UNITED STATES—Floral color gets most of the attention within home gardens through spring. It should. It is the most copious and most colorful of color. Though, it is not the only color. A few species that provide floral color, and more that do not, provide colorful foliage. Similar to Olympic Medals, this foliage can be bronze, silver or gold, or variants of such. Some rivals bloom.

Colorful foliage is not the same as foliar color of deciduous foliage as it sheds in autumn. Much is evergreen. Most is most colorful while it grows through warming spring weather. Actually, most fades through summer, and some becomes simpler dark green by autumn. Afterward though, some deciduous colorful foliage also develops foliar color for autumn.

The most popular colorful foliage is variegated. This means it is partly green with stripes, margins, blotches, spots, patterns or blushes. The color range of such variegations is as variable as its pattern range. Some foliage is variegated with a few vividly distinct colors. New Zealand flax, coleus, croton and caladium are some of the more familiar examples.

Bronze, Silver or Gold

Of all unvariegated colorful foliage, bronze foliage is the most variable. It includes foliage that is brown as well as reddish, purplish or perhaps dark orangish. Some emerges pink before developing a darker shade. New photinia foliage is reddish bronze only briefly as it matures as dark green. Purple leaf plum and smoke tree are famously purplish bronze.

Silver foliage is the most useful colorful foliage in the wild. At high elevations, where sun exposure is harshly intense, it is selectively reflective. It absorbs sufficient sunlight for its photosynthesis, but not enough to succumb to scald. It is how Arizona cypress and some agaves survive in the high desert. Such foliage may be gray, pallid blue or almost white.

Many species with gold foliage are the same as those with bronze foliage. New Zealand flax, smoke tree, barberry and elderberry can be either bronze or gold. Since gold foliage contains less chlorophyll than green foliage, it is a bit less vigorous. Unlike silver foliage, it serves no natural practical purpose. It survives in landscapes for visual appeal.

Highlight: Dusty Miller

Of the few unrelated species of dusty miller, the most common here is Senecio cineraria. Like other dusty miller species, its foliage is remarkably silvery white. Its foliar tomentum can be so thick that it resembles fine felt. Individual leaves exhibit intricately deep lobes. They are about two to five inches long but are smaller and simpler on upper floral stems.

Dusty miller blooms with floppy clusters of tiny but bright yellow daisy flowers. However, because the colorful foliage is more appealing, bloom might not be a priority. Removal of floral stems prior to bloom promotes denser and neater foliar texture. Within more severe climates, dusty miller is a warm season annual. It is a resilient shrubby perennial locally.

Mature specimens of dusty miller can get a bit taller than three feet with bloom. They are shorter with grooming and pruning to maintain compact form without bloom. If necessary, they are conducive to pruning to limit their height to about a foot and a half. This species tolerates a bit more partial shade than other dusty miller. Ideally, it prefers sunny warmth.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.