When you think of adding color to the garden, perennials and annuals usually spring to mind. However, some shrubs offer color and visual interest with more than just their blossoms or berries. Evergreen shrubs with yellow foliage add a splash of color year-round, and the green leaves of some deciduous shrubs turn yellow in the autumn, providing a fall show. Plant yellow-leaf shrubs in moderation, as too many can distract from other plants, according to the Iowa State University Extension.
Gold Coast juniper (Juniperus chinensis Gold Coast) and Old Gold juniper (Juniperus chinensis Old Gold) both grow up to 3 feet tall and spread up to 6 feet. These compact shrubs have golden yellow foliage.
Rheingold arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis Rheingold) and Golden Globe arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis Golden Globe) have bright to deep golden-yellow leaves. The Rheingold grows up to 5 feet and the Golden Globe to 4 feet tall. Both produce more attractive foliage in sites with full sun exposure.
The common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) has oval foliage with dark green tops and bright yellow bottoms. This hardy shrub grows between 10 and 15 feet tall. Boxwoods can grow in full sun to heavy shade but require well-drained soil to thrive.
The Aureo-variegata cultivar of common boxwood has variegated yellow and green foliage. This dense shrub can grow up to 20 feet tall and prefers moist, cool soil and full sun.
Goldflame spirea (Spiraea x bumalda Goldflame) and Goldmound spirea (Spiraea x Goldmound) both grow from 2 to 3 feet tall and produce pink blossoms in early summer. Goldflame has copper to orange spring foliage that turns yellow-green in summer. Goldmound has golden yellow leaves.
The Tiger Eye sumac's (Rhus typhina Tiger Eye) golden-yellow foliage turns orange to red in autumn. This spreading plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and, unlike many other yellow-leaf shrubs, prefers light to partial shade.
Golden privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi) can grow up to 12 feet tall. When grown in full sun, this hardy shrub has bright yellow leaves. Plants grown in shadier spots have yellowish-green foliage.
Several cultivars of hybrid witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) offer yellow foliage. These include Arnold Promise, which can grow up to 20 feet tall and produces yellow blossoms in summer as well as bright yellow to orange fall leaves.
Yellow Fall Foliage
The Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum) grows up to 10 feet tall. The foliage on this multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub turns brilliant yellow in fall.
The red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) and red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) both display yellow to red autumn foliage. These deciduous shrubs grow up to 10 feet tall and can tolerate some shade.
- Iowa State University Extension; Gold-Leaved Shrubs for the Home Landscape; Richard Jauron; 1994
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension; Fall Color in Shrubs; Bob Henrickson
- University of Illinois Extension; Shrubs and Perennials for Fall Color; Sandra Mason; 2002
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension; Boxwood; Marjan Kluepfel, et al.; 1998
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