Arranging Plants with Coloured Leaves

There are many plants with attractive colour-spattered leaves, and including just one of these will bring to life an arrangement of green plants. Choose from those with creamy-white streaks, red or pink edges, or light silver-green markings.

Getting the best from coloured leaves Plants with large, strongly marked leaves can be used very effectively on their own. Try choosing colours that highlight surrounding furnishings, or pick a plant that contains a lighter tone of the colour used in a plain painted wall.

To get the best effect, mix dark, green-leaved plants and plants with coloured leaves. Using just one or two coloured-leaf plants in the front of a display will allow the colours to be specially appreciated. Dark green acts as a perfect foil for the richer leaf colours. Place large, plain-leaved plants at the back of a group. When creating an arrangement, bear in mind leaf shapes and textures as well as colour. Contrast these in the group too, using a mixture of plants with shiny, solid-looking leaves and plants such as ferns that have feathery leaves.

Arranging Plants with Coloured Leaves

Plants with leaves in similar colours create a more effective group than plants with a wide range of differently coloured leaves. Choose cream and green, green streaked with red, or greens of different hues and tones.

Forming groups

As an alternative to using plants of different sizes to form a group, some plants can be placed on a small table to add height to an arrangement. Upside-down containers or even a pile of magazines can be used to give height, so long as these are hidden by the plants in front. You can also use windowsills, shelves, or even stairs.

Introducing a hanging basket into the group will also provide height, while a group of baskets positioned at different levels can look effective in front of a window or filling a corner.

Container choice

Usually plants with decorative leaves are best displayed in simple, unobtrusive containers that form an understated background, but there are exceptions to every rule.

Here are some container suggestions:

  • Baskets painted in pink, red, cream, white or silver to pick out and highlight the colour of the leaf marking.
  • Ceramic pots in plain green, white or a pastel tone of the leaf colour.
  • Flower strewn bowls,
  • jugs or pots that highlight the colours in the plant.

Plants with cream or white markings


Dieffenbachia ‘Exotica’ has long, oval leaves with cream centres edged with green.

English Ivy

Hedera helix and Cape Ivy Senecio macroglossus both have green leaves with darker blotches and cream margins.

Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum, with its long, narrow leaves with white stripes, and its plantlets on long stems, looks very effective on a pedestal or in a hanging basket.

Plants with red markings

  • Prayer PlantMaranta leuconeura has beautiful, large dark green leaves with raised veins of deep red. The plant can be trained up a pole or left to trail.
  • CrotonCodiaeum variegatum has leaves that can vary in size, shape and colour.
  • Young leaves are green but develop a red, orange or purple colour as they age.
  • Mother of Thousands
  • Saxifraga stolonifera ‘tricolor’ is a tiny, decorative plant with dark green leaves edged with pink.

Plants with silver or green markings

  • Peacock Plant – Calathea makoyana has long club-shaped leaves in a pale green that is overlaid with dark green patterning.
  • Wandering Sailor – Zebrina pendula has small leaves in dark green, streaked with two stripes of a light silvery green.
  • Rosary Vine – Ceropegia woodii has trailing stems and tiny, dark green leaves mottled with silver-green.
  • Wandering Jew – TrodPscantia albiflora has silver stripes in its light green leaves.

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