Summer Annual Foliage

Hi, I am Millie Davenport, a horticulture extension agent with the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center.

Today we are looking at Summer Annual Foliage.

We are here in the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and we are looking at summer annual foliage plants. Foliage plants are a great way to add texture and interest or help to subdue other flower colors that they are planted around. So they make a great addition to your landscape.

This is Setcreasea, also known as Purple Heart. It is a really great looking purple foliage plant. It kind of looks like a houseplant. Sort of like the Wandering Jew houseplant that we have seen in hanging baskets. Purple heart make a nice addition to the landscape where you want a mounded habit. The stems and branches on this will basically lay on the ground and then come upwards. So, they kind of trail along the ground and then they go upward, reaching around 12 to 18 inches tall. Purple heart is really cool because you can take cuttings of this at the end of the season before frost comes and save those cuttings to have a planting the following year. You want to put this plant in an area where it will get full sun to part shade with a nice, well-drained soil.

This is Pepper ‘Black Pearl’. This is another plant that is loved for its beautiful purple foliage like we just saw with the Setcreasea. But the thing that is really unique is the fruit on this plant. It has these really round, glossy, black peppers on the plant. With the peppers, when they are immature, they are dark purple, almost a black color. Which is where it gets the name ‘Black Pearl’; and as they ripen you will get more of a red color on the fruit. Now, these fruit, I am sure you are wondering if they are edible or not. They are edible and I have been told that they are very hot, but I have not tasted them myself. ‘Black Pearl’ will reach about 14 to 18 inches tall and make a really nice upright habit/ structure in your garden around your other plantings, mixing it up with silver foliage, purple, yellow or red flowers in the landscape.

This is Sweet Potato Vine. This is a really nice plant. It has a really coarse texture, another great plant for adding interesting foliage to your landscape amongst your flowering plants. It is available in various different colors. It does have kind of a trailing habit. You can see it spilling over this wall, adding a lot of great texture and softening up the look of wall a bit in the landscape. It will also grow nicely as a groundcover amongst your taller growing plants. It is available in various different colors and leaf sizes and shapes. You can see we have got a really nice purple foliage and even a really nice chartreuse with a smaller lobed leaf on this particular variety. These Sweet Potato vines planted here have really short internodes, which is the distance between the leaves, so it makes it more “bushy” in appearance and not quite as lanky, where you see a lot of the stems. So, that is really nice for a lot of show of color and show in your landscape. These Sweet Potato Vines are really going to do well in a full sun location for the best color and you want a really well-drained area. Now, one question I get all the time about Sweet Potato Vines is if you can eat the tubers that they do produce. They are edible, but you have to remember that they weren’t bred for taste. They were definitely bred for the beauty of their foliage, and you are going to be better off eating the sweet potatoes that come from the market.

Silver foliage is a really great way to soften the appearance of really bright bold colors in the landscape. One of those plants that works great is the Licorice Plant (Helichrysum petiolare). It has a really nice, fine, fuzzy leaf to it that is nice and silvery. As well as the Plectranthus argentatus, another coarse textured plant with silver foliage, a great addition to soften things in containers and the landscape. Again, you want to put them in full sun with a well-drained soil.

Annual summer foliage is a great way to add interest, really interesting textures, and even subdue different colors of flowers in the landscape for your summer garden.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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