well both as a garden plant and a houseplant.
If you do want to grow it outdoors, it’s worth knowing that it is only hardy in zone 10, so you may want to overwinter it inside and bring it outside for the summer.
Tradescantia albiflora ‘Nanouk’
This particular spiderwort or inch plant is extremely popular for its variegated leaves, featuring soft shades of pink, white, purple, and green.
It’s also known as Fantasy Venice and will grow as a trailing plant, making it perfect for hanging pots.
It loves bright but indirect light, and well-draining soil. It’s important to note that this plant is toxic to pets, so keep it well out of reach.
Many plants that have elaborate foliage can put people off, as they assume that these plants are much more difficult to care for than ones with plainer leaves.
This is not usually the case, as it depends on the species rather than the look of the plant itself. There are species with unusual leaves that are extremely easy to grow, especially when you just take the plunge and buy one, and challenge yourself.
This list is a mere snapshot of the many plants that have striking foliage. There are so many options that it can be very difficult to choose, but one way of narrowing it down is to pick some indoor and some outdoor plants with beautiful foliage and see how you go.