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10 Unusual Perennials

I am always on the lookout for unusual perennials. How many times do you go to the local nursery or home improvement stores and see the same plants every season? The tried and true are always nice but sometimes I like to try a new plant I’ve never seen or heard of before.

Most of these plants I found at a local gardening association plant sale. Some were given to me by friends or relatives. One is pretty much a weed that I pulled from the woodland edge.

Everywhere I go, my eyes are out for something interesting. I’ve actually seen most of them available online but I have no experience with online nurseries so I can’t advise on that at this time.  Apparently they are fine for getting what you want because there are many online plant sites that have been around for a long time.

I’ve had all these plants for more than two seasons, and some longer. They are established in an 8b zone in Southern Alabama. Some die back to the ground every year but have managed to come back the following Spring.

So without Further Ado…

Passion flower, unusual perennial


Passionflower is a fabulous climbing vine with an exotic, out of this world looking flower that has a distinct fragrance. It’s hard to describe. Fruity, perfumey, earthy all come to mind.

The vines will grow a good 20 feet long and will easily cover a fence in one growing season after being pruned to the ground in winter.

They are also the Host plant to the Gulf Fritillary butterfly and will attract them from miles away. They caterpillars will eat them down until nothing but  the vine is left  in early August but mine have fully recovered and are blooming again here in October. This vine will  thrive in extreme full sun with zero care once it gets going.

unusual perennials

Brazilian Plume

The Brazilian Plume also goes by the name King’s Crown . Plume seems more fitting with the dazzling feather like display of petals.

Brazilian Plume prefers a good shade but will also do well in part sun. I wouldn’t suggest more than 6 hours a day. Mine blooms just fine and it stays in the shade most of the day.

When the flowers are done blooming , break them off for more blooms! It does not get very big though. About two feet tall is as big as mine has grown in about 3 years.

toad lily, unusual perennial

Toad Lily

Toad Lilies are the newest addition to my garden. They need a constantly moist area to do well.

 I added some peat moss to the soil to keep it moist for extended periods of time when I am not watering everything.  I only have one plant but I hope to add more because they seem to be doing really well, at least for now.

Definitely full shade. They grow 2 to 3 feet tall and totally resemble an orchid but are totally opposites in their water requirement.

lion's ear, unusual perennial

Lion’s Ear

  This plant has been one of my favorites. I got it at a flower show and have never seen one anywhere else since. The picture i have doesn’t do it justice.

The unusual shape of the bright orange fuzzy petals do resemble lion’s ears with a bit of imagination.

 It is supposed to get about 5 feet tall and wide but the biggest i’ve had yet is about 3 by 3.  Butterflies and hummingbirds love it and I know I can’t get enough of it myself

firespike, unusual perennials


These tropical looking plants bloom in the Fall starting around October.  They are about 4ft tall and will have several stems coming out of the ground and fill an area about as wide eventually.

I have had great luck propagating these beautiful plants and plan on filling an entire wall with them making as many as I possibly can.

 A hard freeze will burn them to the ground but all of mine have come back and a few months growth will have your bed looking wonderful again.

Indian Pink

This is another one I purchased at a Native Plant Sale. It is a long lived perennial that brings vibrant color to the garden. It forms a small clump about 2 feet wide and tall. 

It does well in the shade or part shade. Works well as a perennial border plant. Hummingbird’s love this too.  It is pretty drought tolerant, but in the wild, it is found near stream bed’s and seems to do well in moist or dry soil.

Gloriosa lily, unusual perennial

Gloriosa Lily 

I don’t think I need to write anything here. This is probably one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see. Got some tubers from a friend  and was lucky enough to have them flower after several failed attempts.

The tubers will multiply and create more flowers. The need a trellis to climb up because they have a very tall segmented stem. The leaves have tiny tendrils on them that will grab things to cling to like a vine. 

In my experience, they love a very very dry growing medium. The ones I have are growing well in a pot of soil conditioner (ground up bark).

ageratum, mist flower, unusual perennial


Ok , so this is what most consider a weed. During October, you’ll see loads of this growing on the side of the road in the edge of the woods.

It looks just as good or better than some plants you’ll find in a nursery. It’s free  !  When you transplant, make sure to get some younger plants. Dig up plenty of dirt with it, although it has extremely shallow root systems. 

It grows well in most any soil and will thrive in shade or sun, very versatile. I havent heard of it being invasive but I love the way it looks mixed in with the Golden Rods all around the border of my property.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Plant

This plant is also unbelievable.  It flowers like crazy in the early spring.  The flowers start off deep purple, then fade to lilac, then to white, hence the name. It takes them a couple days, so you will have all these different colors on the plant at one time. It smells amazing. The scent wafting through the air in the afternoon is heavenly.

Definitely a shade plant for Southern Alabama. I have read that it is full sun, but placing it in full  sun results in burnt crumpled leaves, trust me. Keep it shaded all day, if possible. It will still produce flowers.  Treat it about like a camellia.

unique perennials

Native Azalea

I hope you hung around for this final shrub.  This is a Rhododendron canescens “Varnadoe” variety.  I bought this at a local nursery that specializes in native Azaleas. Also a prize of my Garden. 

It’s not very pretty during winter when it loses all of its leaves.  It’s actually forming buds in late September and a few leaves have sprouted back out since I moved it into the shade.  When it flowers, it’s like nothing you’ve seen. The beautiful delicate flowers smell sweeter than honeysuckle. I wish I had a million of these things.

I hope I introduced you to some new flowers you have never tried before or maybe have never even seen or heard of.  I am all about variety in the garden. Nothing formal here.  What kinds of interesting and unusual plants do you have growing in your Garden?

10 unusual perennials, perennials
unusual perennials

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Cooke

    My sole negative on these is that both native passiflora and native mist flower reseed like mad and will over run your beds. On the other hand Passiflora is the host plant for fritillary butterfly caterpillars and will attract loads of orange and brown butterflies.

    1. ErickDStyron

      Thanks for stopping by! I totally agree about the passiflora. I personally have them on their own fence line and just let them run wild. they sprout up all over and i can see this would be a nuisance to most.
      I should mention this in the post.

  2. Pamela

    I agree with Elizabeth about the Mistflower or Hardy ageratum is very aggressive once it takes hold I find it spreading all over the place but it pulls easy ha ! The Toad Lilly is a great one to have and it’s a no fuss plant that even comes back in northern Indiana as well.

  3. Lincy

    Glorisa is a medicinal plant…its seed is processed for artheritis but be very very careful as its leaf flower and tuber are highly poisonous….if ur cow or goat graze over it, it will die. Keep away from cattle or else its a beautiful plant to raise at home.

  4. Anita

    Nice to know how to grow with those beautiful plants.

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