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Trees and Shrubs With Purple Leaves

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One way to add zip and zest to a landscape is to use plants with purple leaves. Over the years, many cultivars of trees and shrubs have been developed to fill this need. Use the following plants with purple leaves to make your garden irresistible.

1. Barberries

Berberis thunbergii 'Concorde' has deep purple leaves
Image by nestmaker

Botanical name: Berberis thunbergii

Barberries are shrubs that can add a pop to your garden. Pair it with lime green plants for an especially eye-catching display. These do have thorns, so be careful when planting in a yard where children will play.

Barberry varieties with purple leaves include:

  • 'Bagatelle'
  • 'Concorde'
  • 'Helmond Pillar'
  • 'Royal Burgundy'
  • 'Royal Cloak'

2. Copper Beech

The copper beech is a subspecies of Fagus sylvatica
Image by Jenny Downing via Flickr Creative Commons

Botanical name: Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea', 'Atropurpurea' or 'Atropunicea'

Copper beech trees features purple leaves and produces beechnuts, which are edible for wildlife and humans. The Kew Garden also notes that young leaves are edible.

There is also a purple weeping beech - Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula'

3. Crabapples

The Thunderchild crabapple has purple leaves
Image by daryl_mitchell

Botanical name: Malus spp.

Crabapple trees will add color to the garden in all seasons with the flowers, fruits and leaves. Some have fruit that is edible for humans as well as wildlife.

For crabapples with purple leaves, some choices are:

  • 'Profusion'
  • 'Purple Prince'
  • 'Radiance'
  • 'Red Barron'
  • 'Royalty'
  • 'Thunderchild'

4. Elderberries

The purple leaves of the Black Lace elderberry give a striking background for the pink flowers
Image by amandabhslater via Flickr

Botanical name: Sambucus nigra

The fruits of elderberry shrubs can be eaten in foods like jams, jellies, syrups, pies, wine and brandy. They must be fully ripe before ingestion as they are poisonous before that point. Cordials and syrups are made from the flowers.

Elderberries with purple leaves are:

  • 'Black Beauty'
  • 'Black Lace'
  • 'Purpurea'
  • 'Thundercloud'

5. Japanese Maples

One Japanese maple with purple leaves is Acer palmatum 'Burgundy Lace'
Image by unforth via Flickr

Botanical name: Acer palmatum

The Japanese maple is a shrub or small tree that features distinctive leaves in shape and color.

Some Japanese maple varieties that sport purple leaves:

  • 'Atropurpureum'
  • 'Burgundy Lace'
  • 'Ever Red'
  • 'Garnet'
  • 'Sherwood Flame'
  • 'Tanukeyama'

6. Purple Leaf Plum

Purple leaf plum twig
Photo © Wikimedia Alvesgaspar

Botanical name: Prunus cerasifera

For a tree that features purple leaves and small edible fruits, plant the purple leaf plum. These trees stay small, so they can fit in most yards. It lives around 20 years usually, so it is short-lived.

Varieties include:

  • 'Hollywood'
  • 'Mt. St. Helens
  • 'Newport'
  • 'Pissardii'
  • 'Pendula'
  • 'Thundercloud'
  • 'Vesuvius'

7. Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple Leaf Sand Cherry
Photo © Flickr user James Jordan

Botanical name: Prunus X cistena

The purple leaf sand cherry is a shrub or short tree that also features small purple fruits suitable for wildlife.

8. Purple Ninebark

One ninebark cultivar with purple leaves is Diablo or Diabolo
Image by bigcityal via Flickr

Botanical name: Physocarpus opulifolius

Ninebark is a shrub that features white or pink flowers. It can live as low as Zone 2, so it's a great choice for a landscape accent in cold regions.

Some purple ninebark cultivars:

  • 'Center Glow'
  • Coppertina ('Mindia')
  • Diablo or Diabolo ('Monlo')
  • Summer Wine ('Seward')

9. Purple Smoke Bush

Purple Smoke Bush
Photo © Wikimedia Selso

Botanical name: Cotinus coggygria

Smoke bush shrubs get their name because of the balls of unfertilized flowers. While there are green varieties available, many people choose the purple leaf varieties for use as a specimen in the yard.

Smoke bushes with purple leaves:

  • 'Grace'
  • 'Nordine Red'
  • 'Notcutt's Variety'
  • 'Redsmoke'
  • 'Royal Purple'
  • 'Velvet Cloak'
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