Big Leaf Garden Plants

Written by margo steele
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Big Leaf Garden Plants
Plants with large leaves add interest to the garden. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Whether planted in the ground or in container gardens on the patio or pool deck, plants with large leaves attract attention. They make striking focal points when surrounded by standard-sized shrubs and perennials. If space permits, a grouping of three can anchor the corner of a large flowerbed. Large-leafed plants act as effective screening that will not interfere with air circulation around necessary mechanical equipment such as air conditioners or pool pumps.

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Banana plants, Musa x paradisiaca are tropical plants that die back when the temperature dips too low, but unless temperatures fall below -5 degrees C (22 degrees F), the rhizomes will live and produce new shoots in the spring. Moving potted plants to protected areas and tenting plants in the ground can help ensure their survival. Flowers and fruit are unlikely in domestic settings, but banana plants are worth having for their appearance alone. Some varieties reach a height of 25 feet or more, but dwarfs of just 7 feet are available. All varieties have the distinctive huge leaves for which they are prized. Banana plants require consistently moist soil and full sun to perform best.

Big Leaf Garden Plants
Banana trees add a tropical touch to the landscape. (Banana Tree image by from

Rice Paper Plant

Pith from the stems of Tetrapanax papyiferus, or rice paper plant, is used to produce a type of rice paper; however, the plant's main function is purely decorative. Fanlike, lobed leaves grow from 10 to 15 inches across at the ends of long stems. Rice paper plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree that can grow to 15 feet tall and wide. A suckering plant that is prone to forming thickets, it bears watching if space is limited. Potting it will eliminate this risk. Rice paper plant requires light shade and regular water. It will die back in killing frosts, but it will send up fresh sprouts when temperatures warm. Contact with the foliage of rice paper plant can cause a rash.

Canna Lily

Canna is the only genus in the family Cannaceae. It has 10 species with large, attractive leaves and brilliantly coloured flowers. Cannas are not true lilies; they are relatives of banana and ginger plants and share some of their characteristics. Leaves resemble those of the banana plant and may be solid green, brown, maroon, bronze or green variegated with pink, red, cream or white. Flowers are yellow, orange, red or a combination of these colours. Cannas prefer sun but tolerate shade. Moist soil is a requirement. Hundreds of cultivars exist in sizes ranging from less than 3 feet to more than 8 feet in height. Cannas look best in masses and make bold statements when combined with other tropical plants.

Pair canna lilies with other large-leafed tropical plants.
Pair canna lilies with other large-leafed tropical plants. (Canna Leaves image by Jennifer Grush from

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