Shrubs With Purple Leaves & Thorns

Written by g.d. palmer
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Thorny, purple-leaved shrubs are a common feature of many landscaping projects. These shrubs produce attractive leaves and add colour to an otherwise boring view. Their thorns may be prickly, but the fruit these plants produce is attractive to birds and wildlife. Knowing some of the most common purple shrubs helps homeowners identify existing ones or choose new shrubs for their landscaping projects.

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Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Several types of barberries sport purple foliage, primarily in the fall. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is one of the most common purple-leaved ornamentals with thorns. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and has green summer leaves and purple foliage in autumns. This plant is considered invasive in the United States.

Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

Smoketrees are native to Southern Europe and Central China. Some varieties produce purple leaves. The best known is the common smoketree or smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), which has blue-green leaves in summer and orange or red to purple leaves in fall. It grows to 12 to 15 feet tall, but can be kept pruned as a shrub. The colour of autumn foliage is not always consistent.

Purple-Leaved Elder (Sambucus Nigra)

The purple-leaved elder (Sambucus nigra) is a border plant 6 to 9 feet tall. It has purple flowers in the summer and purple leaves in fall. Some varieties have leaves that begin purple, and then turn green. Sambucus nigra is native to Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. The berries are edible to animals and to humans after cooking, but inedible raw. Purple-leaved elder acts as a weed in some habitats.

Redleaf Rose (Rosa Glauca)

This rose is native to Central and Southern Europe, and produces dense, spreading foliage 5 to 6 feet tall. It acts as a shrub. It has reddish green canes, pink flowers with pale centres and foliage that ranges between blue green, copper and purple. Like all roses, this plant has thorns and produces rose hips in the fall.

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