B. Rosie Lerner
Purdue Extension


Download the audio files or subscribe to our podcast.





Download the audio of Yard & Garden News: MP3, WMV.

The Color Purple

Purple is all the rage among gardeners and Mother Nature's palette is well endowed with shades of purple flowers, fruit and foliage.

Looking for perennials with purple flowers? Consider bear's britches (Acanthus), Agapanthus, ornamental onion (Allium), columbine (Aquilegia), Aster, Astilbe, Baptisia, swan river daisy (Brachycome), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera), bellflower (Campanula), Delphinium, foxglove (Digitalis), coneflower (Echinacea), joepye weed (Eupatorium), Hosta, Iris, lavender, Liatris, flax (Linum), purple toadflax (Linaria), bluebells (Mertensia), catmint (Nepeta), Russian sage (Perovskia), Jacob's ladder (Polemonium), lungwort (Pulmonaria), Salvia, Stoke's Aster (Stokesia), meadow rue (Thalictrum), thyme and Veronica.

There are only a small handful of hardy shrubs with purple or blue flowers, including beautyberry (Callicarpa), bluebeard (Caryopteris), smokebush (Cotinus), rose-of-sharon (Hibiscus), Rhododendron and lilac. Those with purple fruit include chokeberry (Aronia), beautyberry (Callicarpa), silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) and arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum).

Although green foliage provides a great backdrop for flowers and fruit, a little purple foliage can perk up your garden design. Plants sporting purple leaves look showy throughout the growing season, even when nothing is in bloom. When you consider that most flowering shrubs and perennials are only in flower for a few weeks, colorful foliage can provide a more consistent contrast to green foliage.

Perennials and ground covers with selected cultivars of purple foliage include bugleweed (Ajuga), Canna, black snakeroot (Cimicifuga), joe pye weed (Eupatorium), alumroot (Heuchera) and Penstemmon 'Husker Red.' Shrubs or small trees that feature at least some cultivars with purple foliage include smokebush (Cotinus), Japanese maple, Elderberry (Sambucus) and Weigela.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox