Large Leaves


It has been mentioned previously that the Fairegarden suffers from Little Leaf Syndrome, LLS. Too many blades and finely cut small foliage plants prefer the sunny, well drained situation here. Large leaf plants yearn for shade and moisture, things in short supply on this well lit slope. If only plants like the coleus above, two specimens growing in a wire trough, could be counted upon to provide year around foliage interest. Alas, they are annuals and will be turned to black mush by the first downward dip of temperatures in October, even though the weather will still be warm and nice for a couple more months afterwards. In the spring, they cannot withstand the roller coaster ride of ups and downs that occur until the weather decides to ride on the solid warm level of summer. We love the coleus for containers, but for in the ground more is required.


Being a little slow on the uptake, it was finally realized recently that there was a gigantic leaf already growing well here, Hosta ‘Sum And Substance’. There were a few divisions of this plant that were brought in the move from Texas to Tennessee in 2000 that had been stuck here and there, totally wasted and hidden by larger shrubs. They have been moved to prominent positions on the daylily hill and just below the boxwood hedge of the knot garden. These large golden leaf hostas, that can withstand sun well, made an immediate impact in a positive way. Little Leaf Syndrome, begone! (The photo was shot on the color accent mode of the Canon SX1.)


Northern Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum, confusing since this area is considered part of the southeastern US, is anything but boring in the hypertufa trough. The leaf interest on this plant is exceptional. Pieces have been added to the long wall behind the main house, but the lack of rain this year has been devastating to them. Only a couple are alive out of many attempts, although the mix of this leaf with the red blood grass and New England Asters would be yummy. We will keep trying to get this fern going there. (The camera fun continues in this image. We promise, it’s the last one. For now.)


Lilium leaves are considered an antidote to LLS, adding height and texture. Note the little butterfly below the watermark on the Autumn Joy sedum.


A post was written about the success of Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ in the Gravel Garden. It was so happy there that four more plants were ordered and added. To read that post click here-What Looks Good Now-September 2010. The new arrivals are not making much of an impact just yet, but we have high hopes. High hopes as well for seeding about to make more of a mass planting.


An early post, Lambs Ear Love is our all time most visited blog post, (soon to be overtaken by the hypertufa ball post however) to view it click here-Lambs Ear Love. We love this plant. The fuzzy ever-silver leaves, the ease of cultivation, and the newer large leaf variety that was a passalong from dear friend Laurie promises to add to the large leaves of the Gravel Garden.


Similarly fuzzy, not quite as silvery but with the bonus of blue flowers is Salvia transylvanica, grown from seed in the greenhouse. Several of these were planted outside, but not all together. We need a shock collar to remind us to plant things of the same sort in a group, close by each other for best impact. Buzzzzz. Maybe some will be moved over to the gravel later on.


If it can be watered enough to thrive, Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ promises to offer interesting star shaped big leaves and pink plumes of flowers. We have been collecting the condensation dripping from the air conditioning unit over the garage in a large bucket to remind us to empty it into the reservoir built around the base of this plant. It has worked so far, for there is life! It has been planted amongst the Karl Foerster grass at the back of the gravel garden, but hasn’t gotten the gravel mulch treatment yet. After the grass is cut in late winter the rest of this bed will be neatened up with pea gravel. Winters are wet here, so the empty bucket, no AC during winter, will not be needed as a watering reminder over the cold months. It is hoped.


Five plants grown from seed in the greenhouse, now in their second year in ground, of Inula magnifica should dramatically add large leaves to the area just behind the Gravel Garden. We have struggled to keep the seedlings alive after planting out, always the weak link in my seed growing endeavors. It has been discovered that my local nursery, Mouse Creek carries these plants. So far the temptation for instant gratification from plopping pots of mature plants inground has been resisted. But they had better bloom next year, or else it will happen. Or if they are so wonderful that more are needed, it could happen then as well. Looks like we will be adding more either way.


Planted at the base of the old rusted clothesline pole to replace Rosa ‘Moonlight’ that was afflicted with Rose Rosette disease, is the gigantic Rudbeckia maxima. New fresh cabbage-y looking foliage has emerged, showing that survival chances are good. Extra water was given to this late summer newcomer as well. New leaves are always a good sign of settling in. There are also seedheads that will be saved as insurance, and for fun.


To end with a flourish, the Swiss Chard has a large leaf that has everything going for it, edible, easy, beautiful and photogenic. These seed grown plants, I thought they were supposed to be Oriole Orange but they look more like Bright Yellow, will last well into winter here, if not the whole cold season. The protection offered by the wooden slats of the raised box planter might help them stay prim and pretty until spring, when new plants should be available at Mouse Creek. No more seed starting chard, buying plants lets you know what color you are getting.

Finding plants that will grow here in the Fairegarden that sport large leaves has been fun and rewarding. Are there any suggestions out there in the blogdom for more? Our criteria are: Zone 7a winter hardiness, dry hot summers, wet and cold winters, excellent drainage, no wet spots to speak of, clay based acid soil, mostly sunny. All reasonable ideas will be entertained. I will make a list of plants mentioned in comments here so that you will know what has already been suggested. Many thanks in advance for your participation, dear readers.

1. Variegated Comfrey
2. Silphium perfoliatum , cup plant
3. Verbascums, other species
4. Angelica gigas (biennial)
5. Nicotiana (annual)
6. NO Catalpa!
7. Eupatoriums
8. More Hostas

Frances

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24 Responses to Large Leaves

  1. gardeningasylum says:

    Good morning Frances, You got me looking at pix from my own garden, and realizing that large leaves in the sunny perennial border here are contrivances one way or another. The dark leaves of dahlia Fascination and fabulous melianthus come from plants that need to be stored inside for winter. I’ve just added a catalpa that will be coppiced each spring for large heart-shaped chartreuse foliage. The medium size dark leaves of eupatorium chocolate come perennial-ly, but the plant may need more moisture than you have. Ditto variegated comfrey. I’ve got swiss chard and red kale as annuals, both just fabulous. Good luck in your quest!

    Hi Cyndy, thanks for all those ideas! We grow Chocolate already. Maybe that is why it is smaller here than advertised, not enough water, it is in the black garden with partial shade. Your Catalpa will be great, but too much work with the coppicing here. It is a noxious roadside weed tree here. I would love that comfrey though, it will be put on the list pronto! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. Carol says:

    I was also going to suggest a catalpa that you keep cut back as well. Check Nan Ondra’s blog, I think for some pics of how she keeps them almost shrub like by cutting them back each year. Now, those would be some very big leaves!

    Good luck on your quest for very large leaves (QFVLL)

    Hi Carol, thanks for that, Qffvll indeed. Pronounced Kewf-ville! HA Catalpa is great for the northern gardeners where it is not on the invasives list. True, it is a very big leaf, but not for my garden.
    Frances

  3. Gail says:

    Frances, It appears to me that you are well on your way to solving LLS~I think the verbascum family is a great addition. Do you have Silphium perfoliatum/cup plant. The leaves are gigantic and the flower is a favorite with bees and butterflies~I have plenty of seed. Let me know if the bzzzzer works; I need to remember to mass plants, too! Another solution to add to my memory bank is to mass them here and there if we want the repetition. xxgail You know, I love your gravel garden…gravel is needed here!

    Hi Gail, thanks for joining in this fine morning! I have looked at the cup plant many times, Mouse Creek has it. Somehow it just hasn’t gotten into my garden vibe yet, don’t know why. I will add it to the list. More types of Verbascums would be more welcome. What we need to decide is who has control of the shock buzzer! HA πŸ™‚
    Frances

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I see that someone has suggested varigated comfrey. I have the regular comfrey and I can say that it is tough and reliable. It has big leaves and blooms all summer. The blooms are not huge but the bees love them. I think you are well on your way to diminishing the LLS.

    Hi Lisa, thanks so much for weighing in here. That is two suggestions of comfrey, it must be a good plant! It is more about foliage than flowers, although we do love blooms. I wonder if Mouse Creek has the comfrey? It seems to be darting around in my brain that I have grown this before somewhere and loved it. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  5. Layanee says:

    I do find that the hostas which are available in a wide range of color choices and size are a great addition and durable. I have H. sieboldiana elegans, ‘Ryan’s Big One’, ‘Frances Williams’ to name a few of the larger leaved ones. I find ‘Krossa Regal’ adds a nice vertical element as it is quite vase shaped.

    Good morning, Layanee, thanks for adding to the conversation. I agree, hostas are wonderful and we grow several of those you mentioned, Frances Williams and Krossa Regal. Sad to say, they do not tolerate any sunshine here, burning to crisps. I grew elegans at the other TN garden which was in the woods where shade was abundant. It was a fine one. I don’t know Ryan’s Big One, but love the name! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  6. Eileen says:

    Hi Frances, I did purchase two varieties of swiss chard this year, Bronze Lights and a red stemmed variety. Both are beautiful but annuals in my area. I had Sum and Substance at my previous home. I am afraid it would fill my yard in my present home.

    Eileen

    Hi Eileen, thanks for visiting. I love the swiss chard, bronze lights sounds wonderful! It is annual here too, but can persist if we are lucky through the winter. It will look so bad, if still alive, by spring that new plants will be needed. It is so dry here, the Sum And Substance do not get as large as places where there is more rainfall and not such sharp drainage as my slope offers.
    Frances

  7. Sunita says:

    Sorry, Frances, no idea about Zone 7 but if you could nudge it into Zone 10 I have the perfect large leaf, in fact, the largest leaf of all for you…. how about coconut leaves? ;D
    Okay, I’m being silly, but I really liked that first photo of the Coleus. So colourful!

    Oh Sunita you tease! HA But thanks anyway. Things like bananas and coconuts are probably too tropical looking even if they would live here the year around, but I admire those large leaves! The coleus do very well in containers here where the watering and soil mix can be controlled. In the ground, not so good. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. catmint says:

    Hi Frances, interesting post. I find some plants you don’t expect to grow well in a particular situation do well and vice versa. Large leaves do tend to make them more vulnerable though on the whole. catmint

    Hi Catmint, thanks. It has certainly been the case here that plants that should not do well, do and things that should love it here, don’t. The large leaf succulents such as Agaves would be wonderful, but hate our winters, we have tried them several times. The quest remains undaunted however! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. Being an herb gardener, I suggest Angelica gigas (Angelica). Tobacco, Nicotinas for big leaved herbs.

    Hi Patsy, thanks for joining in the discussion. We planted Angelica from seeds given by good friend Christopher. They germinated the first year nicely, then disappeared this year, we had high hopes for those fantastic blooms. They are biennial but I would have been willing to keep them going. Too dry perhaps. I would love to have them growing here. We do have some Nicotiana that self sows around, we need more! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  10. The “little leaf syndrome” concept made me smile, though LLS doesn’t work, might also be Large Leaf Syndrome, which I have been guilty of in the past… I find the ovate leaves of Echinacea a welcome contrast to the many strap-like leaves of the grasses and Crocosmia in my mini prairie planting area,not exactly enormous leaves but might work? I grow Eupatorium ‘chocolate’ too, lovely plant, but it really doesn’t like drying out. Beautiful photos as ever.

    Thanks so much, Janet, and welcome. I noticed that LLS could swing both ways when writing this post! HA We grow many Echinaceas here, a wonderful addition to any garden. The leaves are not what I would call large, but they do add interest. We grow the Eupatorium clan as well, Joe Pye has a nice large leaf and could have been included here. Chocolate stays small in our dry soil, I would love if it got larger. I appreciate your ideas! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. You have a great selection of large-leaved things. The verbascum & lamb’s ears are some of my favorite plants, as I like the way they feel. Have you considered adding some other large, sun-tolerant Hostas? There are lots of them, some with green & yellow leaves.

    Thanks MMD. I have Sunpower and Guacamole that seem to withstand some direct sunshine. Can you give the names of others? I am a fan of hostas that can take sun, heat and drought! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  12. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Frances, I do agree that large leaves can really add drama in a garden but, as you mention here, so many plants are not well suited to the conditions you have. I do not know if you have or have tried Paulonia tomentosa which certainly does have large leaves and can be pollarded to be kept more of a shrub than a tree. This does make a spectacular addition to any garden that can grow it with the benefit of blue foxglove like flowers in summer if it is really happy.

    Hi Edith, thanks so much for that suggestion. It may seem rude of me but Paulonia is similar in habit to Catalpa here. It is a beautiful tree in bloom, I agree. But it is an invasive thug in our region. I would have to prune it daily to keep it in bounds here. It is the Kudzu of the tree world. HA Funny how things are prized in different parts of the world, and held in contempt in others! I am looking more for perennials with large leaves. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  13. Rose says:

    I think you’re well on your way to curing LLS, Frances. Hostas are my favorite large-leaf plant, but then I do have shady areas. My ‘Sum and Substance’ leaves have grown so big I think they’d rival any other large-leafed plant. The lighter colored hostas are supposed to be more sun-tolerant, so I’m sure you can find more of these to add. The Lambs’ Ears are a favorite of mine, too. You have such a variety of lovely foliage, I don’t think I would even notice whether the leaves were small or large:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. The LLS may only be visible to my eyes, it is true. It has taken me years to figure out why the long view overall, as opposed to particular blooms or vignettes, does not please as it should. Gardens are about foliage, it is what is seen far more of the time than flowers. You are lucky with the conditions to grow such large leaves! I am jealous. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. Les says:

    Besides following bloggers like yourself, I follow other photographers on Flikr, including one in Asheville. Are the people in this picture some of yours?

    The Hop downtown

    I think somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember you mentioning The Hop.

    Hi Les, thanks so much for sending this link! Yes, those are family members, son Brokenbeat and daughter in law Ashley setting up in downtown Asheville for a festival of some sort. I appreciate your thinking of me very very much and sent it on to them as well. Cool! πŸ™‚
    Frances

    Awesome, Les. Zen, the owner of that flickr page, is a friend of mine and also a gardener (who has been known to frequent this site)! BTW That picture was of us setting up for Shindig On The Green πŸ™‚
    Brokenbeat

    • zen says:

      Hey Les, Frances and Brokenbeat! Yes, Brokenbeat’s a good friend and actually he had turned me on to your wonderful Garden site already and i’ve already been visiting for a bit now – and he’s right, you have a great informative and beautiful blog here! Probably the reason Les follows me on Flickr is that i take a few photos of native plants – and i’ve even started a group to help people identify wildflowers using this selector: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zen/28900588/

      Good to meet you all here – and special thanks to you Frances for bringing us all together with your amazing blog.

      Hey Zen, thanks for taking the time to comment and welcome! What a wonderful community this is, to make connections with people from diverse locations with similar interests. I will certainly be checking out your wildflowers. Once a month the garden bloggers post about their wildflowers on the fourth Wednesday, which is today. See my next post to find out about it, if you are interested, links are there to get to the main page on my friend Gail of Clay and Limestone’s blog. It is exciting to make your acquaintance! πŸ™‚
      Frances

      I did, thanks!

      Great!

  15. Charlotte says:

    As always Frances …. stunning!

    Hi Charlotte, thanks, so nice to see you! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  16. Frances – your blog and all that you share just amazes me! Your pictures are fabulous and I just noticed that you put everybodys name with their blog on your Blogroll – that must have been a lot of work! You grow, girl!

    Hi Heather, thank you for those kind words. I do make an effort to make the blog posts be the sort that I enjoy reading, and rereading myself. I am glad you like them. I have added to the blogroll over the years, not all at once. I am in the process of cleaning it up, getting rid of nonworking links but like having the names there. I am adding the location too, slowly but surely, that will show when you hover over the name. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  17. Joey says:

    A lovely selection, Frances ~ your top coleus, stunning. Happy autumn πŸ™‚

    Hi Joey, thanks. That is a fine coleus, it has been a good year for them in the containers. Happy fall, almost! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  18. easygardener says:

    I grow the coloured Swiss Chard to eat and while appreciating its beauty had not thought of using it as a decorative plant. Oddly enough I have just got back from Bruges in Belgium where it was used frequently in parks and street planting. I will know what to do with my spare plants next year!

    Hi EG, thanks for dropping by. That is exciting about your trip to Belgium, I know it is a beautiful place. Glad to hear they use the pretty chard as an ornamental, for it certainly is that. We eat it as well, but always leave enough foliage to make the garden a better place. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  19. sequoiagardens says:

    Cannas should cope with your climate; leaves of green, green/yellow pinstripes, amazing green/yellow/wine/pink pinstripes, or wine. By late summer they can get tatty,and you can even remove flowers before flowering to extend leaf growth.

    Hi Jack, thanks for that, so nice to see you. We have tried Cannas a couple of times but something happens to them after the first year. I am not sure it is the winter temps, for there are stands of green leaf cannas in yards around the neighborhood. I have tried Phaison and another similar though smaller striped leaf, Pink Sunset? Both died even though I gave them the wettest spot we have. It might just be too dry for them.
    Frances

  20. Verbascum bombyciferum has large, woolly silver leaves, often the plant can be a yard wide at the base. I’m growing ‘Polar summer’ but really don’t know where to put them.

    Ruby chard looks terrific in tubs.

    Apologies if these have been mentioned before but hey ho!

    Hi Rob, thanks so much. We love the fuzzy Verbascums bomby, it grows wild here on hot sunny rocky slopes. I need to nick some seeds of it. Or buy named varieties. I love the chard, we have some red and a dark orange growing now, recent purchases sold as fall veggies. I hope they have time to settle in before winter comes. Red cabbage might work as well, or kales, all for sale now.
    Frances

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