Plant enthusiasts often get to a point in their plant collecting when they long for something a little different. Something outside the traditional colorful flowers and green foliage. If you’ve reached this point, may I suggest plants that shine a vibrant red?
But, what gives this flora this dazzling color?
A plant’s green color comes from the natural hue of the chlorophyll cells found in its leaves and stems. These, they use to photosynthesize and generate food for themselves.
Red-leaved plants contain crimson-pigmented, anthocyanin cells. Offering us beautiful houseplants and stunning Autumn colors on plants and trees that have both chlorophyll and anthocyanin cells in their leaves.
- Plants With Red Leaves Provide Indoor And Outdoor Appeal
- Red Foliage Houseplants
- Tropical Indoor Plants With Red Leaves
- Indoor Succulent Plants With Red And Green Leaves
- Outdoor Plants With Red And Green Leaves And Stems
- Outdoor Plants with Red Leaves All Year Round
- Plants With Red Leaves Final Thoughts
Plants With Red Leaves Provide Indoor And Outdoor Appeal
Over the years, houseplants have become an integral part of interior design. Red plants, like the few I’m about to show you, can provide some of the most cost-effective pops of color available. Not to mention helping to purify the air.
Plants that exhibit various shades of red can be found in houseplant and garden plant categories, alike.
In outdoor garden design, red roses, and dahlias are a familiar sight. Yet, plants and shrubs with red foliage and stems will add depth, contrast, visual interest, and sometimes, soft fragrance to your outdoor spaces.
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Red Foliage Houseplants
I’ve designed my home with a neutral color palette so that I can match pops of color with the seasons. Red-leaved plants provide relevant color in all of them.
Red is associated with celebration, love, and vitality. With so many shades found in ever-evolving houseplants, the look never gets stale.
Anthurium Flamingo Lily
The Flamingo Lily (Anthurium andraeanum), native to the balmy South American rainforests, is known for its waxy, bright red bracts and large, glossy-green leaves.
From each bract, a long, yellow, floret-covered spadix emerges that is highly attractive to rainforest pollinators.
Typically growing to a mature size of 16” tall, each leaf and bract can reach 6-8” long.
Caladium Red Flash
Caladium cultivars come in many different colors and leaf patterns. But, the Caladium ‘Red Flash’ uniquely displays salmon-pink leaves with deep red veining and green edges that give the illusion of a “stitched” finish.
In optimal conditions, small, funneled flowers may appear throughout this stunner as it matures to 2-3ft tall by 2’ wide.
Nerve Plant Red Star
The leaf veining on this striking Nerve plant cultivar (Fittonia albivenis ‘red star’) glows like a distant star, in bright Fuschia against a dark grey-green backdrop.
The brilliance of this red-leaved plant is certainly an eye-catcher despite the plant only growing to 4” tall and wide.
Poinsettia Prestige Red
The Prestige Red cultivar (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a popular part of winter decor. Matching dark green leaves and bright red bracts, each with prominent veining, tower over long, thin stems.
Tiny, yellow flowers emerge from the center of each bract cluster that can reach heights of 10-15ft, in optimal conditions.
Polka Dot Plant Red Splash
The Polka Dot Red Splash (Hypoestes phyllostachya) offers a soft, metallic appearance to indoor spaces. Pink stippling on a rich green background makes up its small, teardrop-shaped leaves.
Maturing 12” tall and wide, this compact plant will brighten up the darkest of interior spaces.
Tropical Indoor Plants With Red Leaves
As if the pizzazz of the previous examples weren’t enough, the next few evolved in a combination of warm, intense sunlight, slightly salty air, and sandy soil. An equation exclusive to tropical, equatorial environments. As such, they’ve developed some equally intense colors, pattern,s and forms.
One of the deepest reds is found on the Bloodleaf Iresine (Iresine herbstii). Native to sun-soaked regions of Brazil, this plant exhibits gradient patterns, giving the appearance of flowing blood.
In the wild, the Bloodleaf can grow to 5ft tall. But, potted houseplants and outdoor border plantings typically stay around 12-18” tall.
A member of the Bromeliaceae family, the red “blooming” Bromeliad will develop a single, stemless rosette of orange-red bracts from the center of long, waxy leaves, in its lifetime.
These famously tropical plants can start out quite small (1” tall) and mature to 2-3ft, in height.
Known for its bold patterns and striking color variations, the Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) presents red, bronze, and gold striping on smooth, lobed leaves that are tactile and leathery, to the touch.
In the wild or under high-specific interior conditions, the colorful Croton can grow up to 10’ tall. But, most houseplants stay within 1-3ft.
Red Leaf Heliconia
On a smaller scale, the Red Sister Ti (Cordyline fruticosa) is an eye-catching ornamental with spear-shaped leaves that emerge a deep Fuschia before maturing to a vivid red with black variegation.
Each leaf can grow to 12” by 4”, creating an upright growing habit, 4-6ft high.
Indoor Succulent Plants With Red And Green Leaves
So far, we’ve seen some gorgeous red coloring on moisture-loving, tropical plants. But, red anthocyanin cells can also create flamboyant color on arid-climate succulents, too.
Becoming very popular recently, for their low-maintenance nature, let’s take a look at five stunning examples.
Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’
This stunning Red Pagoda (Crassula capitella) develops four, pale green leaves, plump with moisture. One set on top of the other, creating stacked columns that become vibrantly tinged with hot pink, as each layer matures.
Collectively, these “pagodas” of foliage grow to 6” tall and 18” wide.
Crassula capitella ‘Red Pagoda’
Named so for its romantic rouge coloring, this succulent forms beautifully geometric rosettes with diamond-shaped leaves that range in hue from deep red to lavender-grey, as it matures.
The agavoides “Romeo” will stay a compact 6” tall, while expanding with new “chicks” to roughly 12” in diameter.
Euphorbia trigona ‘Royal Red’
This towering succulent displays an eye-catching form with individual, green-variegated columns from which heart-shaped, pink, purple, and red leaves emerge down its length, on four sides.
Under optimal conditions, the “Royal Red” Euphorbia can grow as high as 9ft, at a rate of 1-2’, per year.
Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’
Have you ever had a mood ring? The Sedum “Aurora” drastically changes from shades of grey and green (when well-watered) to candied hues of red, pink, peach, and yellow, in times of drought.
Producing tiny, yellow flowers in summer, this Sedum groundcover will only reach 6”, in height. But, spread up to 3ft.
Sempervivum ‘Red Lion’
Similar to the Romeo Echeveria, this majestic Sempervivum also grows in a grand, rosette form, with new offshoots appearing with maturity, and stays the same 6” by 12” size.
However, the “Red Lion” presents unique color variations of rich red, deep green, and bright gold and is able to grow in soilless mediums.
Outdoor Plants With Red And Green Leaves And Stems
Red and green-leaved, outdoor plants can occur naturally or by carefully cultivated design. All have fascinating color variations and stunning patterns.
On some, red leaves will be more prominent. On others, it’s in the stems and flower buds where we see vibrant a hue. Each makes a beautiful addition to outdoor spaces.
Copperhead Copper Plants
The random expressions of green and red pigment here, are spectacular. Young leaves emerge pale green with hints of salmon pink and red. As they age, the red and pink pigment dominates.
Maturing to a substantial 5ft tall by 4ft wide, this shrub makes a glorious feature planting against a backdrop of green.
On this Copperhead Coleus, red and green pigments combine to create an orange-red leaf coloration with green and gold stippling along beautifully scalloped edges.
With a compact growing habit of 23” by 29”, this appealing coleus variety can add rich texture and contrast to borders, hanging baskets, and container combinations, right through Autumn.
This evening primrose cultivar is a prolific, summer bloomer. Four-inch long, dark green leaves, tinged with red, are nestled among clusters of bright yellow, cupped blooms that open from red buds.
Each cluster is supported by a bright green stem that extends 18” high on a lush and vibrantly-colored, 12” wide plant.
Louisiana Red Coral Honeysuckle
This remarkable honeysuckle cultivar boasts 20ft long vines that hold vivid, green leaves and clusters of hanging, tubular blooms in shades of red, pink, and peach.
The bright yellow interiors are meant to entice pollinators and the development of bright red berries that cover this 6-10ft vining shrub, in autumn.
Making this an ideal choice for covering chain-link fences or climbing up front porch columns.
Raspberry Rum Alternanthera
The name given to this Alternanthera cultivar is clearly reminiscent of the dazzling variegation of deep green, burgundy, and a beautifully contrasting hot pink on each glossy, tear-drop leaf. Each displays its own unique pattern.
Growing 12” tall by 18” wide, this small, but showy, shrub can be a filler and a thriller in mixed borders and container groupings.
Outdoor Plants with Red Leaves All Year Round
Most red-leaved, outdoor trees and shrubs are deciduous. But, in warm gardening zones, some shrubs, like these final examples, can be grown as “evergreens”.
If you live in zones 9-11 and are looking for red-leafed plants that remain so year-round, these are for you.
Blooms of fuchsia-flushed fringe erupt from the ends of long branches laced with intense burgundy, olive-tipped foliage. Blooming begins in spring and repeats several times until summer’s end.
In warm climates, leaves turn green as temperatures drop and return to their dark red color, the following spring. This fast-growing cultivar will mature to 6ft tall, with a 7ft spread, making this a great option to grow as a privacy hedge.
The dark and mysterious Diablo Ninebark is acclaimed for its deep burgundy foliage and sharply contrasting, white flower clusters. Buds begin to swell a light pink color, as do leaves.
Also noted for its exfoliating bark, this stunning shrub can grow to 8ft tall, with an equal spread.
Japanese Barberry Seeds
The Japanese Barberry offers green and red features in every season. Along with small yellow flowers, bright green leaves bud in spring, take on a purple glow in summer, then fade to vibrant autumn hues.
As the season’s progress, flowers transform into shiny, orange-red berries that decorate this 5ft tall shrub throughout winter.
Purple Leaf Sand Cherry
This eye-catching Sand Cherry presents deep maroon foliage that supports fragrant flowers with an opposing, pale pink and white appeal. In autumn, dark purple, ornamental berries develop that are exceptionally sour.
The Purple Leaf Sand Cherry will quickly mature from a 6ft shrub to a 10ft tree in a matter of a few years.
Spiraea Double Play Big Bang
The Big Bang Spirea is a lively, multi-colored shrub that shimmers in the summer sun. New leaves emerge a hot pink color. Adolescent leaves have peach tones and mature ones become vibrant yellow.
Pale pink blooms cover this compact shrub as it matures to 3ft tall by 3ft wide.
Plants With Red Leaves Final Thoughts
Remember that red-leaved plants contain crimson-pigmented, anthocyanin cells, along with green chlorophyll cells. As we’ve seen, these two pigments work together, in completely random ways, to provide us with gorgeous houseplants and garden features.
Red is associated with celebration, love, and vitality, so these plants are the perfect way to inject some energy into a sleepy landscape.
Houseplants from humid, tropical environments will impart intense color and pattern. While succulents add fascinating form and engaging color transitions to that equation.
Outdoors, various shades of red appear in leaves, stems, spring flower buds, and autumn fruit. Offering this vibrant pop of color in every season.
Year-round reds can also be found in deciduous shrubs, which can be grown as evergreens, in warm climates.
If you’re a plant lover who is looking for a bit of pop and pizzazz in your home or garden, a few of these will do the trick.