Large leaf plants bring a tropical look to the garden. Large leaves with rich texture and deep lobes add interest to the garden, even when the plants aren’t in bloom. In general, large leaf plants perform well in shady areas because a large leaf has more exposed surface area to perform photosynthesis, so it can get the job done with less light.
Delavy Incarvillea - Delavy incarvillea (Incarvillea delavayi), also called hardy gloxinia, has 12-inch leaves that form a large rosette. Flower stalks emerge from the center of the rosettes in late spring and grow to a height of 24 to 36 inches. Deep rose or purplish flowers bloom in a cluster at the top of the flower stem. The 3-inch, trumpet-shaped flowers that resemble large gloxinias are followed by elongated, beak-shaped seed pods. Delavy incarvillea needs a rich, moist, well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade. The plants need no special care except for a deep mulch in winter in Zones 5 and 6 to protect from hard freezes. Delavy incarvillea is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Zones 5 to 9. You can grow it in cooler zones and dig the roots for storage indoors over winter.
Fatsia - Fatsia (Fatsia japonica) has 12-inch, deeply lobed leaves that give the plant a tropical appearance. The plant grows up to 8 feet tall with a spread of up to 4 feet. It produces clusters of small white flowers in fall, but the flowers aren't particularly showy, and fatsia is grown primarily for the attractive foliage. The flowers are followed by fleshy black fruit. Fatsia needs an organically rich, slightly acid soil and full or partial shade. Fertilize regularly and keep the soil moist. If the plant begins to tilt to one side, prune to remove some of the heavy branches and encourage branching. Fatsia is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10. In Zone 7, plant fatsia in an area protected from strong winds and mulch heavily over winter.
Hosta - Hostas offer a wide variety of foliage color and texture. Although they produce white or lavender flowers in summer, they are grown primarily for their rich foliage. Plant size varies from 3-inch dwarfs to 4-foot giants. The width is usually about twice the height. Hostas grow best in partial shade and a soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter. These low-maintenance plants don't need a lot of fuss, but they appreciate occasional sidedressing with compost and a layer of organic mulch, especially in winter when tender roots may need extra protection. The hardiness varies with the species, but most are safe in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Caladiums - Caladiums produce colorful, heart- or arrowhead-shaped leaves up to 14 inches long. Depending on the variety, calaladium leaves are streaked or spotted with white, grey, pink or red. Grow caladiums directly in the ground or plant them in pots to make it easy to bring the plant indoors for winter. Caladiums need partial or full shade and a rich, organic, well-drained soil. Water deeply two or three times a week, and apply mulch to help the soil retain moisture. Dig caladiums for storage indoors in all but frost-free areas.