Why We Appreciate Chartreuse Plants


‘Golden Spirit’ smokebush will brighten any garden bed.

The gloomy spring that seems to finally be behind us really drove home why it’s important to plant trees, shrubs and perennials with foliage that is something other than plain green, preferably something bright. Over the long series of gray days (weeks?) we’ve noticed the value of those plants with yellow to chartreuse foliage.

Against a gray/green background the color pops, and makes everything around it seem brighter. “Cheer up,” they seem to say. “Sunnier days are coming.” Now that the sun is shining a bit more, they still look good, illuminating the plants around them.

More and more plant breeders are choosing plants for foliage color and there are an increasing number of chartreuse plants available. Here are some favorites:

Spirea — Spirea are a terrifically reliable shrub for northern gardens and there are several new ones with bright foliage. ‘Goldmound’ spirea has been on the market for a while and provides a bright yellow-chartruese foliage in the spring and summer, going to a more orange tone in fall. Like most spirea, it has pretty pink flowers that can be cut back after blooming, and with luck, you may get a second flush of bloom. Newer gold-colored spirea include Goldflame, Golden Sunrise and Double Play┬« Gold.

Hedgerow Gold dogwood offers four seasons of interest.

Hedgerow Gold dogwood offers four seasons of interest. Great as a specimen plant or hedge.
Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Smokebush — Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) is an underplanted shrub, generally, and the newer ‘Golden Spirit’ smoke bush has a bright color that really wakes up a garden. While sometimes classified as a USDA Zone 5 plant, many Minnesota gardeners successfully grow smoke bush. There is a purple variety that is also stunning. It grows best in sun or part-sun. The puffy flowers that emerge in early summer and give the plant its common name are another reason to plant smoke bush.

Dogwood — Dogwood is another stalwart Minnesota shrub that is now available in a wider array of colors. ‘Hedgerow Gold’ dogwood has bright green leaves that are edged in gold. The stems are a deep red. It has delicate while flowers in the spring, too. With the stems coloring your winter garden and the foliage and flowers the rest of the year, this is a great year-round choice. Dogwoods are easy to grow and with a little protection from afternoon sun, this one will thrive.

What are your favorite yellow/gold/chartreuse plants?


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