Ornamental Plants & Trees

Ornamental plants and trees are those that are primarily cultivated for their appearance, be it for their showy blooms or for their foliage. Ornamental plants and trees may not serve a practical purpose, such as providing edible fruits or shade to sit under, but these decorative plants are a joy to have in the garden and in the home.

Smoke Tree

Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) is a medium sized shrub or small tree notable for its foliage, which can be deep maroon or purple depending on the cultivar, and for its fuzzy, whimsical flowers, which create an illusion of the tree being immersed in smoke. A native of Central China, Southern Europe and the Himalayas, smoke tree can be cultivated in USDA zones 5 to 8. The plant prefers well-drained soil that is watered infrequently. When watering the tree, be sure to water the soil deeply. Smoke tree should be planted in a full sun location to guarantee the best possible foliage color.

American Beautyberry

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a deciduous shrub that sports broad, bright green foliage accented by stunning clusters of glossy, rich purple berries. A native of the southern and southeastern United States, as well as Mexico, the Bahamas and Cuba, American beautyberry is best cultivated in USDA zones 6 to 10. The plant is primarily grown as an ornamental for its beautiful berries, which are inedible for humans but delicious for birds. Beautyberry will grow best in broken or dappled shade. The shrub is adaptable to different soil types and will do just fine in most so long as they're well drained. The plant is highly drought tolerant and rarely needs to be watered.

Florida Holly

Florida holly (Schinus terebinthifolius), also called Brazilian pepper tree or Christmas berry tree, is a broad shrub or small tree notable for its neon green leaves and its shiny red berries. The ornamental plant is associated with Christmas thanks to its green and red coloring. Florida holly will grow in full sun in USDA zones 9b to 11a, in a location that has either full sun or partial shade. Florida holly is quite adaptable to soils, tolerating acidic, neutral or alkaline soils so long as they drain well. The plant thrives in moist or wet soil, so water the plant frequently to keep it looking fresh and healthy. The plant is known to be poisonous, so avoid eating its attractive red berries. It is also considered an invasive plant.

Keywords: ornamental plants, ornamental trees, flowering trees

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.