Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Weeks are certainly disappearing quick this time of year. So much sunshine, gardening and plants.

As per usual, the last couple weeks have been heavy in plant projects. The heat of the summer awakens the thirst in the plants. Between the garden in the back and the greenhouse at work, I spend most of my time waving around a hose. The plants are voracious in their thirst, and I can’t bare to see them crisp into oblivion. So far so good, but the summer is still underway. In all this watering I spend a lot of time staring at the plants, and some days I’m just down right astonished in how cool some of them are. To keep things simple today I thought I’d highlight three plants that I’m impressed with at the moment. While the Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ bloom their heart out, and Dahlia ‘Bishop of llandlaff’ can’t help but to impress, I thought I’d try to highlight a couple oddities you’re less likely to have blooming right now.

Let’s begin!

Iochroma australis

This rarely grown South American exotic is a real pleasure to grow. Distantly related to a brugmansia, Iochroma has diminutive purple frilled flowers and sticky leaves much like a nicotiana. Unlike it’s brugmansia relative, Iochroma isn’t a spider mite magnet and seems to fair well against this annoying summer pest. Flowering from mid summer until frost, I took my cutting from a specimen planted in a sheltered location outdoors in Victoria. This of course meaning, it’s significantly more hardy then most sources list, the specimen in question must have survived the -16 frost of the winter before last. Having taken a cutting from a tree a little taller then myself, it rooted with ease, and a year later my plant is a foot and a half tall covered in flowers. Honestly it’s a wonder this plant isn’t more commonly available with how easy it is to propagate, and the ease of it’s culture. Regular water, sun to partial shade and some light winter protection and you should have no problem whatsoever. It’s decicucious if left outdoors in the winter, with a little extra drainage and protection from heavy winds you too might be able to grow this plant outdoors in Zone 8.

Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Night Flowering Phlox’ (zal-oo-zee-AN-skee-uh)

What more do you say about a plant like Zaluzianskya capensis then amazing. Another cool plant from South Africa, Zaluzianskya capensis (What were they thinking with that name) is definitely something a different for a gardener who has everything. You might not pay it much mind during the day, but at night Zaluzianskya comes to life. Without seeking it out Zaluzianskya will introduce itself to you. The flowers start to open in the early evening and around 7-8 at night, the smell of candied talcum powder smacks you in the face. The smell is absolutely delicious, and one can’t resist putting their face right in the bush to take a deep sniff. What’s so nice about this plant’s smell is not only how unique it is, but how far it lingers. As the evening moves on, the smell seems to intensify and by midnight the whole patio will be perfumed.  The flowers fold up in the most unusual way, unfurling into snowflaked pinwheels at dusk. Often grown as an annual, I attempted to overwinter mine in the greenhouse with mild success. Truth be told, I let the mother plant die by letting it dry out one winter eve. That being said  I would say this plant does not recover well from neglectful watering. Luckily the plant roots well from tip cuttings and one can ensure a fresh plant by doing so at the end of each season. The plant grows quickly, and is also a heavy seed setter, so you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to procure a specimen. A true conversation piece, for the best effect put it within arms reach from the patio table. It’s great to bring out to show guests between pints and storytelling. If you’re not a plant nerd you haven’t seen this plant, your friends will be amazed.


Tucked amongst an echium fastuosum.

Bomarea edulis

I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this Bomarea edulis from Sacred Succulents earlier this year, but I’m so glad I did. A little off the beaten path with this one, it’s a plant for the geeks. Not to say it isn’t attractive, but more that it’s subtle in it’s beauty. Vigorous and quick growing, the vine started to flower a couple months ago and doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. The flowers come in succession so their are always more on their way. After the flower has been pollinated, the petals fall off and the seed pod enlarges and hangs in a bizarre way. So far I’m as pleased with the effect. The plant requires no special treatment whatsoever, and looks best if planted somewhere it can hang. Rumored to be hardy to -5 C, once I increase my stock I’ll do some more thorough hardiness tests. Upon closer speculation, the delicate flowers hide a world of intricacy. I love the colorful fades of pink and yellow.

Well wasn’t that fun! 2 weeks until BC to California roadtrip. I need a vacation. So. Bad.

Until next time.

7 Responses to Three Rare & Strange Plants

  • Keith says:

    New to your blog and loving it!

    Iochroma australis is a choice plant and I know of an eight metre specimen growing outdoors here in the UK. I’ve got seven seed grown plants (dead easy from seed) which I’m bringing along for outdoor planting. The tallest have reached 170cm since a February sowing, although none have bloomed yet.
    Incidentally, I.cyanea is a beautiful species with a slightly more compact growth habit. Sadly it seems to be the most tender form too.

    Love your Bomarea! I have B.hirtella (which is also easy from seed) and that bloomed within a year of sowing. Grows well in a relatively small (but deep) pot which is ideal bearing in mind the unpredictable UK winters of late.

  • Dorothy McWatters says:

    Love your website and articles. I am very interested in your comments about the hardiness of Iochroma. I have overwintered mine in the house but right now it is out on the deck blooming madly. If it wasn’t so hard to replace I might take the risk of putting it out doors. I am afraid I cannot remember where I purchased it but probably in Vancouver area. ? Phoenix Pereenials ? Amsterdam Nurseries

  • Tom says:

    I’ve always wanted I. australis. I’ve got a gorgeous deep pink I. cyaneum but I like the blooms of australis better. One day I’ll find one for sale (in person… I don’t know why but I can’t bring myself to buy one online)

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
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