This Friday, we check out some plants with bracts. A ‘bract’ is a modified leaf whose shape and pigment differ such that they are often mistaken for the plants’ petals. But because they are leaves, bracts tend to persist longer than most flowers, meaning color for longer periods throughout the year. Here are a few selections to try in your garden.
1. Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ The name flowering oregano is a bit of a misnomer, as the gorgeous pink and chartreuse blooms seen here are, of course, bracts. Look closer and you can make out the small pink flowers hidden within.
2. Justicia brandegeana ‘Red Shrimp Plant’ Named because it’s arching red bracts look like the shell of a certain crustacean, this plant is native to Mexico and takes full sun with average water. Similar plants include J. brandegeana ‘Fruit Cocktail’, which has chartreuse bracts and protruding pink flowers, and J. lutea, with more erect, golden-colored bracts.
3. Bougainvillea A genus of flowering shrubs known for their showy bracts, there are over 75 different cultivars in colors as diverse as white, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple and even bicolored varieties. Hardy, drought-tolerant plants that take full sun and can be shrublike, vining or even trained into standards.
4. Cornus florida As with the oregano, ‘flowering’ dogwood is appreciated for its iconic bracts, whose pink and white color palette is beloved by those who grew up in the Eastern United States.
5. Euphorbia pulcherrima Better know as poinsettia, this plant is the poster child for big, bold bracts. Like all euphorbias, its flowers are inconspicuous. In its wild form, poinsettia is red, but this Christmastime favorite now comes in a wide range of various colors and forms, including ruffled.