22 Plants With Red Leaves for Long-Lasting Color

Red leaves aren’t just a seasonal attraction. Many plants change color in the fall, yes, but there are tons that boast red foliage nearly year-round. These specimens can transform your ordinary landscape or interior space with a contrasting pop of color.

Tropical houseplants, hardy shrubs, tender perennials, and ornamental grasses can all have red leaves. Though some are a bit harder to track down, caring for these ruby-hued plants is generally no different from their green counterparts.

In this article, I cover the best plants with red leaves and how to successfully incorporate them into your own landscape or potted collection.

Types of Red-Leaved Plants

In my experience, the best way to organize plants with red leaves is by how they are used in the home landscape. The available options vary greatly whether you’re on the hunt for a red-tinged houseplant or a large tree or shrub.

Houseplants

Most of these plants are tropical species that won’t survive outdoors in more temperate or cool climates. Unless you live in a warm, sunny paradise, the only way to grow these red-leaved plants is to keep them indoors.

Annuals and Perennials

In most gardens, annuals and herbaceous perennials make up the bulk of the plant life. Swapping out some of your greenery for a few varieties with red foliage can go a long way in adding depth and contrast to your landscape.

Plenty of these plants can also be grown in containers. If you live in a cooler climate, you may be able to keep them alive year-round by relocating them indoors for the winter.

Trees and Shrubs

Some trees and shrubs have red leaves not just during the fall months but also through spring and summer. These plants live for several years and can get quite big depending on the variety.

22 Plants With Red Leaves To Grow Indoors and Out

There are dozens of plants capable of producing red leaves. With continued hybridization efforts, that number could increase exponentially in the coming years. 

For this list, however, I’ve narrowed my focus down to those crimson varieties easily found at most greenhouses and nurseries. You should have no trouble finding most of these plants at your local plant supplier!

1. Poinsettia

Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Prestige Red’, ‘Advent Red’
  • Toxicity: Low

Poinsettias are famous for their bright ‘flowers’ that appear during the winter holidays. Contrary to popular belief, the colorful petals are actually modified leaves called bracts. The real flower is tucked in the center of the bracts.

Typically grown indoors, poinsettias naturally thrive in tropical climates but can be temperamental about temperature changes. Most gardeners keep poinsettias indoors. This holiday classic can survive for many years with proper care.

2. Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum

  • Type: Tree
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Bloodgood’, ‘Crimson Queen’
  • Toxicity: None

With varieties boasting red, yellow, purple, and orange foliage for most of the year, Japanese maples are a fantastic companion plant not only for their ability to add a pop of color to a landscape, but to also add height, structure and texture too. These trees tend to perform best in USDA Zones 5 to 8, but some types are a bit harder.

Japanese maples are generally low-maintenance plants but prefer some shade in the afternoon. Excess sunlight can fade the vibrant leaves and, in some cases, cause them to turn green.

3. Ti

Ti

Cordyline fruticosa

  • Type: Annual or perennial
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Hawaiian Boy’, ‘Florida Red’
  • Toxicity: Moderate

Ti plants, or cordylines, are tropical evergreens with often multi-colored foliage. There’s no shortage of varieties with red or burgundy leaves to choose from.

Though fairly popular in the landscape in warmer climates like Hawai’i and southern Florida, most gardeners must resort to growing Ti plants as summer annuals or houseplants. These perennials need adequate sunlight to produce the best leaf color.

4. Coral Bells

Coral Bells

Heuchera spp.

  • Type: Perennial
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Forever Red’, ‘Berry Smoothie’
  • Toxicity: None

Coral bells, also known by the genus name Heuchera, are perfect for any shady garden bed. This compact groundcover comes in a range of colors, including several shades of bright red and berry pink, that stand out from the surrounding greenery. 

Best grown outdoors in temperate or cool climates, coral bells make excellent partners for Hostas, Astilbe, and other shade lovers. The delicate pink flowers attract a variety of bees and other pollinators.

5. Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry

Berberis thunbergii

  • Type: Shrub
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Red Leaf’
  • Toxicity: Low

Japanese barberry is a tough, low-maintenance shrub, making it quite popular for the home landscape. Its small, red or purple leaves offer year-round interest even when other perennials aren’t in season.

You can grow this shrub in sun or shade and in a variety of soils. Unfortunately, this hyper-tolerant nature makes Japanese barberry invasive in many climates. Do not plant this shrub before checking your local invasive plant lists.

6. Nerve Plant

Nerve Plant

Fittonia spp.

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Red Star’, ‘Black Star’
  • Toxicity: None

Easily recognized by the contrasting veins born across its leaves, the nerve plant is a must-have foliar houseplant for the discerning collector. While the standard variety has silver veins, red-veined cultivars are also fairly common. Flowers are rare, but there’s little need for them thanks to the eye-catching leaves.

Like many tropical houseplants, the nerve plant needs bright, indirect light to maintain its striking foliage. Keep it in a warm, humid environment for optimal growth.

7. Bromeliad

Bromeliad

Neoregelia spp.

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Scarlet Charlotte’, ‘Red Waif’
  • Toxicity: None

Some varieties of bromeliad boast leaves that turn a brilliant red just before flowering. A handful even have red leaves all of the time. 

If you’re not already familiar with bromeliads, they belong to a large family of tropical evergreens. A lot of bromeliads are epiphytic in nature, meaning that they grow on other plants rather than in the soil. Bromeliads have a ‘cup’ in the centre of their leaves that collects rainwater for later use.

8. Fountain Grass

Fountain Grass

Pennisetum setaceum

  • Type: Perennial
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Rubrum’
  • Toxicity: None

Commonly known as purple fountain grass, this ornamental grass has arching purplish-red leaves and feathery flower spikes. It’s drought-tolerant and grows best in full sun, making it an excellent choice for water-conscious landscapes.

Fountain grass contrasts nicely against shrubs and other broadleaf perennials. It tends to look its best in late summer and fall and can fill seasonal gaps left behind by earlier performers in the garden.

9. Bloodleaf

Bloodleaf

Iresine herbstii

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Brilliantissima’, ‘Blazin Rose’
  • Toxicity: None

Bloodleaf is very appropriately named for its red or purple leaves, though a few types have green leaves as well. Different varieties have different colored veins that contrast against the bright foliage.

Bloodleaf is usually grown as a houseplant or a summer annual. In its native climate (equivalent to USDA Zones 10 to 12), it forms a small perennial shrub.

10. Polka Dot Plant

Polka Dot Plant

Hypoestes phyllostachya

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Hippo Red’, ‘Carmina’
  • Toxicity: None

The polka dot plant is a popular houseplant with speckled or freckled leaves. These freckles come in many colors, but I think the red varieties are some of the most striking. Polka dot plants are beginner-friendly, thriving in bright, indirect light and moist soil. 

Depending on your climate, you might also find these plants sold as short-lived annuals for outdoor containers and garden beds. The unique foliage can add a nice pop of texture to a patio container or landscape border. 

11. Chinese Fringe Flower

Chinese Fringe Flower

Loropetalum chinense

  • Type: Shrub
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Ever Red’, ‘Red Diamond’
  • Toxicity: None

Chinese fringe flowers are striking evergreen shrubs typically boasting reddish-purple leaves and pink, frilly flowers. This plant is hardy and very adaptable — appropriate for USDA Zones 7 to 10. It thrives best in acidic, well-drained soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. 

Use individual plants to add splashes of color to a mature landscape. This shrub is also commonly used for privacy hedges. The Chinese fringe flower benefits from occasional pruning to maintain its shape and promote denser growth but is otherwise incredibly easy to grow.

12. Ninebark

Ninebark

Physocarpus spp.

  • Type: Shrub
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Center Glow’, ‘Coppertina’, ‘Diablo’
  • Toxicity: Low

Ninebark is a resilient shrub with exfoliating bark and clusters of white or pink flowers reminiscent of spirea. Several popular varieties boast reddish foliage, often with hints of purple or bronze.

While hardy and adaptable to a range of growing conditions, ninebark performs best in well-drained soil and full sun. It’s a great candidate for planting alongside a house or fence line. This shrub is susceptible to powdery mildew but is otherwise generally problem-free.

13. Radiator Plant

Radiator Plant

Peperomia spp.

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Schumi Red’, ‘Ruby Cascade’
  • Toxicity: None

Also known by its genus name, Peperomia, this popular indoor plant has a compact growth habit and easy-going nature. Many varieties are available, including several with differing degrees of red-tinged foliage.

Radiator plants are native to tropical climates. They like warmth, bright, indirect light, and ample humidity. The secret to keeping this houseplant healthy is to let the soil dry out between waterings.

14. Canna Lily

Canna Lily

Canna x generalis

  • Type: Annual or perennial
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Australis’, ‘Tropicanna’, ‘Red King Humbert’’
  • Toxicity: None

Canna lilies, known for their large, tropical foliage and showy flowers, are true garden standouts. Varieties like Australia and Tropicana boast dark leaves tinged with shades of red, purple, and orange. 

Whether grown in the ground or in containers, cannas prefer full sun and rich, well-drained soil. They need plenty of water during the summer months to support healthy growth. 

These perennials are typically hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10 but can be grown as annuals in colder climates. I recommend deadheading spent blooms to encourage more flowers.

15. Rex Begonia

Rex Begonia

Begonia rex

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Red Tango’, ‘Rumba’
  • Toxicity: Low

Unlike many other types of begonias, rex begonias are grown primarily for their vibrant foliage. These plants come in shades of red, purple, pink, green, and yellow. Many feature multi-colored leaves. Of course, the red varieties tend to be the most striking of the bunch.

Rex begonias make great houseplants for those looking to add texture and interest that lasts year-round (not just when things are in bloom). They can also be grown in the landscape as warm weather annuals in most climates.

16. Caladium

Caladium

Caladium spp.

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Red Flash’, ‘Brandywine’
  • Toxicity: Low

Also known as elephant ears, Caladium species are some of the best for making an impact with foliage alone. The leaves are distinctly heart-shaped and perched atop long, slender stems. Many different colors are available, including varying shades of red.

Caladium thrives as a houseplant, but I also like to use it as a central focus in outdoor containers for the summer. It offers a nice contrast to petunias and other flowering annuals in terms of overall form. You can confidently grow Caladium plants in partial shade without loss of leaf color.

17. Rubber Plant

Rubber Plant

Ficus elastica

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Red Ruby’, ‘Decora’
  • Toxicity: Low

The houseplant commonly known as a rubber plant or rubber tree is actually a type of Ficus. These hardy evergreens come in many varieties, with some of my favorites being the ones with crimson leaves.

One of the great things about rubber plants is that they’re readily available to most gardeners. I even saw some interesting cultivars for sale at a local hardware store recently. You won’t need to search high and low just to get your hands on a red version!

18. Smoke Bush

Smoke Bush

Cotinus coggygria

  • Type: Tree or shrub
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Royal Purple, ‘Grace’
  • Toxicity: Low

This deciduous shrub or small tree is aptly named for its fluffy, smoke-like flower plumes. The leaves can be green, yellow, or a deep purple-red, depending on the variety. 

Smoke bushes are highly adaptable and hardy all the way from USDA Zone 4 down to Zone 11! For those of us in cooler climates, this is one of the most interesting red-leaved plants that will easily survive our winters with minimal oversight.

19. Philodendron

Philodendron

Philodendron spp.

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Imperial Red’, ‘Sun Red’
  • Toxicity: Low

Most plant enthusiasts are familiar with the split-leaf philodendron. However, this genus contains hundreds of individual species with unique growth habits and — sometimes — colorations. 

A few types of rare philodendrons such as Prince of Orange, have leaves that start out bright red and slowly fade to green over time. Though these varieties are much less common than say the split-leaf philodendron, they have very similar care requirements and can be grown by amateur gardeners with relative ease.

20. Calathea

Calathea

Calathea spp.

  • Type: Houseplant
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Red Mojo’
  • Toxicity: None

Calathea is a genus of very popular tropical houseplants. They are prized for their oversized, striped leaves, which occasionally garner alternative names like ‘zebra plant’ or ‘peacock plant’.

It’s very common for Calathea leaves to have deep red undersides. The variety Red Mojo, however, has red and pink variegation present across the entire foliage.

21. Burning Bush

Burning Bush

Euonymus alatus

  • Type: Shrub
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Compactus’
  • Toxicity: Moderate

The burning bush is a very popular landscape shrub, cultivated specifically for its ultra-bright fall foliage. Though toxic to most animals, birds love the red berries and are responsible for spreading the seeds far and wide. 

According to Purdue University, its invasive nature has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Some regions, including parts of the eastern and midwestern United States, now prohibit planting burning bushes altogether.

22. Coleus

Coleus

Coleus spp.

  • Type: Houseplant or annual
  • Recommended Varieties: ‘Black Dragon’, ‘Kong Red’
  • Toxicity: Low

Coleus is grown for its highly variegated leaves that have a subtle velvety sheen. It can be grown outdoors as a perennial in USDA Zones 10 and 11, or indoors as a houseplant everywhere else. Coleus plants are also commonly sold as annuals in the summertime.

While the leaves are the main attraction of this plant, it can also produce thin flower spikes in shades of light lavender and pink. Some gardeners opt to pinch these flowers off, preferring the look of the foliage on its own.

If you have loved reading this article, here’s a link to 19 Shrubs with Blue Flowers that you may also enjoy.

FAQ Red Plant Leaves

What plant turns red in the fall?

Though many deciduous plants turn red in the fall, one of the most dramatic changes is that of the red maple tree. These trees turn a rich shade of scarlet in the autumn months. A red maple planted in a thicket of other trees will stand out brilliantly.

Do plants with red leaves photosynthesize?

Plants with natural red leaves can still perform photosynthesis. You just can’t see the green pigment, or chlorophyll, because it’s overshadowed by the red pigments in the leaves. Red leaves do, however, need more sunlight to perform photosynthesis as well as green ones.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.