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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.
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.
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.
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections.
While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.
Arborvitae will flourish where no other evergreen does, spreading a lush screen of fan-like foliage that provides privacy and gives winter shelter to the birds. For garden sculptors, arborvitae offers just the right texture and growth habit for topiaries. Many dwarf varieties are available as fillers and vertical accents for smaller gardens. Arborvitae prospers in deeply cultivated, moist and fertile soil in full sun.
Barberry paints the landscape with arching, fine-textured branches of purple-red or chartreuse foliage. In fall, leaves brighten to reddish orange and spikes of red berries appear like sparklers as the foliage drops. The mounding habit of barberries makes for graceful hedging and barriers, and the thorns protect privacy.
Japanese barberry is considered an invasive plant in the Eastern U.S. and the species is banned from cultivation in some places, so check local restrictions before planting.
It's easy to see the origin of bleeding heart's common name when you get a look at its heart-shape pink or white blooms with a protruding tip at the base of the heart. To grow bleeding heart, plant them in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Some types of bleeding heart bloom only in spring and others bloom spring, summer, and fall, provided temperatures aren't too high.
A tough shrub for challenging sites, bush poppy adds a sunny splash of yellow to dry, quick-draining planting areas. Covered with 2-inch-wide flowers from March through June, it is native to California and will quickly reach 6 feet tall in about two years. When not blooming, bush poppy's gray-green leaves provide pleasing texture and form in the garden. Plant bush poppy in full sun or part shade in well-drained soil. It does not tolerate clay well. Do not fertilize bush poppy. It grows and flowers best when it is lean on nutrients.
Although your garden visitors may not believe you, this horticultural kaleidoscope is only one rosebush -- even though it blooms in three colors and varying shades thereof all at once. New foliage and bud sheaths are a coppery-bronze, and the established foliage is clean green and shiny to boot. And adaptability? The butterfly rose is disease-resistant, shrugs off humidity, and grows taller the more shelter it is given. This arching shrub is at its best covering a wall or tall fence, with its splayed, wrinkled petals flitting in a soft breeze. Spiffy, huh? That said, one proviso -- this is most certainly not the hardiest rose in the galazy. Mutabilis is almost exclusively a southern or western beauty.
Here's how the petal coloring works: At first a vivid orange, the buds open to a honey yellow, then the next day, after pollination, they become pale pink, deepening in the following day or two to nearly crimson.
This native plant is blanketed with showy yellow blossoms in spring. Notably drought-tolerant, California flannel bush thrives in hot, dry climates and fast-draining soil. It has a somewhat wayward growth habit, sending out a mix of long and short fast-growing shoots. What it lacks in form and outline, it makes up for in flowering when it explodes with color in spring. Trim the tips of overly long shoots to promote branching, and remove lower branches to create a tree form. California flannel bush is a great shrub for hillsides, mixed borders, and rock gardens. Quick-draining soil is a must.
The attractive, easy-care silver foliage of this low-growing plant is reason enough to make room for it in the garden. The sulfur-yellow daisylike flowers that decorate it for weeks throughout summer are a bonus. Growing just 30 inches tall and slightly wider, it forms a dense mound of foliage when young, and it has a more open habit as it ages. Canary Island daisy is not a particularly long-lived plant -- expect it to thrive for three to five years. It grows best in full sun and fast-draining soil. Water sparingly.
Cannas bring tropical splendor to gardens in all regions. These bold plants feature clustered, flaglike blooms in a brilliant color array on tall stems. Recent flower breeding has created canna foliage that is even showier than the petals, with variegated leaf combinations of orange, yellow, and greens that glow in the summer sun. Dwarf cannas are also available for container gardening and other small spaces. Cannas are usually grown from tuberous roots but some newer varieties can also be raised from seed, with flowering guaranteed for the first year.
Cannas provide architectural interest in summer borders and they also flourish along the damp margins of a pond. If you garden in a climate colder than Zone 9 (7 for the hardier types of cannas), you'll need to dig canna plants up and store them bareroot for the next season or overwinter potted specimens indoors. A destructive mottling virus has threatened canna stock in nurseries across the U.S., so be sure to buy your plants from a reputable source.
Native to the desert Southwest, desert marigold explodes with bright yellow flowers in early spring and continues unfurling blossoms until midsummer. This self-seeding perennial has a somewhat floppy shape. It demands good drainage and requires little or no supplemental water. For best results, plant desert marigold in full sun and fast-draining soil.
Commonly called dog-tooth violet, erythronium is so named for its corms, which are shaped like the tooth of a dog. Growing in clumps, the lily-shape blooms have six petals with showy stamens and are surrounded by attractive dappled foliage. The slightly nodding blooms come in yellow, white, and lilac, and last for two weeks. Suited to growing in light shade, erythronium is at home in a woodland, as a landscape underplanting, or in a border.
Plant erythronium in late summer or early fall in well-drained soil that has been amended with sphagnum peat moss and compost. Plant corms 2-3 inches deep, spacing them 4-6 inches apart. Because erythronium does well in light shade, plant it in shaded areas under trees and shrubs or in woodlands.
To propagate, dig up and remove small bulbs and replant in other areas. Erythronium is not bothered by rodents.
Elders are attractive shrubs that offer several seasons of color thanks to their clusters of spring or summertime flowers, attractive foliage, and fruits that attract birds. In fact, black elder, also called elderberry, produces fruits that are edible to people.
The shrubs are easy to grow, thriving in a variety of soil types, including wet areas. They seem to do equally well in full sun and part shade.
Highly ornamental shrubs that feature mottled bark and attractive winged fruits or showy foliage and white berries, varieties of euonymus can climb as vines or form small trees or low-mounding shrubs. The wintercreepers offer the most dramatic foliage, usually variegated white and green or gold and green. White berries persist on the plants through the winter, enticing resident birds. For fall color, the burning bush sets the standard for flaming foliage among shrubs. Euonymus in all its forms appreciates a fertile, moist soil that's well drained.
Note: Some euonymus varieties are considered invasive pests in some regions; check local restrictions before planting them. Others, such as eastern wahoo, are native to North America.
A delicate appearance -- thanks to feathery cassia's needlelike foliage and branching structure -- might make you think this desert plant requires special care, but that's hardly the case. It survives on just two deep irrigations or rains a year and thrives when watered about every other month. In fact, too much water is detrimental, changing the plant's rounded, upright form to floppy and lackluster.
Feathery cassia is covered with blooms from winter through spring. The pealike yellow flowers are followed by papery seedpods. Plant feathery cassia in mixed borders, foundation plantings, and curbside areas where the soil is dry and the plant receives full sun.
Count on this neat and tidy evergreen shrub to explode with color in late winter and early spring, when much of the landscape is taking a break from flowering and green is the dominant hue. The candy-corn-color blossoms of firecracker flower are a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds. Growing just 2-4 feet tall and wide, firecracker flower is a great choice for an entryway garden or a planting near a patio or other small space. Be sure to place it where you can glimpse the winged visitors that stop by for a sip of nectar.
Firecracker flower grows well in full sun or shade and well-drained soil. In exceptionally hot climates, plant it where it will receive afternoon shade. For best bloom, give plants about an inch of water per week.
A diverse group of plants -- ranging from ground-hugging evergreen shrubs to stately trees -- grevilleas are beloved for their spidery blooms that have a pleasing, sweet fragrance. These subtropical and tropical shrubs and trees sport a variety of foliage forms. Species with needlelike foliage are especially useful for adding interest to a planting of palms or other tropical plants with big leaves. Broad-leaf grevilleas are a welcome addition to any planting area. Grevillea foliage color ranges from yellow-green to medium and dark green. Bloom colors include white, pink, yellow, and orange.
Grevillea grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. Most varieties succumb to frost. If frost is a threat, plant grevillea near a building for protection. Be careful not to overwater. Watering in summer is especially detrimental. Water sparingly in fall, winter, and spring. Nature will provide most of the water grevillea needs.