March 25, 2010

10 New Far-From-Ordinary Plants for Collectors

Today, it's hard to find anything new, but I think I've compiled a list of some plants that are not only new to me, but hopefully will be new to you. So, I share, but please don't order until I do!

Sinningia sp lbiticoa
Yes, a new Gesneriad, but this is no ordinary relative of the African Violet and Gloxinia, this is a Gloxinia with cache. Clusters of deep purple nodding flowers, broad light green leaves. Dormant in winter, this is a fine addition to a shaded breezeway, a porch or a shaded summer greenhouse collection. It is native to Brazil. From Kartuz Greenhouses.

Paliavana prasinata
An unusual gesneriad from southern Brazil. This evergreen shrub to 7 feet is closely related to Sinningia, but does not produce tubers. The large, waxy campanulate clear green flowers are speckled with purple. Pollinated by bats, which are attracted to its abundant nectar and strong odor. Needs bright light to bloom freely. Although drought tolerant, it should be watered frequently while actively growing. By keeping potbound, it can be brought into bloom at a small size. Grow outdoors in mild climates. Available from Kartuz Greenhouses.

Scyphanthus elegans
Hey plant geeks! Over here! Uber cheery glowing yellow flowers smother this delicate vine when it is blooming at full tilt. It is both a “must-see” & a “must-have” for folks who love things rare & strange. First brought in cultivation in 1824, but seen very little since - we've brought this rare & fascinating climber from Chile back into our gardens, & find it to be a fascinating little plant. Each cup-shaped flower measures around 1”, with intricate architecture, including shiny mahogany-red floral structures. Produces copious amounts of flowers through several months or even more (start date depends on when it is planted) it climbs or scrambles from 3-8'. Plant it at the base of a shrub & let it climb through, or on a trellis as its own show-piece. Some of this plant's relatives are cloaked in stinging hairs. This one is friendlier – no stings & we're so glad! Try in a hanging basket, pots, or the ground. Yes, from Annies.

Calceolaria arachnoidea
“Capachito Morado”
Freaky flowers & fuzzy leaves make this Chilean perennial a total must-have. Plus, it’s easy to grow – it just needs regular water in average to rich soil & good light. Blooms first year from seed & is most stunning – the flowers can range in color, but are sometimes almost black, & are of course nicely contrasted with the white foliage, which is densely “webbed” & soft to the touch. The foliage grows 4” high by a foot or more wide, & is topped in Summer by heaps of half inch “pocketbook” flowers that are borne in clusters of 4 or more on 2’ stems. Cut back almost to the base after bloom, & side dress with compost. Stays evergreen (everwhite?) in winter. From Annies Annuals.

Iochroma cyanum

Iochroma 'Frosty Plum'

Iochroma fuchioides

Iochroma 'Plum Beauty'

Iochroma 'Sunset'

Iochroma are not rare, but they are unusual enough to raise even the eyebrows of a horticulturist, for they are harder to find beyond the blue form of Iochrona cyanum ( which still, is not ALL that easy to find). Grown in pots and tubs on the deck, Iochroma's are spectacular in bloom, though usually only seen at Botanic Gardens. These are certianly growable in your yard,in a container or treated as a summer temperennial. Now, they come in a full range of colors. Here, available from Kartuz Greenhouses.

Bomarea species from Telos Rare Bulbs
I've been looking at these tropical jewels for some time now, and finally think that it is time to add some species to my collection. Bomareas are tuberous rooted climbers that grow in South America and Central America. They can be found from Mexico to Patagonia, and are related to Alstroemerias. The dense flower trusses appear at the end of growing shoots, and they can be grown in containers much in the same way Altroemerias are. Hummingbird magnets in the summer, they are available from Telos Rare Bulbs, and sometimes on eBay.

Psoralea fleta
“Weeping Blue Broom”
The amazing blue pea shrub, available from Annies Annuals. She says: Oh my gosh, little did we realize when we trialed the seed of this obscure South African Psoralea that we would cause such horticultural pandemonium! Pandemonium because that incognito little seed quickly grew into a beautiful small tree, that, as it began to bloom, had everyone’s lust-o-meter spinning off the dial! Large Wisteria-like panicles (to 12” long) of large 1” lavender white Sweet Pea flowers permeate the air to quite a distance with a sweet & wistful grape soda fragrance – far more fragrant than Psoralea pinnata. They are so beautiful & appear so profusely (woo-hoo!) from early to mid-Summer – they’ll stop everyone in their tracks! Multiple trunked & only 12’ tall, “Weeping Blue Broom” makes a magical specimen tree for a small garden. So appealing, too, even when it’s not in bloom with its graceful arching branches & unusual long threadlike blue-green leafless foliage. Fast & super easy, it should bloom by its second year requiring only well-drained soil & an annual bit of compost.

Arthropodium cirratum “Renga Lily”
From New Zealand comes this adaptable & appealing Lily used widely there as a groundcover for dry shade & under trees. A mass in bloom is quite breathtaking. Forming rather large clumps (3’ x 3’) of broad, medium green, arching foliage, it bears graceful, airy sprays of lovely, white, star-flowers on 3’ stems from Spring to mid-Summer. The flowers have purple & yellow stamens which curl at the end. Thrives almost anywhere in bright shade, but do bait for snails. Tolerates coastal winds. Good cut flower. Hardy to 15 degrees F. Also, available from Annies.

Eucrosia mirabilis, Eucrosia bicolor
Eucrosia are bulbs that have been on my wish list for a loooooooong time. They are a small genus of bulbs that are mostly native to Peru and Ecuador, where they grow in mountain
forests that experience seasonal dry periods. They are unusual in having extremely long stamens,
sometimes protruding from the flower tube by as much as five or six inches. The neat, symmetrical
arrangement of the umbel, with the flowers evenly spaced all around the stem, together with the lacy
protruding stamens give Eucrosis a most exotic and unusual appearance. Given warm conditions, these
bulbs are not hard to grow, but they do require greenhouse conditions in areas with cool or cold winters.
Available from Telos Rare Bulbs

Podophyllum veitchii
After hearing plant breeder and friend Darrell Probst talk about this plant at last weeks NARGS Eastern Winter Study Weekend, I MUST have it, and so, here it is, all $45.00 worth. Available from Asiatica.com. while supplies last!
This Chinese mayapple is one of most exciting new shade perennials in years. Fuzzy umbrellas emerge with dark snakeskin markings, often on a red background, changing to patterned green. Flowers can be red, pink, or white. Also called Podophyllum delavayi or Dysosma. Thrives in rich, well-drained soil in light to moderate shade. Not eaten by critters or deer. USDA Zones 5b-8.


  1. Matt,
    Your post lives up to the hype of your new header! Great pictures and thanks for the sources. I am looking forward to seeing your display at the Boston Flwer Show on Sunday.

  2. Hey Matt,
    What a wonderful list. Is the Sinningia one of those with a caudex? This all makes me want to polish up my 'Plant Geek' button and get ready for the next Gesnneriad Show.


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