Color and texture contrast is important when designing a flowerbed. Whether you're considering a dark foliage with colorful "ornaments" or an unusual grass, this segment looks at several plants that can add some interest to your landscape.

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Ornamental Peppers and Grasses Provide Contrast

Along with the colored foliage trend, we’re also using ornamental peppers for the beauty of their foliage. We have this highly purple foliage called Purple Flash. And then we have a light colored one with a purple fleck in the leaves called Calico. The colors are mirror images of each other. They’re hot, similar to a hot chili pepper. They’re highly heat and drought tolerant, and they thrive in the hot weather in Kansas. And, they add a spectacular color to the flowerbed with either a lighter or darker color tone for a colored texture and contrast with other flowers. Both varieties are excellent for the Kansas landscape.

They both have purple peppers that are small, that are unusual and make a good conversation piece. They’re edible, but very hot. You won’t want to eat more after the first bite because they’re extremely hot. Then, when they ripen, they turn red. So, in late fall you’ll have red ornaments hanging on the foliage of the peppers. This will provide some seasonal color change.

Next, this ornamental grass appears to be dormant. It has the same color in both the summer and winter, but it does have some visual interest. This is actually alive and very vigorously growing. This is its normal color – it was bred to be this way. It’s called Toffee Twist, which fits the color of the grass. It grows into larger clumps and will get a little taller, but the one we see here is about full size. So, it has a very unique place in the landscape, but you may be limited in the placement of it in the landscape. You wouldn’t want a giant bed of it because most people would think it was dead. But it does form a color contrast for the flowerbed.

This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, retired Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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