Plants with bold foliage (leaves that are larger than normal) always stand out from the rest of the plants in the garden. They are important elements in the landscape as focal points or features at the ends of important lines of sight. Many are used as specimens in pots and containers due to their architectural shapes. Clumps of bold foliaged perennials always add interest and create contrast in mixed herbaceous borders. Look out for these proud plants with bold leaves.

This is a list of large leaved plants suited to KwaZulu-Natal growing conditions. Some are better in the cool temperate parts, whilst others can only be grown in the warmer sub-tropical regions.

Annuals and perennials (low growing)

Key: (E) = evergreen (D) = deciduous (I) = indigenous (F) = fruit (S) = seed (C) = climber

Acanthus mollis (Greek rhubarb) (D)
Aechmea fasciata (urn plant or silver vase plant) (E)
Alocasia amazonica (Amazonian elephant ear or Kris plant) (E)
Alocasia macrorrhiza (elephant’s ear) (E)
Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant) (E)
Asplenium nidus (bird’s nest fern) (E)
Bergenia cordifolia (pig’s ears) (E)
Canna Hybrids (canna) (D)
Cotyledon orbiculata (pig’s ears succulent) (E) (I)
Crinum macowanii (river lily) (D) (I) (B)
Crinum moorei (Natal lily or forest lily) (ED) (I) (B)
Curcuma longa (turmeric) (D) (B)
Cynara scolymus (globe artichoke) (E)
Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) (E)
Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb) (D)
Gunnera perpensa (river pumpkin) (D) (I)
Heliconia rostrata (lobster’s claw) (E) Note: many heliconias have bold foliage
Hosta fortunei hybrids (plantain lily) (D)
Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (palm beach bells) (E)
Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (paddle plant) (E) (I)
Ligularia tussilaginea (nun’s tears) (E)
Neoregelia Hybrids (blushing bromeliad) (E)
Rheum rhaponticum (rhubarb) (D)
Sansevieria trifasciata (mother-in-law’stongue or snake plant) (E)
Senecio candicans (silver angel wings) (E)
Spathiphyllum ‘Sensation’ (peace lily) (E)
Vriesea gigantea (giant bromeliad) (E)
Vriesea hieroglyphica (king of the bromeliads) (E)  
Zantedeschia aethiopica (arum lily) (E) (I)

Shrubs and climbers (medium to tall growing)

Key: (E) = evergreen (D) = deciduous (I) = indigenous (F) = fruit (S) = seed (C) = climber

Agave americana ‘Medio-Picta’ (century plant) (E)
Agave attenuata (swan’s neck) (E) Note: most agave plants have bold foliage
Aloe ferox (bitter aloe) (E) (I)
Aloe marlothii (mountain aloe) (E) (I)
Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ (Japanese laurel) (E)
Cycas revoluta (sago palm) (E)
Cyathea australis (Australian tree fern) (E)
Dicksonia antarctica (tree fern) (E)
Dracaena aletriformis (large leaved dragon tree) (E) (I)
Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia) (E)
Furcraea foetida var mediopicta (variegated Mauritius hemp) (E)
Hydrangea quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangea) (D)
Kalanchoe beharensis (donkey’s ears) (E)
Mahonia lomarifolia (Chinese mahonia) (E)
Melianthus major (honey flower) (E) (I)
Monstera deliciosa (delicious monster) (E) (C)
Musa paradisica (banana) (E) (F)
Palm: Phoenix roebellini (miniature date palm) (E)
Palm: Rhapis excelsa (lady palm) (E)
Palm: Rhapis humilis (slender lady palm) (E)
Philodendron selloum (E)
Philodendron ‘Xanadu’ (E)
Strelitzia reginae (crane flower) (E) (I)

Trees (tall growing)

Key: (E) = evergreen (D) = deciduous (I) = indigenous (F) = fruit (S) = seed (C) = climber

Aloidendron (Aloe) barberae (tree aloe) (E) (I)
Anthocleista grandifolia (forest fever tree) (E) (I)
Castanospermum australe (Australian chestnut) (E)
Cussonia paniculata (Natal cabbage tree) (E) (I)
Cussonia spicata (Highveld cabbage tree) (E) (I)
Dracaena draco (Canary Island dragon tree) (E)
Ensete ventricosa (Abyssinian banana) (E) (I)
Erythrina latissima (broad-leaved coral tree) (D) (I)
Ficus lyrata (banjo fig) (E)
Ficus trichopoda (hippopotamus fig) (E) (I)
Firmiana simplex (parasol tree) (D)
Harpephyllum caffrum (wild plum) (E) (I)
Magnolia grandiflora (bull bay) (E)
Pachira aquatica (Malabar chestnut or money tree) (D)
Palm: Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (seaforthia palm or king palm) (E)
Palm: Bismarckia nobilis (Bismarcks palm) (E)
Palm: Butia capitata (jelly palm) (E)
Palm: Dypsis lutescens (bamboo palm) (E)
Palm: Livistona chinensis (Chinese fan palm) (E)
Palm: Roystonea regia (royal palm) (E)
Palm: Syagrus romanzoffiana (queen palm or cocos) (E)
Palm: Trachycarpus fortunei (windmill palm) (E)
Palm: Washingtonia filifera (hula skirt palm) (E)
Ravenala madagascariensis (traveller’s palm) (E)
Schizolobium excelsum (tree of heaven) (D)
Stenocarpus sinuatus (fire wheel tree) (E)
Strelitzia nicolai (wild banana) (E) (I)
Trichilia emetica (Natal mahogany) (E) (I)
Yucca elephantipes (palm lily) (E)

Key: (E) = evergreen (D) = deciduous (I) = indigenous (F) = fruit (S) = seed (C) = climber


Whilst every care and caution has been taken in compiling these lists in terms of correctness and accuracy, Blackwood’s, nor any of their employees can be held liable or responsible if any of the recommendations are found to be incorrect in any way whatsoever. They are merely a guide to help gardeners and staff in finding solutions to gardening problems. All plants listed may not be available for sale at times. They do however all grow in the greater KwaZulu-Natal area and are to be found growing successfully in local gardens.