Purple power: The best purple plants to boost garden colour

Here we examine six purple plants that could add lustre to your garden space, and vibrancy indoors.

From the cheerful flowers of violas and pansies to the dramatic berries of viburnum and callicarpa, the colour purple in all its forms can enrich spaces both inside and out.

The cool rich hues ranging from soft mauves to lilacs, deep blues, indigo and violet, can add as much drama or subtlety as you want. For eye-catching spectacle, purple planting mixed with contrasting zingy oranges is a winner, or combine soft mauves and lilacs with sophisticated creams and whites for a more calming effect.

Whatever you choose, purple hues can bring welcome colour in winter, when so much else has faded. Here are some great purple plants to consider…

1. Hebe

Hebe ‘Inspiration’

There are varieties of this garden stalwart shrub that offer an array of purple hues, such as the red-purple leaf edges of ‘Magic Summer’, a variegated-leaf type that looks gorgeous in a pot with white winter-flowering heather and soft purple violas. It comes into its own in late spring and summer, when leaf edges become deeper in colour and bright blue flowers emerge.

If you want a hebe that bears purple flowers from summer through to autumn, in mild winters flowering into November, try H. ‘Inspiration’, a compact form equally at home in a pot as it is at the front of a border. Plant in a sunny spot or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. It is frost hardy, but may need some winter protection from very cold winds.

2. Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea)

Ornamental cabbage adds a frill to displays

These showy specimens add a frill to containers with their blowsy leaves that increase in purple intensity closer to the centre. As the weather cools their colours change and they provide great additional interest planted with small potted evergreens such as box, skimmia and ivy.

Alternatively, plant white ones next to purple ones in a chequerboard effect in a window box or large pot. You can also buy ornamental kales, which are not quite so rosette-like, but will give a show through the winter until they run to seed when the warmer spring weather arrives.

They’ll need moist but well-drained compost and prefer full sun or a slightly shaded spot, although their colour tends to intensify if they get plenty of bright sunshine.

3. Viburnum davidii

Admire the stunning berries of Viburnum davidii

These bold evergreen shrubs produce clusters of white flowers that then give you dramatic blue-black berries, contrasted against their rich, leathery green leaves. Berries are only produced on the female plant, so you will need to plant a male close by to guarantee berries. Growing 75cm x 90cm, it will grow in any well-drained soil and will tolerate shade, as well as atmospheric pollution, so is well suited to city gardens.

4. Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’

Admire the striking berries of Callicarpa ‘Profusion’

Now, these are a more unusual colour of berry than most – the bright violet berries that appear in autumn are often used in floral displays, as are the golden autumnal leaves that provide the shrub’s backdrop.

In spring, its bronze young foliage also adds colour to floral displays. It should thrive in moist but well-drained soil in full sun or dappled shade, and is best planted somewhere near the house, where you’ll be able to appreciate those bright berries in their full glory.

5. Pansies and violas

Of course, every hue of purple is evident in these autumn and spring favourites, from deep velvety tones with splashes of yellow in the middle, to soft lilac hues which give a subtle lift to containers amid evergreens and trailers. Yes, they will die down when winter sets in, but wait till spring and they will pop up again, providing dots of colour in containers and borders.

6. Tradescantia zebrina

Go purple and striped with this fun foliage tradescantia

If you want to bring the power of purple indoors, look no further than the eye-catching striped foliage of this trailing evergreen perennial with its colourful foliage of silver, purple and green. Part of the spiderwort family, it’s really easy to maintain and will root in many environments, but the colours will be most intense in bright, diffused light.

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