Saturday, January 16, 2016

Foliage Follow-up: Winter Color

We don't get much in the way of fall color in my area of Southern California.  In recent years, at best the coral bark Japanese maple, persimmon trees and ornamental pear tree showed some color change.  This year, with warm weather extending well into November, even those trees didn't color up.  But since the temperatures dropped in December, things changed.  It's been cold here.  No, not cold like it gets in much of the US or Europe but cold for us, with daytime temperatures stuck between the upper 50sF and the low 60sF.  My friends and I complain about the cold when we meet for lunch.  My husband and I run the heater all night.  And the garden has reacted too.

Foliage that doesn't normally turn red did.

The variegated foliage of Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' (left) is mostly red and so is "evergreen" Abelia 'Edward Goucher' (right)

I've never seen the leaves on the gauva trees turn until now


Some plants turned pink.

The pink coloration on Agave 'Joe Hoak' may be a normal response to cold but I've never noticed this before

Aloe 'Blue Elf' is very, very pink - dry soil conditions may be a contributing factor in this case

My blueberries are pink too!

Yucca 'Bright Star' did turn pink last year as well but not this pink - I love these plants and wish I could find a few more in 1-gallon containers


Trees that showed no color change during the fall months began sporting rosy hues.

The leaves of Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa', a dwarf Japanese maple, turned brown and dropped off as summer extended into November but, when the nighttime temperatures turned cold, the plant produced fresh green foliage as if it was spring and, as the cold temperatures persisted, those leaves turned a beautiful orange

The last leaves left on the Pyrus calleryana (ornamental pear) eventually turned yellow, orange and red.  The tree also dropped more of its fruit (which even the birds won't eat) than it ever has before, making a horrific mess of the driveway.


These plants join a smaller group of plants that usually color up in winter.

The new foliage on the Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' is bright orange

Euphorbia tirucalli has responded to the cold with the bright winter color that gives it the common name of Sticks on Fire

And like the Abelia, variegated Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' is now mostly red


I might be light on floral color this winter but the foliage is picking up the slack!

Visit Pam at Digging, the host of Foliage Follow-up, to find what plants are grabbing the attention of other gardeners this January.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

32 comments:

  1. It is amazing how much colour a winter garden still has!I have also been impressed by mine and took a few great photos!

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    1. Not having ground covered in a blanket of snow gives us a major advantage there, Anca!

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  2. Well, you may complain about the cool temperatures, but at least you get to enjoy some different colors on some of your plants! I like all the warm pink and orange tones in this post.

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    1. Back in November, I really thought we were entirely out of luck in terms of foliage color, Evan, but it seems it just arrived on a different schedule this year.

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  3. Isn't this fun? So much color! It must be a result of dry and cold. We usually have cool and wet, and hot and dry.

    It's just so out-of-sync with what we think of as fall color. Fall color in January? Who knew? Shall we call it the second fall?

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    1. Ha! Yes, a second fall to follow our second spring!

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  4. I second that wish for finding some Yucca 'Bright Star' in one gallons! I haven't seen them pinked by cold before.

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    1. The pink gives the plant a whole new dimension. I'm not sure I've seen 'Bright Star' in anything smaller than a 3-gallon container in the past year (or maybe 2), yet my original plants came in 1-gallon sizes. The smaller plants establish so much better so it's frustrating to be unable to find them in that size - and that's ignoring the price issue.

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  5. How pretty! I guess there is something good about the cool + dry weather! Your Yucca 'bright star' looks wonderful, I should go see if mine has colored up at all. And who knew blueberries could be pink! Do yours do well in your climate?

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    1. My blueberries have been in large pots since November 2011. They produced well the second and third years but production dropped a bit last year. Whether that's because they didn't get all the water they wanted or because they're becoming root bound in their cramped quarters is hard to say. It's also possible that the squirrels took more than I realized last year - the cheeky critters have been known to munch on the berries right in front of me.

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  6. Our weather in Porterville must have been just that bit cold enough, that the guava leaves always turned. For us it is an invasive alien, only allowed to grow it with a permit. We dug up the inherited trees ... but got a second generation from root suckers, or seeds?

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    1. My 2 trees (different varieties) were also inherited with the property, Diana. I can't say I would have planted them myself but, as they're established and provide fruit for the local critters, I've been happy to let them remain. Unlike our mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin), they're not intent on world domination here - I haven't seen any sign of seeding or root spread.

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  7. Lovely Kris! The color on your Yucca 'Bright Star' trio is just gorgeous. Mine that I put in a hanging dish planter is similarly colored up and despite our nonstop rains it hasn't developed that icky acne that it tends to do here over the winter. Good luck finding more! One can usually find them here mid-summer but the prices...wow.

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    1. Yes, the prices are cringe-worthy. I also really don't like to plant specimens in the huge sizes the garden centers offer to justify those prices.

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  8. Foliage is enough when it's that pretty!

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    1. I'm a recovering floral fanatic but I really have been trying to give foliage more credit - in the end, it has more impact on the landscape (or that's my new mantra anyway).

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  9. Look at all our foliage color...love it all especially Euphorbia tirucalli.

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    1. Luckily for us, that Euphorbia is very easy to grow here. I've been chopping pieces here and there and simply sticking them in the ground to take root, which they generally do without any problem. The plant can get VERY big, though, so I may eventually live in a Euphorbia forest.

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  10. How nice to have such lovely winter color. I really admire your 'Bright Star' Yucca and the Sticks on Fire!

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    1. Yucca 'Bright Star' has become one of my favorite plants. It's so much more manageable than the Yucca elephantipes that formerly occupied our back slope too!

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  11. What a lot of glorious color! It looks like your garden thinks it's just jumped into a differnt climate ;-) The only thing showing much foliage color in my garden is my Euphorbia tirucalli Firesticks; and I can't help thinking yours looks to be growing a little more neatly than mine. You don't do anything to shape it, do you?!

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    1. I think growing the Euphorbia in a pot (in this case a strawberry pot) has helped keep its growth under control. I can't say I've done anything to shape it but I have clipped off pieces now and again to stick in other areas of the garden. Left unattended, these plants can get huge - I've seen photos of them well over 8 feet tall and about as wide.

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  12. What gorgeous colours. That Euphorbia is amazing, I have never seen anything like it. I don' t suppose it is hardy.

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    1. The Euphorbia hails from tropical east Africa so I don't expect it'll tolerate freezing temperatures, although it does color up best in cooler weather, especially if also water-stressed.

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  13. The cold is making your plants blush beautifully. Yucca 'Bright Star' is such a beautiful plant any time of year but especially in the winter when it takes on these pink hues.

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    1. The pink color was an unexpected surprise when I saw it for the first time last year.

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  14. I love the euphorbia! Hopefully, your temps are starting to rise. Be happy it's in the 60s, it's in the teens here - ;-D

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    1. Oh, I have no illusions whatsoever about my ability to handle your climate, Eliza. I couldn't, despite my Scandinavian heritage. (My mother was very disappointed that her kids were so very Californian.)

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    2. Despite the summer's heat, your climate is wonderful. No wonder so many people live there!

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  15. What kind of blueberries do you have?

    Sticks on Fire looks like sea coral!

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    1. I have 2 'Bountiful Blue' blueberry bush and one 'Sunshine Blue' bush.

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  16. How cool (literally :-)) that your temperatures got down low enough for your plants to put on a foliage show. Our native blueberries in Maine turn flaming red in fall. -Jean

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