Plants with red leaves: beautiful varieties for your garden & balcony


As a horticulture student I mainly studied crops and cultivation techniques. It fascinates me how many diverse plants can grow from small, nearly identical seeds.

Favourite fruit: blueberries, grapes, raspberries, pears
Favourite vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic

The flowers and leaves of certain plants add gorgeous pops of colour to your garden — and plants with red leaves arguably stand out the most among the greenery.

red leafed plant in rain
Red leaves stand out beautifully in the garden, especially before autumn [Photo: TNMDesign/]

Most of us love the charming oranges and reds of autumn, but what about the plants that flaunt red leaves the rest of the year? Discover some of our favourite crimson and maroon plants below.

Did you know? The red colour in leaves is caused by so-called anthocyanins. This red pigment shields the green chlorophyll from harmful radiation, but it also makes it harder for the plant to photosynthesise in low light. However, if the sunlight is too strong, it can still cause cell damage. For this reason, it is best to place your red-leaved plants in partial shade.

Japanese maple varieties

One of the most popular trees with red leaves is the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). Its delicate leaves and autumn colours alone have a high ornamental value, and then there are even cultivars that turn red at bud break such as the Acer palmatum ˈEmperor Oneˈ or the Acer palmatum ˈBloodgoodˈ. Between their beautiful growth habits and winter hardiness, these red-leaved trees are suitable for planting out in the garden, in a pot, on a balcony or on a patio.

Chinese fringe flower ˈBlack Pearlˈ

The ‘Black Pearl’ variety of the Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense) not only has red leaves, but also beautiful flowers. The pink flowers bloom from March to April, providing a beautiful contrast to the dark red leaves. Also called loropetalum or strap flowers, they prefer a sheltered and sunny or partially shady spot in the garden.

Leaves of the Loropetalum Chinense Black Pearl
The Chinese fringe flower ˈBlack Pearlˈ has rich dark purple leaves [Photo: Furiarossa/]

Coral bells

Coral bells (Heuchera) are herbaceous evergreen perennials with ornamental foliage. Depending on the variety, the colour of the leaves can be light green to dark purple and many colours in between. There are numerous coral bells plant varieties with red leaves, such as:

  • Heucheravillosa ‘Berry Smoothie’: pink to bright red foliage
  • Heuchera micrantha ‘Molly Bush’: dark red to purple foliage
  • Heuchera micrantha ‘Cappuccino’: red-brown foliage
  • Heuchera micrantha ‘Obsidian’: deep red, almost black foliage
  • Heuchera micrantha ‘Purple Petticoatsˈ: foliage is purple underneath and brown on top

Coral bells tolerate frosts and prefer a sunny to semi-shaded location with well-drained, nutrient-rich soil.

Heuchera 'Obsidian' plant
The Heuchera variety ˈObsidianˈ is a plant with dark red to almost black foliage [Photo: Gardens by Design/]

Red barberry species and varieties

If you are looking for a bush with red leaves year round, barberry plants may be worth looking into. Popular cultivars include Berberis thunbergii var. Atropurpurea with purple-red leaves or Berberis thunbergii ˈBagatelleˈ with red-brown leaves. Gagnepain’s barberry (Berberis gagnepainii var. lanceolata) bears green as well as red leaves. Barberries are generally considered hardy, robust and uncomplicated plants that can cope in somewhat dry locations. They can also be planted as a barberry hedge — learn how in our dedicated article.

Barberry variety
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea has beautifully rounded deep red-purple leaves [Photo: Olga Vasilek/]

Forest pansy redbud

Another red-leaved woody plant is the forest pansy redbud (Cercis canadensis ˈForest Pansyˈ). These are trees with heart-shaped leaves that start off bright red when budding and later turn dark purple, keeping their colour into autumn. These trees can grow up to 8m tall and flaunt purple and pink butterfly-like flowers along short racemes from April to May. Forest pansy redbud trees prefer nutrient-rich soil with plenty of lime and a sunny location.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' leaves
The variety ˈForest Pansyˈ shows pink flowers in spring in addition to the red leaves [Photo: simona pavan/]

Japanese cherry ‘Royal Burgundy’

The ‘Royal Burgundy’ cultivar of the Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata) is a large shrub with red leaves that grows up to 7m tall. Its pointed elliptical leaves are dark purple and turn red to bronze in autumn. Its pink double-petalled flowers blossom from late April to early May, giving these small trees great ornamental value. Whether planted out in the garden or in a large container, Japanese cherry trees love a location with full sun.

Japanese cherry 'Royal Burgundy' leaves and blossoms
The Japanese cherry ‘Royal Burgundy’ flowers from late April to early May [Photo: ANGHI/]

Photinia ˈRed Robinˈ

The red tip photinia (Photinia fraseri ˈRed Robinˈ) is an evergreen shrub with red leaves that is hardy through mild winters. As opposed to plants that change from green to red throughout the year, ‘Red Robin’ photinia leaves turn from red to green. At 2 to 3m in size, these shrubs remain relatively small and are suitable as hedge plants.

Christmas berry 'Red Robin' leaves
The evergreen or rather the ever red Photinia fraseri ˈRed Robinˈ makes for a real eye catcher in the garden [Photo: okazaki hayato/]

Black cherry plum

The black cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera ˈNigraˈ) stands out with its dark red leaves, pink flowers and delicious fruits. These large shrubs grow up to 4m high and are quite undemanding and hardy. After flowering in March and April, the shrubs develop sweet, juicy cherry plums, which are about 3cm in size and can typically be harvested in July.

Black cherry plum leaves and blossom
The black cherry plum not only has beautiful red leaves and pink flowers, but delicious fruits as well [Photo: Marinodenisenko/]

Purple basil

Another red-leaved plant with both ornamental and edible value is purple basil (Ocimum basilicum). Planting some purple basil in summer will bring some lovely red hues to your garden bed or balcony. Perennial varieties can grow quite large, making the red perennial varieties worth the effort. When planting purple basil, use nutrient-rich and structurally stable substrate, such as our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost. Our compost is well-structured and remains wettable even after drying out, meaning the soil does not need to be renewed as often as with conventional potting soil.

Red leaved basil plant
Purple basil has intense dark purple foliage [Photo: romiri/]

Red-leaved plants aren’t just for outdoors. There are also various indoor plants with red leaves that can bring pops of natural colour to your home.