11 plants with bold foliage

A border of striking foliage, including elephant ears

Plants with large leaves can make a real impact in the garden. Well placed, they act as a focal point, standing out from neighbouring plants with smaller foliage.

They’re also perfect for creating a jungle or exotic look – and many plants with bold foliage are hardy, so they don’t need protection during the winter months.

How to create an exotic container display

Large-leaved plants aren’t just for large gardens, either – they allow you to play around with scale in a smaller space. Try introducing them into a small garden for impact and interest.

Discover 11 plants with jumbo foliage, below.

Large-leaved plants aren’t just for large gardens – they allow you to play around with scale in a smaller space.


1

Canna

Cannas have large, paddle-like leaves that are often variegated, as well as brightly coloured, exotic flowers. Canna ‘Phasion’, pictured, has stunning leaves in stripes of green, purple, orange and pink, plus orange flowers. Cannas aren’t hardy, so need some winter protection.

Green, purple, orange and pink leaves of Canna 'Phasion'
Green, purple, orange and pink leaves of Canna ‘Phasion’
2

Cardoon

Globe artichokes are majestic plants that work best at the back of the border – they form a clump of large, silver leaves that can reach 1m in length – they contrast well with the foliage of other plants. They bear large, thistle like flowers on tall stems in late summer and autumn. The seedheads are much loved by birds.

Striking, deeply-serrated artichoke foliage
Striking, deeply-serrated artichoke foliage
3

Persian ivy

With large, variegated leaves that are splashed with yellow, Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ makes a splash against a shady wall or fence. A vigorous grower, it bears balls of lime green flowers in autumn. You may also find it sold as ‘Paddy’s Pride’.

Yellow and green variegated leaves of ivy 'Sulphur Heart'
Yellow and green variegated leaves of ivy ‘Sulphur Heart’
4

Angel’s trumpet

Brugmansia is grown for its bold foliage and large, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are have a beautiful fragrance. It’s not hardy so is best grown in a container that can be brought under cover in the cooler months. All parts of the plant are harmful if ingested.

Brugmansia
Brugmansia
5

Elephant’s ears

Bergenias make excellent ground cover plants, especially in a partially shaded spot. The leaves of some varieties take on red tinges in winter and Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ has unusual purple leaves all year round. Bergenias bear pink flowers on tall stalks in spring.

Purple-bronze elephant ears' foliage
Purple-bronze elephant ears’ foliage
6

Ginger lily

Another great addition to a jungle-style garden, ginger lilies look to be more widely grown. They have paddle-like leaves and attractive, tropical-looking flowers. Plus, they’re surprisingly hardy and can tolerate low temperatures in winter without any lasting damage.

Tropical foliage of the ginger lily
Tropical foliage of the ginger lily
7

Schefflera

With their bold, deeply lobed, evergreen leaves, scheffleras are stunning architectural plants and are becoming increasingly popular in UK gardens. Many are hardy, including Schefflera rhododendronifolia, pictured.

Deeply lobed, evergreen schefflera leaves
Deeply lobed, evergreen schefflera leaves
8

Hosta

Hostas are grown for their large leaves, which are often variegated in shades of cream, silver or white. Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans has large, puckered leaves, that can reach over 40cm long. It’s foliage can be a magnet for slugs and snails, so it’s best grown in a pot with some slug protection.

Stunning broad leaves of Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans
Stunning broad leaves of Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans
9

Regal fern

Osmunda regalis is a giant fern that bears huge, bright green fronds that gradually unfurl in spring. In autumn, they turn bronze before dying back. Grow Osmunda regalis in damp, preferably acid soil – it looks lovely next to a pond.

Regal fern foliage
Regal fern foliage
10

Banana

Bananas look great  in tropical garden schemes, with giant, paddle-like leaves and thick trunks. Musa basjoo is the hardiest variety; Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’, pictured, is tender, with red and green leaves. Grow in a sheltered spot, as wind can shred the foliage, and feed and water generously.

Bronze-green, paddle-shaped banana leaves
Bronze-green, paddle-shaped banana leaves
11

Chinese rice paper plant

You’ll need plenty of room for Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ – the huge leaves can reach 60cm and the plant can reach 2m high. Fully hardy, it’s evergreen in mild winters and deciduous in cooler ones; it bears sprays of creamy flowers in autumn. Grow in full sun or partial shade.

Enormous leaves of the Chinese rice paper plant
Enormous leaves of the Chinese rice paper plant

Pollarding for larger leaves

Certain trees, such as Alianthus altissima, Cotinus coggygriaPaulowniaCatalpa and Cercis can be pollarded – it means the plant is kept compact but has distinctly larger leaves. Find out more about pollarding.

Looking for a pair of loppers or a new pruning saw? Our experts have tested the best loppers, as well as the best pruning saws, so you can buy in confidence. 

Loppers
Cream flowers spikes and glossy foliage of Fatsia japonica
Cream flowers spikes and glossy foliage of Fatsia japonica

Other large-leaved plants to try

Carts

Accessories

Flower Seeds

Composting

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