9 Unusual Flowers for the Garden

Roses, marigolds, and impatiens are beautiful but overdone when it comes to flower gardens. It might just be time to branch out to add some unusual garden plants.

Unlike many rare items that hobbyists seek, you don't need a fat wallet to add uncommon flowering specimens to your garden collection. Many unusual flowers are not only inexpensive but just as easy to grow as grandma's zinnias

  • 01 of 09

    Bat Flower

    Bat flower

     

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    The bat flower (Tacca chantieri) hails from the jungle but can thrive in your patio container garden. One tuber of this dramatic tropical plant, which got its name from its resemblance to the winged creature, can grow as tall as 3 feet, so give it a large flowerpot to reach its potential. If it's in a smaller pot, you'll likely have to replant it every year as it grows.

    Keep the plant in filtered shade, planted in soil that remains moist but not soggy. This plant loves humidity as much as it hates the cold. If you find yourself reaching for a sweater, it’s time to bring the plant indoors.

  • 02 of 09

    Snail Vine

    A close-up of snail vine

     Domenica Crea/flickr/CC By 2.0

    Easy to germinate and easy to grow, even beginning flower gardeners will succeed with the snail vine, also known as the corkscrew vine (vigna caracalla). It's a fragrant, pale, and delicate flower with petals that spiral in the shape of a snail shell.

    Plant the seeds in a sunny spot in average soil, and wait six weeks or less for the fragrant and delicate pink flowers to appear. The hotter your summer, the happier and more robust your vine will grow, leaping to 25 feet if you’ll let it.

  • 03 of 09

    Glorybower

    Harlequin glorybower

     

    Roberto_Pighin/Getty Images 

    A genus of colorful flowering plants, glorybowers (also known as bagflowers and bleeding-hearts) is a half-hardy shrub that can grow as tall as 12 feet in the ground where winter temperatures don’t dip below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (zone 7). In colder regions, the slow-growing plant adapts well to container culture.

    Whether in the ground or a container, keep the plant moist and provide it with at least a half day of sun. If you prefer vining plants, look for clerodendron thomsoniae, the bleeding heart vine.

  • 04 of 09

    Guinea Hen Flowers

    A snake's head fritillary
    Robert Pickett/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

    The Fritillaria genus encompasses some interesting and unusual specimens, but none quite as curious as the checkered Fritillaria meleagris variety. Although these flowers, native to the grassy meadows of Europe, have been around since the 16th century, they haven’t developed the following that other spring bulbs have.

    The flowers are noted for their drooping blooms that straighten upright when pollinated. Guinea hen flowers are hardy in zones 3 to 8. Grow these petite flowers at the front of the border to admire their pattern up close, or better yet, force the bulbs indoors.

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  • 05 of 09

    Hoya

    A hoya flower
    tanjica perovic photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

    In nature, the hoya plant, also known as a wax plant, is epiphytic and lives as a non-parasitic partner nestled in a tree branch or bark crevice. It's a low-maintenance tropical flower that's fragrant and delicately beautiful.

    Hoya plants, which grow in ball-shaped clusters, can be trained as a vine and grows between 2 and 4 feet. Provide your hoya with a sharply draining soil mix, like an orchid potting mix, and mist the plant regularly. Hoyas like a sheltered spot that never gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • 06 of 09

    Gold Finger

    Goldfinger flowers

     

    passion4nature/Getty Images 

    Hummingbirds flock to bright tubular shaped flowers like the gold finger (Juanulloa aurantiaca). It's a tropical plant that may bloom year-round in frost-free regions, as long as it has a good amount of light. If there's not enough light, gold fingers will enter dormancy and drop leaves. You can grow the plant as a small vine or train it as a shrub, as it will grow to just 4 feet by 4 feet in size.

  • 07 of 09

    Lady's Slipper

    Lady's slipper

     

    Sergey Bugrov/Getty Images 

    It's easy to see why the lady's slipper captivates plant collectors worldwide. Plants resemble orchids yet are fully hardy, particularly in zone 4, and thrive in shady gardens. However, gardeners must be responsible about adding the endangered Cypripedium to the garden, and purchase only those propagated by nurseries, and never those collected from the wild. 

    Moisture, dappled shade, and an undisturbed location are important for these woodland plants. Humus from decaying matter in the soil is all the fertilizer lady's slippers ever need, as chemical fertilizers may lead to plant death. 

  • 08 of 09

    Red Button Ginger

    Close-up of a red button ginger

     KieselUndStein/Getty Images

    Like many tropical plants, red button ginger (Costus woodsonii) thrives in filtered sunlight. The plants may grow up to 4 feet tall in the ground, and about half that size as a container specimen. Unusual yellow flowers emerge sporadically from the showy red cones, and if you can bear to pick them, they are edible.

    Although red button ginger is a tropical plant, it will bounce back after light frosts. It can even grow back from the roots after a hard freeze. Its bright red-orange, waxy blossoms make for a stunning addition to a container or yard garden.

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  • 09 of 09

    Sensitive Plant

    A close-up of the sensitive plant

     shizhao/flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    The sensitive plant (also known as the humble plant but is scientifically known as Mimosa pudica) never fails to fascinate children and adults alike because of how it responds to being touched. The scientific name for the remarkable reaction of these plants to touch is “seismonastic movements,” and the drooping of this plant as you stroke it with your finger isn’t subtle. In fact, people once thought the Mimosa pudica contained animal-like nerves and muscles.

    The sensitive plant is a container-friendly 1 foot tall, but is considered an invasive weed in many other parts of the country. Therefore, you shouldn't plant it in a garden in an area that it could spread and invade the growing territory of native plants. As the plant matures, it will form small pink blossoms. Sensitive plants do best in sunny locations in temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.