There are a number of ornamental plants which are useful because of the showy coloration, shape, texture or arrangement of their foliage. These plants range in size from the small Alternanthera to the majestic Traveller’s Tree. They should be used in the landscape scheme to add dashes of color or for emphasis in border and background plantings, and to lend individuality to the grounds where specimen plants are used. Acalyphas, Crotons, Caladiums, Coleus, Amaranthus species, Flowering Ricinus, Plume Grass, Giant Bamboo, and Duty Miller are a few of the more commonly used subjects in this group.


Acalypha hederacea. Cardinal’s Guard. A native plant, somewhat similar to A. radians but having deeply lobed, dull green leaves and less conspicuous feathery red flower spikes. (Euphorbiaceae.)

Acalypha hispida. Chenilla Plant. A plant having bright green, ovate leaves and fiery red, drooping, chenille-like flower spikes.

Acalypha radians. Cardinal’s Guard. A hairy native plant, 3 to 10 inches high, which produces an abundance of small, rounded, saw-toothed, dull green leaves. The pistillate and stimate flowers are produced on separate plants, the pistillate flowers appearing as bright red spikes of bloom.

Acalypha Wilkesiana var. marginata. Copper-Leaf Acalypha. A plant having large, ovate, saw-toothed, copper colored leaves that are margined in white, cream or pink color.

Acalypha Wilkesiana var. mosiaca. Fire-Dragon Acalypha. This variety produces large, twisted leaves in various shades of green, yellow and red, the predominating color being dark red.

Acalypha Wilkesiana var. mycrophylla. Flat Red-Leaf Acalypha. A very large plant having large, flat, green to copper colored, ovate leaves that are splotched with red, yellow and green.

Acalypha Wilkesiana var. tricolor. Mandarin’s Gown Acalypha. The large, flat, deep red leaves of this plant are splotched with brighter red colors.Tender shrubs having large, usually showy, highly colored leaves. There are two species of acalypha native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley which produce the typical red flower spikes but do not have showy foliage. Well adapted and very popular.

Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum. Aeonium. An upright plant, two to three feet high, which produces greenish red stems and rosettes of shining, dark red spatulate leaves. This plant usually becomes dormant during the summer. Well adapted. (Crassulaceae.)

Aglaonema modestum. Chinese Evergreen, Aglaonema. A low growing plant having erect stems and upright basal shoots. The dark green, ornamental oblong foliage of this plant makes it an excellent pot subject or border plant for use in protected locations. (Araceae.)

Alpinia speciosa (nutans). Alpinia, Shell-Flower. An evergreen, upright plant having stems several feet high, and producing large, shining, lanceolate leaves horizontal to the stem. The crushed leaves give off a spicy odor. The flowers are called "Seashells" because of the unusual, porcelain-like appearance. (Zingiberaceae.)

Alsophila australis. Australian Tree-Fern. Very tender, tropical plants which produce palm-like, slender trunks up to several feet high and crowns of large, bright green fronds. These plants make slow growth and must be protected from the cold. (Cyatheaceae.)

Alternanthera (Telanthera) versicolor. Alternanthera. A low growing perennial bush, twelve to fifteen inches high, which produces numerous, small, variegated leaves in shades of green, red and yellow with bronze and purple markings. This makes an excellent edging plant and is easily propagated from cuttings. (Amaranthaceae.)

Amaranthus hybridus var. hypochondriacus. Prince's Feather. An annual foliage plant having dark red lanceolate leaves topped with dark red flowering spikes. This plant tends to become a weed but can be successfully used by selecting plants having the desirable deep red leaf-color. Well adapted and quite popular. (Amaranthaceae.)

Amaranthus sp. Combustion Amaranthus. A low growing plant up to twelve or fifteen inches high having fiery red, ovate leaves which terminate in a rosette of flaming, orange-red leaves at the top of the plant. It produces dark red, chenille-like flower spikes and numerous, small, black seed. Very showy and well adapted.

Andropogon glomeratus.* Bushy Beard, Broom-Sedge. A native, bunch grass that thrives best in wet locations. It reaches a height of four or five feet, and produces a profusion of feathery "plumes" that remain attractive throughout the winter. (Gramineae.)

Andropogon provincialis.* Big Blue-Stem Grass, Georgia Cane Grass. A native grass that is sometimes compared to the Pampas Grass, having ornamental silvery "plumes." This roadside plant presents a pleasing appearance throughout most of the year.

Andropogon scoparius.* Little Blue-Stem Grass. A low growing, native bunch grass that produces numerous ornamental, red seed panicles.

Andropogon virginicus.* Broom-Sedge. A tall, native sedge that requires an abundance of moisture. It produces ornamental, enlarged seed clusters.

Artemisia Stelleriana. Dusty Miller. Of the several species of Dusty Miller, A. Stelleriana is the most commonly grown. This species if usually about fifteen inches high and produces soft, silvery gray pinnate foliage having an aromatic odor. These plants are well adapted and spread rapidly. They are most useful as border or low hedge subjects. (Compositae.)

Arundinaria gigantea.* American Bamboo, Southern Cane. A plant that reaches a height of seven to ten feet. It produces large, dark green culms. Useful as a windbreak, or to prevent soil erosion along canals or ditch banks. (Graminae.)

Arundo Donax.* Giant Reed Grass. A native grass having large, dark green, somewhat weedy culms that will grow only in wet soil. Useful for hiding unsightly border areas. (Graminae.)

Aspidistra lurida (elatior). Aspidistra. This plant has stiff, broad, dark green, basal leaves about twelve inches long. It produces a few, purplish brown, lily-like flowers about an inch in diameter at the base of the plant. (Liliaceae.)

Caladium bicolor. Fancy-Leaf Caladium. The leaves of this plant are usually much smaller than those of the commonly grown Elephants-Ear and have numerous variations in coloration and marking. The plants are very tender to cold, but appear to be well adapted. (Araceae.)

Calotropsis esculenta. Giant Milkweed. A U.S.D.A. introduction (P.I. 103,518) up to ten feet in height that produces showy, deeply veined, thick, bluish-green, ovate leaves. During the summer, it produces numerous lavender flowers in clusters. Well adapted and quite promising. (Asclepiadaceae.)

Centaurea gymnocarpa. Velvet Centaurea, Dusty Miller. A low growing, silver-gray foliage plant that produces deeply cut, velvety foliage. (Compositae.)

Codiaeum variegatum. Croton. These tall growing, tender plants are valuable chiefly for their brightly colored and diversely shaped leaves. Well adapted and very desirable. The species of Croton native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley are unrelated and they lack the bright coloration of the horticultural types. (Euphorbiaceae.)

Coleus Blumei var. Vershaeffeltii. Coleus. These tender plants have succulent stems and variously shaped and colored leaves. The flower spikes are dark blue to white in color. The plants develop their brightest coloration when they are planted in a well lighted location, but protected from the hot summer sun. The mealy bugs which frequently attack coleus can be controlled by dusting with rotenone dust. (Labiatae.)

Colocasia antiquorum. Elephants-Ear. A bulbous plant having large, dark green arrow-shaped leaves, and an occasional, creamy-white, calla-like flower. (Araceae.)

Colocasia esculenta. Dasheen. A tuberous plant, closely resembling the common caladium or Elephants-Ear, that produces edible starchy tubers somewhat like an Irish potato. This plant thrives best in a moist location. Well adapted.

Cortaderia Selloana (argentea). Pampas Grass. This grass forms a very large clump of narrow, saw-toothed leaves. In late summer it produces numerous, large, feathery "plumes" that can be used for interior decoration. Well adapted and very popular. (Gramineae.)

Cymbopogon citratus. Lemon Grass. A light green, bunch grass having rather narrow, linear leaves which contain an essential oil having the odor of lemons. Well adapted. (Gramineae.)

Cyperus alternifolius. Umbrella Grass. This plant sends up bright green, rounded culms, two feet in height, topped with rosette or narrow leaves, from the center of which small, greenish flowers and greenish brown seed "burs" are produced. Well adapted. (Cyperaceae.)

Cyperus elegans (Trachynotus). Star Sedge. This native grass produces rather open heads of flowers and seed clusters, the seed clusters being star-shaped. The leaves of this plant are only one-sixteenth of an inch wide.

Cyperus speciosus.* Michoirx Sedge. A native plant producing dark green, somewhat weedy clums. This plant, which grows along the Arroya Colorado and other fresh water streams, produces ornamental seed stalks having globular heads of flowers and seeds, the heads being four to five inches in diameter. The leaves of this plant are about one-eighth of an inch wide.

Dieffenbachia Seguine. Dieffenbachia. These tropicals have showy, brightly marked foliage. D. Seguine produces large, bright green ovate leaves striped and ribbed with white, and is often called Zebra Plant. Well adapted. (Araceae.)

Dracaena. Dracaena. Upright plants that produce showy foliage, often borne on the tips of branches or on long stalks. These are numerous color combinations, usually in green, white, red and purple. These tropical foliage plants require protection from frost, wind, and sun. (Liliaceae.)

Ficus elastica.India Rubber-Plant. A large, tropical plant having thick stems, corky bark, and large, leathery, oblong, glossy leaves. The stems and leaves are filled with viscous milky sap. Tender to cold, but very popular. (Moraceae.)

Ficus lyrta (pandurata).* Fiddle-leaf Rubber-Plant. This plant is similar to the India Rubber-Plant except that it has fiddle-shaped leaves. Very attractive and quite popular.

Gynura aurantiaca. Velvet Plant. One of the few purple colored foliage plants. The rather large, young leaves are ovate, deep purple in color, and are covered with velvet-like hairs. This plant reaches a height of about eighteen inches, and produces small heads of yellow, composite flowers during the fall season. It is well adapted to conditions in this region and is quite popular. (Compositae.)

Hydrocotyle bonariensis. Marsh Pennywort, Nicles and Dimes. A dwarf plant that seldom reaches a height of more than five inches, which produces dark green, thick, round nasturtium-like leaves about an inch in diameter, each leaf developing from a rooted stem. In the spring the plant produces umbels of inconspicuous yellow flowers. This plant is used chiefly as a potted subject or as a ground cover in moist, shady locations. (Umbelliferae.)

Hydrocotyle umbellata. Water Umbrella-Plant, Nickles and Dimes. A very small, water loving native plant that produces very small, thick, kidney-shaped leaves on stems which are individually rooted.

Iresine (Achyranthes) Herbstii. Red Painted-Leaf. This variety has wine-red leaves with light rose-colored veining and red stems. (Amaranthaceae.)

Iresine (Achyranthes) Lindenii. Variegated Painted-Leaf. A variety that produces bright green leaves having deep red veining, and splotched with red.

Tender, succulent border plants, usually up to twenty-four inches in height, that produce angled stems and deeply vined, roundish leaves.

Kochia scorparia. Belvedere (Summer) Cypress, Burning-Bush. A quick growing annual bush, two to three feet high, having bright green, needle-like leaves. In the fall, the plant is covered with numerous, red flower buds, giving it the name "Burning-Bush." The plant is quite symmetrical, being pyramidal in its habit of browth. Well adapted. (Chenopodicaceae.)

Maranta. Foliage plant that produces odd shaped, deep green leaves, usually splotched with showy, cream colored markings. One species, M. arundinacea (Arrowroot) is a source of arrowroot. (Marantaceae.)

Miscanthus sinensis (Eulalia japonica). Eulalia Grass. This is one of the most popular of the ornamental grasses. It produces long, narrow, rought, serrated leaves two to three feet long. There is a variegated form, variegatus; a banded form, zebrinus; and a narrow leaf form, gracillimus. These varieties are very ornamental, but are less hardy than the common M. sinensis. (Gramineae.)

Monstera deliciosa. Ceriman. A large leafed, tropical foliage plant having dark green, deeply cut and lobed leaves. It occasionally produces spathed flowers which are followed by edible, dull green fruits about the size and shape of a banana and "pitted" like a pineapple. The plant has fruited in this region only where it has been allowed to trail along the ground. This plant thrives best in a shaded location and in loose soil well mixed with wood chips and sawdust. (Araceae.)

Monstera dubia. Shingle-Plant, Penanola. A tropical plant that produces heavy jointed stems which root at the nodes. The young leaves are 4 to 5 inches long; waxy; entire; and deeply lobed when mature. A small type of the very desirable monstera group; thrives in shade.

Musa Cavendishii. Cavendish Banana. A dwarf plant about five feet high that produces bunches of large fruit of excellent quality. This plant requires an abundant supply of moisture and frost protection. (Musaceae.)

Musa paradisiaca. Horse Banana, Plantain. A large plant that produces bunches of standard sized fruits for cooking. Very tropical in appearance.

Musa paradisiaca var. sapientum. Gros Michel (Commercial) Banana. A tall growing plant that produces large fruit of excellent quality when adequately protected from frost. Very tender to cold.

Musa paradisiaca var. sapientum. Champa or Lady Finger Banana. This is a small fruited variety, the fruits being about four inches long, and of excellent quality. Considerably more resistant to cold than other varieties.Banana plants are well adapted to conditions in this region and make rapid growth, even after being frosted back. However, the plants require about eighteen months of growth before setting fruit, and require an abundance of water.

Pandanus Veitchii. Veitch’s Screwpine, Ribbon Grass. A tall growing plant that produces very long, stiff leaves which grow upright for about eighteen inches before drooping. The leaves are pale green striped with cream. Well adapted. (Pandanaceae.)

Pennisetum Ruppelii. Purple Fountain Grass. A well adapted, graceful bunch-grass that produces foliage and feathery plumes having a purplish color. This ornamental subject seldom reaches a height over two and one-half feet. (Gramineae.)

Philodendron cordatum. Heart-Leaf Philodendron. A small plant having dark green, heart-shaped leaves. It is useful either as a pot plant or out-of-doors. (Araceae.)

Philodendron giganteum.* Climbing philodendron. A large, climbing plant having woody stems, pendulous, aerial roots, and very large, dark green, oblong leaves (two feet to three feet long). Tender, tropical plants having woody stems, aerial roots, and ornamental leaves. These are "tree loving" vines which are used to cover unsightly old tree or palm trunks.

Phyllostachys latifolius. Giant Bamboo. A very tall growing bamboo that produces large canes and dark green leaves usually tipped with gold or yellowish green. This variety has proven well adapted at the Valley Experiment Station and is the most ornamental of the Bamboos. Two small types of bamboo are also being grown in the station’s trial plantings. Non-spreading types are most desirable. (Gramineae.)

Pilea microphylla. Artillery Plant. A low growing, fern-like, succulent plant twelve to fifteen inches high, which produces numerous, very small, light green, double leaves. Although usually grown as a pot plant, this makes a beautiful border plant if planted in a protected location. There is also a very small leafed type having dark green, narrow leaves. (Urticaceae.)

Polypodium vulgare. Fennel Fern. A low growing, fern-like plant having soft, dark green, finely cut feathery foliage having the odor of fennel. It is well adapted and multiplies rapidly. This plant thrives best in a moist, shaded location, although it will grow in full sun. (Polypodiaceae.)

Ravenala madagascariensis. Traveller’s-Tree. A large, banana-like shrub that produces a short, palm-like trunk and banana-like leaves in such arrangement as to give the plant the appearance of a huge fan. This plant is tender to cold but appears to be adapted to conditions in this region. Very ornamental. (Musaceae.)

Rhektophyllum mirabile (Nephthites picturata). Romeo and Juliet. A rather tender tropical plant that produces large, dull green, arrow-shaped leaves. This plant belongs to the family of tree-climbers but will become a trailing ground cover. It is well adapted and multiplies rapidly if allowed to grow along the ground. (Araceae.)

Rhoeo (Tradescantia) discolor. Tradescantia. An erect, low growing plant, six to fifteen inches high, having lanceolate, deep green leaves that are purple underneath. The variegated form R. discolor var. vittata, is similar to the purple form, except that it produces leaves striped with yellow in the upper surface. The flowers are white and are enclosed in boat-like bracts. (Commelinaceae.)

Ricinus communis. Castor Bean. A large, tree-like shrub having showy, palmately divided leaves and upright panicles of small red and cream colored flowers. The red-leafed form is the most ornamental of this group, having dark red spikes of bur-like capsules. Well adapted and produces an abundance of beans. (Euphorbiaceae.)

Rosemarinus officinalis. Rosemary. This common flower-garden subject makes an excellent low border plant. It is slow growing and never gets out of bounds. It produces numerous, small, crowded silvery-gray leaves. This is one of the few aromatic herbs that appear to be fairly well adapted to conditions in this region. (Labiatae.)

Russelia equestiformis. Fountain-Plant, Coral Plant. This plant produces a grass-like clump of slender, bright green stems having a few, very small leaves and numerous small, red "tips" of bloom. Well adapted. (Scrophulariaceae.)

Scindapsus (Pothos) aureus. Devil’s Ivy. A climbing tropical plant having cork-like stems, aerial roots, and large, bright green, oval to oblong leaves which are variegated with yellow splotches. This plant makes an excellent pot plant, but when planted out-of-doors in a protected location, it will produce much larger leaves and grows to great size. (Araceae.)

Setaria (panicum) palmifolium. Palm Grass. This grass forms clumps of broad dark green palm-like leaves about two feet long. Well adapted but dies back during the winter season. (Gramineae.)

Streletzia Reginae. Bird-of-Paradise. A small plant having banana-like leaves and a few, very showy, peculiarly shaped flowers in varying shades of deep blue, yellow and red combinations. Fairly well adapted but quite tender to cold. (Musaceae.)

Tricholaena rosea. Natal Grass, Ruby Grass. A native grass which forms small clumps about twelve inches high. It produces numerous, ornamental, rosy-red seed panicles. (Gramineae.)

Xanthosoma bataviensis. Purple-Stem Caladium. Leaves of this plant are somewhat similar to those of the common Elephants-Ear but are thicker and have showy purple stems and veins. This plant is not as hardy or vigorous as the more commonly used type. (Araceae.)

Zebrina pendula (Tradescantia zebrina). Wandering Jew. A prostrate spreading plant having brittle, succulent stems; green and white striped leaves which are purple underneath; and an occasional small, 3-petaled, purplish flower. This plant is useful as a ground cover or window box subject. Well adapted, but too common to be highly desirable. (Commelinaceae.)

*Not grown on the Experiment Station.

Ornamentals for the Rio Grande Valley