Big Leaf Drama

Large Leaves

Large and lush...  

If you want to add primetime drama to your garden space or outdoor containers, freaky-large foliage is the ticket. The large-leaf plants below can easily take center stage or play backup to delicate flowers, small-leafed plants or garden sculpture.


Spring/Summer: Rhubarb (Rheum)

Rhubarb is a perennial plant with extravagantly lush, green leaves held up proudly by thick, pinky-red stalks. The leaves are poisonous but the tart, red stems are gathered in the spring and cooked into pie filling, sauces, tarts, jam and cakes. Most people grow rhubarb as a fruit, but it is actually a vegetable. However, the deeply lobed and ruffled foliage is uniquely beautiful in the garden.
Mature size: 2-4 ft. tall and wide
Light: Full sun
Water: Consistent watering. Plants don't tolerate drought.
Soil: Average, well-drained soil
Reasons to love it: The sweet/tart taste is a reason to bake a pie!

Summer/Fall: Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ (Hosta)
Hostas are mainly grown for their ornamental foliage although some hostas have noticeably larger and beautiful flowers. 'Empress Wu' is queen of the larger hostas with thickly veined and textured, blue-green leaves that emerge in spring. As leaves mature, they will lose their blue color and turn a glossy green as they rise regally from a center crown.
Flowers: Pale lavender trumpet-shaped flowers bloom above the foliage in early summer.
Mature Size: 4-5 ft. tall and 6-8 ft. wide
Bloom time: Early summer
Light: Part shade to full shade. Thrives in a part shade or sun-dappled location.
Soil: Evenly moist, organically rich, well-drained soil. Do not allow to dry out.
Reasons to love it: Cultivar name honors Empress Wu (Wu Zetian - 624 AD to 705 AD) who was the only female in China's history to serve as an emperor.


Summer/Fall: Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ (Hosta)
Hostas are the mainstays of shade gardens…easy to care for, easy to divide and available in many leaf colors and shapes. The Blue Angel is one of the largest blue-leaved hostas. This clump-forming hosta looks stately as a single specimen with its heavily, textured, blue-green leaves or be effective planted in groupings in a woodland garden.
Flowers: Pale lavender trumpet-shaped flowers  to white bloom about the foliage. Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide
Bloom time: July-August
Light: Part shade to full shade. Best in part shade or sun-dappled location
Soil: evenly moist, organically rich, well-drained soil. Do not allow to dry out.
Reasons to love it: Big blue-green leaves that tolerate dry shade and hummingbirds love the flowers.

Summer/Fall: Elephant Ear (Colocasia ‘Royal Hawaiian Punch’)
Colocasia bulbs are grown for their huge, tropical foliage. This variety has green leaves with red veining and red stems. It has an upright habit and is a real ‘thriller’ in containers or garden bed. Their rapid growth creates a show even during our short growing season...making them worthy as one-shot annuals for us, northern gardeners.
Mature Size: 32-40” tall and 12-18” wide
Bloom time: Grown for the large foliage.
Light: Filtered sun to part shade, depending on leaf color.
Water: Average. Water in the morning so leaves will be dry by evening—to prevent disease. Water from below… not directly on the leaves.
Reasons to love it: An easy care, heat tolerant annual with large, tropical-looking leaves. Look for 'Mojito' with leaves that are speckled with dark flecks and purple stems or ‘Royal Hawaiian Storm’ with black, green, white and yellow leaves. Any variety will add an exotic accent to a perennial bed or outdoor container. Tubers can be saved by over-wintering indoors.

Spring/Summer/Fall: Shield Leaf (Astilboide tabularis)

This unique plant species has large, rounded leaves that resemble lily pads. The huge foliage creates a massive presence and contrasts well with companion plants with finely, textured leaves.  Its magnificent foliage has ruffled edges and prominent veining. The leaves mature up to 3 ft. wide with small spikes of white flowers that appear on 5-ft. tall stems.

Mature Size: 3 to 4 ft. ft. tall and spreads from 2 to 3ft. wide
Bloom time: June to July
Light: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium…must not be allowed to dry out
Soil: moist, organically rich soil
Reasons to love it: Huge leaves: Large 2-3 ft. (in diameter) with architectural interest. Flowers: Tiny, astilbe-like, white flowers form panicles on top of stems that gracefully arch above the foliage.

Late Spring/Summer/Fall: Oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Most hydrangeas are loved for their flamboyant flowers, but the Oak leaf hydrangea is prized for both. The large, lobed leaves--with their out-stretched fingers-- resemble oak leaves that mature up to 12” long. The leaves are dark green in spring to fall, but the show starts when leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange to burnished burgundy as autumn turns to winter.
Mature Height: Mature Height: 6-8 ft. tall and wide… depending on the variety.
Bloom time: Dramatic, white florets make up cone-shaped flower panicles that bloom in May and change to a purplish pink color in late summer through autumn.
Light: Full sun to part shade. Best fall color foliage develops if plant is planted in a sunny spot with afternoon shade.
Reasons to love it: Large, fragrant flowers that attract butterflies. If flower heads are not removed, the dried panicles will attract goldfinches or other birds in fall and winter. Deer-resistant.
Reason to love it: The large, fragrant flowers are spectacular but they also attract butterflies. If flowerheads are not removed when they fade, the dried panicles will attract birds such as goldfinches in fall and winter.


PHOTOS Clockwise from top left: Shield Leaf (Astilboide tabularis), Rhubarb (Rheum), Elephant Ear (Colocasia 'Royal Hawaiian Punch'), Oak leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

What’s the buzz? The sound of summer. Filling your garden with flowering plants that bees like is the perfect way to a part of the cycle of nature. Bees are hardworking insects—pollinating our crops and flowers for us and feeding themselves and their community at the same time. And, don’t forget the honey—one of nature’s simplest pleasures.