Non-flowering annuals are like icing on the cake of your flower beds. They contribute a variety of textures, size, leaf form and add mass, making flowerbeds and containers appear more luxurious. They will also take up the slack when flowering annuals invariably take a beating from summer downpours, and remain showy looking until the annual flowers have time to recover. Culinary herb plants, with their interesting leaf shapes, sizes and colors, also make excellent non-flowering additions to the annual flower bed.
Coleus (Coleus x hybridus) encompasses a wide range of varieties of leaf shape and color. Most varieties contain at least two colors and usually feature three, four or more colors on a single plant. The most prevalent colors are green, purple, yellow, cream and shades of red. Varieties grow from 12 to 24 inches high and their leaves can be flat or ruffled. Grow outdoors in sun to partial shade. Coleus is easily propagated with stem cuttings and can also be easily overwintered indoors in a brightly lit room.
Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) is a low-growing annual that is grown for its grayish foliage. Its low-growing habit makes it an ideal edging plant. It is often grown as a backdrop for bright red flowers and conversely, featured in all-white moon gardens. Dusty miller comes in varieties with finely laced foliage or foliage with fatter lobes. Plant in full sun.
An edible plant that is most often grown for its ornamental fall foliage, ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea) doesn't begin to show its colored foliage until after it has been touched by frost. It grows between 12 and 24 inches high, depending on the variety. Cultivate ornamental right alongside your edible cabbages; they are easily transplanted into beds displaying fall-blooming plants at the appropriate season. Ornamental cabbage can also be added to autumn floral arrangements, but after a few days they will take on an off-scent, similar to old cabbage.