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Hailing from South Africa, Leucadendron 'Red Gem' has an unusual appearance that makes it right at home in a mixed shrub or perennial border in a mild-climate garden. The bushy shrub has green leaves with a section of red near the leaf tips. The leaves take on a bronze appearance in late fall, and striking red-and-yellow flowers decorate the tops of the stems in winter and spring. The flowers are excellent for cutting.
Leucadendron 'Red Gem' grows well in sun and well-drained soil. It tolerates drought with ease after a strong root system is established.
African daisy has a bold, graphic look that's hard to find in more common daisies. Flowers are big, up to 4 inches across, often with interesting, eyelike markings around the flower's center.
This cool-season plant hails from South Africa. In areas where summers aren't hot, such as the Northern regions of the U.S. and the Pacific Northwest, it will bloom constantly until frost. In warm-summer areas, it often takes a break during the peak of summer, but reblooms in fall. Many types have silvery-green leaves that remain attractive when the plant isn't in bloom. It's usually grown as an annual but is a perennial in frost-free climates.
There's nothing subtle about an African marigold, and thank goodness for that! It's a big, flamboyant, colorful punch of color for the sunny bed, border, or large container. Most are yellow, orange, or cream. Plants get up to 3 feet tall and produce huge 3-inch puffball blooms while dwarf varieties get just 1 foot tall. The mounded dark green foliage is always clean, fresh, and tidy. Grow them in a warm, sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil all summer long.
African violet care is incredibly easy. African violets are easy-to-grow, rewarding houseplants. They bloom well with lower light than most other blooming plants, although they will perform better with medium to bright, indirect light. All bear clusters of purple, pink, white, rose, or lavender flowers over fuzzy leaves. African violet flowers may be single, double, ruffled, or edged in an accent color. African violets thrive in warm conditions (65 degrees F or warmer), although newer varieties tolerate cooler conditions. Keep the soil evenly moist, and water from the bottom to prevent leaf browning from water spots.
Agapanthus is a landscape staple in warm-winter regions, and it's no wonder why. This easy-to-grow perennial produces colorful globes of blue or white trumpet-shape flowers in summer and fall. Its evergreen strappy leaves add texture to beds, borders, and containers.
Agapanthus blooms best in a spot where it gets full sun and has moist, well-drained soil. Divide it every three to four years to keep clumps healthy and vigorous.
If you live in a cool-winter area, you can overwinter agapanthus in containers by bringing the pots to a cool (around 40 degrees F) spot and watering them only once a month or so. In spring, move the containers back outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Potted agapanthus is said to bloom best when slightly root-bound.
Among the most architectural plants, agaves feature bold succulent leaves that set the tone for wherever they're planted. They're incredibly heat- and drought-tolerant and most are long-lived. Many varieties bear sharp spines along leave margins and at the leaf tip, which adds to their dramatic presentation. The bluish-green rosettes naturally spread by producing offsets at the base of the plant. It is an excellent choice for sunny, hot, dry areas, especially desert regions, with good drainage.
Ageratum is such a little workhorse that nearly every garden should have some. This annual is an easy-to-grow, old-fashioned favorite that produces a steady show of colorful powder-pufflike flowers from late spring through frost. It's also rarely bothered by pests, so you count on it to look good. Plus, it provides some of the truest blues you can find in flowers -- a rare thing.
Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant in groups of a dozen or more for best show. Deadhead and fertilize regularly for best blooms.
Ajuga is one of the most indispensable groundcovers around. It has many uses and looks great much of the year.
Also known as carpetweed or bugleweed, ajuga forms a 6-inch-tall mat of glossy leaves that always seem to look neat and fresh. In many cases, the leaves are colored with shades of purple, white, silver, cream, or pink. Individual plants grow as a rosette, but they intertwine to form a solid carpet that withstands some foot traffic. Blue, lavender, pink, or white flower spikes adorn plants spring to early summer.
Ajuga is great in rock gardens, in the front of beds and borders, under leggy shrubs or small trees, along paths, and just about any other place in the landscape you want to cover the ground with attractive foliage and little flowers.
Though akebia has beautiful purple or white flowers that smell of chocolate, it's really the beautiful foliage that makes this lovely vine worth growing. The blue-green leaves are divided into leaflets, giving it a wonderfully soft texture as it scales walls, pergolas, and other structures. Give it a sturdy support -- akebia can get to be big at maturity and may crush small structures.
If the flowers are pollinated, akebia may produce edible, sausage-shaped fruits -- but the vines usually need a different variety planted nearby to produce the fruits.
Alliums may be in the onion family, but these top-notch garden plants are anything but utilitarian vegetable-garden residents. Among the most carefree bulbs you can grow, alliums bloom in a wide range of colors (including shades of yellow, white, pink, and purple), seasons, and sizes (from inch-wide heads to volleyball-sized bloom clusters).
Alliums offer whimsical structures and great textural contrasts unique to the late-spring bulb garden. Clustered florets in a globe-shape flower head are held aloft on a thick stem. In the species, loose bouquets of flowers sprout from clustered, hollow stems. The larger allium flower heads are fun focal points for dried arrangements. Plant alliums in any well-drained garden soil in full sun. The smaller types are especially well suited for growing in rock gardens. Plant a few larger hybrids in a pot for a flowering surprise in early summer.
An elegant tree or large shrub for tropical regions, Michelia 'Allspice' will form a striking privacy hedge or backdrop for an annual or perennial border. Fuzzy, copper-color flower buds open in spring and summer to reveal richly fragrant white blossoms that resemble magnolia flowers. The cup-shape flowers have a sweet banana scent and continue to open from time to time throughout summer. Glossy green leaves and a pyramidal form give Michelia 'Allspice' pleasing texture and shape in the landscape.
Plant Michelia in sun or part sun and moist, well-drained soil. Water regularly after planting to establish a deep, extensive root system.
The spiky green foliage of aloe vera is splotched in white and contains a gel-like sap often used to soothe burns and moisturize skin. This succulent perennial herb is at home in frost-free, sunny, well-drained sites. Native to hot, dry regions of Africa, it has been traced to early Egypt, where it was used for its healing properties. Aloe makes a great houseplant, especially in colder Zones where it cannot be grown outdoors all year. Aloe vera is also sometimes called Barbados aloe and true aloe.
Alstroemerias are best known as cut flowers, where their rich colors and lovely veining grace many a vase, where they'll last for as long as two weeks. But they can also be grown in the garden, where they do best in light, well-drained soil. They bloom freely through the summer and come in almost all shades of the rainbow except true blue.
Where they're perennials, in the warmest parts of the country, deadhead flowers when they are done blooming to prevent them from spreading too much by seed.
Grow something a little different this year and try amaranth. It will likely grow taller than you and produce stunning, large reddish to gold flowers. It's almost worth growing just for the flowers alone.
Vegetable amaranth produces coleuslike green leaves overlaid with burgundy patches. Use the tender young leaves in salads and stir-fries as you would to spinach. The leaves have a nutty, tangy flavor so are best mixed with other greens. The seeds are a favorite of nutrition-conscious cooks, especially vegetarians, who like its high protein and fiber content. The seeds, which are produced in abundance, can be used as a cereal, ground into flour, popped, toasted, or cooked with other grains.
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) is probably the best-known amaranth and for good reason -- it's a showstopper. The plant can hit up to 5 feet, but what's amazing is its dripping, tassellike red flowers, which look like no other.
Another type of amaranth, Joseph's coat, has showy, almost gaudily marked leaves in greens, golds, purples, and pinks.
It can be difficult to find love-lies-bleeding in garden centers as established seedlings, so start them from seed directly in the soil. Joseph's coat is usually easier to find as an established plant.
Amaryllis is an easy bulb to grow. Its enormous cluster of trumpet-shape blooms may require staking to keep them upright, but blooms may last for up to 6 weeks. Keep the plant cool (60-65 degrees F) while in bloom but slightly warmer at other times when it is actively growing. It needs bright light and evenly moist soil, except when it is dormant. Force the bulb to go dormant in late summer or early fall by withholding water and placing it in a cool, dry location for a couple of months. Resume watering and move it to a warm spot to force new growth.
Truly a plant to wow your friends and neighbors, Amazon lily is nothing short of magnificent. In a large pond, this plant's leaves can reach 6 feet across and are covered in spiny prickles. The flowers, which appear in summer, start as thorn-covered green buds that open to large white masterpieces that fade pink. The blooms have the fragrance of ripe pineapple.
An adaptable tree sadly overlooked by gardeners, hornbeam is a slow-growing small tree with strong wood. In fall, the foliage turns shades of yellow, orange, and red; in winter, the fluted texture of the bark gives hornbeam one of its other common names: musclewood.
Hornbeam thrives in full sun or partial shade, and its small size makes it useful for growing in parking strips or other tight spaces. Native to areas of North America, it can be grown with a single trunk or a clump of smaller trunks; it develops a rounded shape.
American persimmon is a tall shade tree that's sadly underused in gardens. It features dark green foliage that often develops yellow or red tones in fall. Older trees have distinctive bark that almost looks scaly, as though it's covered in small silvery plates.
Male and female flowers appear on separate plants; the female trees produce an edible fruit if there's a male nearby for pollination. The fruits are also great for attracting birds.
American persimmon does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. But it tolerates drought fairly well.
A drought-tolerant tree with fragrant flowers is a challenge to come by, but Anacacho orchid tree is up for the challenge. Native to Texas and New Mexico, this plant thrives in lean, fast-draining soil and is decorated with sweetly fragrant white flowers that resemble orchids in spring. It has an open, thin growth habit in shade but will form a denser canopy that can be useful for privacy if planted in full sun. It's an excellent tree for xeric landscapes and offers great deer resistance to boot.