10 Plants That Look Like They Were Created By Dr. Seuss
When you tire of growing common plants, it's time to pick some new ones from this list of fun, whimsical garden flowers and plants.
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Have you ever grown a flower that was as big as your head? You can with giant alliums! These flowers come from large bulbs that you plant in the fall, and they return year after year in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 3 to 8.
Tall, sturdy stalks rise up above the strap-like foliage in late spring to early summer. Neatly perched atop each stalk will be one perfectly rounded cluster of blooms, each comprised of tiny, lavender purple, star-shaped florets. Pollinating bees will be frequent guests when your giant alliums are in bloom.
Like many bulbs, the trick to helping them thrive is well-drained soil. If they sit in heavy, wet soil for very long, they start to rot. If you have clay soil, try planting allium bulbs in a raised bed or mounding the soil up about six inches to keep their roots up out of the densest part of the ground. Find a spot that receives a minimum of six hours of sun per day. The more sun you can give them, the stronger they will grow and bloom.
Fun fact: If deer eat your plants, allium is a good choice because deer don’t like to eat them.
This is a flower you’ll want to reach out and touch, just to make sure it is real. When you do, you’ll see the texture of crested celosia flowers bears an uncanny resemblance to crushed velvet! Its crested flower heads are unlike any other flower, blooming in vivid shades of red, magenta, royal purple, orange, pink and yellow.
Crested celosia is closely related to celosias that bear feathery plumes and flame-like flowers in similar colors. All are long-lasting cut flowers and can be dried to use as everlastings. Check the height before you buy if you desire a type with long stems because celosias range greatly in height, from one to four feet.
Grow all types of celosia in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil or potting soil. Although they can handle some dryness once established, celosia prefers moist soil while it is getting established. Celosias are annual flowers that can be grown from seeds or potted plants each spring.
It is easy to remember the name of this flashy tropical plant. Its blossoms look like trumpet-shaped ornaments dangling from the tips of its branches. You’ll see them blooming in shades of pink, peach, orange, yellow, gold and white in the summertime.
If huge, showy blooms aren’t enough of a draw, consider that many varieties of angel’s trumpet exude a strong, floral perfume on warm summer nights. ‘White Cascade,’ which blooms prolifically with six- to eight-inch-long, fragrant, pendulous trumpets, would be perfect for your moon garden (check out the backyard benefits of moon gardens).
Known botanically as Brugmansia, angel’s trumpet is native to South America where it thrives in warm, humid weather and cool nights. In frost-free USDA zones 9 to 11, it can survive year-round outdoors and forms a 15 to 20-foot tall tree.
This plant is also commonly grown in patio containers, where it is not hardy. You could toss it out at the end of the season, or you could bring it indoors to grow as a houseplant. One more option is to allow the potted plant to go dormant in a cool, dark location, such as a basement, for the winter. Keep the soil barely moist, then bring it outside again when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 F.
Note that all parts of the angel’s trumpet plant are highly toxic, so care should be taken if you are growing one around children or pets.
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Passion Flower Vine
Pardon the stare, but these exotic blooms are impossible to pass by without noticing their intricately detailed form and symmetrical details. Snap a quick photo for Instagram while you can because each one of these fascinating blooms only lasts a single day. Although this vine isn’t known for being blanketed in blooms, you’ll enjoy each and every flower as it pops open from midsummer into fall.
Passion flower is a climbing vine that attaches by twining tendrils, so it needs a trellis, fence or obelisk for support. It can reach heights of 20 feet in a single growing season.
Of the 400 species of passion flowers that are native to South America and Mexico, most will grow in USDA zones 7 through 10 in full sun to part sun. A few, including Passiflora caerulea, are root hardy to USDA zone 5b. Some species can become invasive in the South, so use caution when making your selection.
This whimsical perennial is perfect for growing in children’s gardens because of its fun flower buds which swell up like balloons right before they open. Give them a gentle squeeze, and they’ll burst open to reveal a bright blue, purple or white flower in the shape of a flattened bell.
Balloon flowers can be durable, long-lived perennials in USDA zones 3 through 8. Just make sure the soil doesn’t stay too wet for long, or the plant will start to decline. They are usually pest and disease-free, but taller varieties may need staking to prevent their top-heavy flower stalks from flopping when in full bloom. Dwarf varieties like ‘Sentimental Blue,’ pictured here, form a tidy six to eight-inch tall mound of foliage and make a nice edging along a sunny pathway.
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Red Spider Lily
Few plants display their foliage and flowers at different times of the year, but that’s exactly what you’ll find when you grow red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata). Another nickname for this plant is “surprise lily” because of the way its bright red flowers appear out of nowhere in late summer. From bare ground arises one- to two-foot-tall flower stalks, each topped with a softball-sized, vivid coral-red to candy-apple red flower with extra-long, eye lash-like stamens.
A red spider lily’s leaves don’t sprout from underground until late fall after the flowers are all done blooming. Then, the green, strappy foliage stays evergreen through the winter and goes dormant the following spring. To fill the gap left by the disappearing foliage, you could plant your red spider lilies amongst other perennials or groundcovers.
Spider lilies are grown from a bulb that you plant in the fall. Choose a spot where it is sunny for most of the day in the fall and winter when the plant is actively growing. Well-drained soil is important for preventing rot, especially in the summertime when the bulbs are dormant.
Tennis Ball Milkweed
Who knew that tennis balls grew on sticks? When you see it in person, you’ll know exactly how this whimsical plant got its name. It is a species of milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) that produces fuzzy, two- to three-inch-round, lime-green seed pods on tall, arching stems. They form in late summer and fall, alongside the dangling clusters of white flowers.
Like other milkweeds, this one is a larval host for monarch butterflies. Because it is grown as an annual everywhere except in USDA zones 9 through 11, it takes some time for the plant to reach a large enough size that it can host caterpillars. Use it to support monarchs from midsummer to early fall, then cut it down by mid-fall to encourage the butterflies to head south for the winter.
Start tennis ball milkweed from seed about two months before your last frost date or look for potted plants to buy in the spring.
Courtesy All-America Selections
Mad Hatter Pepper
With a shape like the Mad Hatter’s top hat, these adorable little sweet peppers are worth growing for their looks alone, but they are also delicious. They are a type of Capsicum baccatum pepper, which is commonly used in Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine. They’re also delicious eaten raw in salads, added to veggie trays or stuffed with cheese dip. Whether you pick them in their green or red stage, the flavor will be a mix of citrus and floral notes. They may develop some mild heat if you grow them in an arid climate.
This All-America Selections award-winning pepper is easy to grow from seed. They need 110 to 120 days from seed sowing to harvest, so if you live where the growing season is short, start them early indoors. Each plant will grow about three to four feet tall and bear 40 to 50 peppers!
Shrek’s Ears Jade Plant
Here’s an easy-to-grow, long-lived succulent that you can enjoy as a houseplant year-round. Children will be first to point out its resemblance to Shrek’s ears. See how its tubular, green leaves each have a suction cup-shaped indentation at the tip? In more sun, the leaves are lime green with crimson-kissed tips. In shadier environments, they are solid deep green.
A sunny windowsill or shelf in direct sun is the best place to grow Shrek’s Ears jade plant, also known as Crassula ovata ‘Gollum.’ You won’t need to make a lot of room for it because it grows very slowly. After a decade or more, it can reach one to two feet in height.
Water a Shrek’s Ears jade plant only when the soil is completely dry. Eventually, its stems will become thick and woody and develop unique contortions. Some people use this plant for bonsai.
Courtesy Susan Martin
Agave and Barrel Cacti
Like something straight off the set of “A Little Shop of Horrors,” these enchanting succulents are fascinating to look at but don’t touch! Both are lined with sharp spines that are nothing to fool with.
The mature specimens of variegated agave and barrel cacti, pictured here, are growing in a warm greenhouse, so they’ve reached their mature size. But, you can grow much smaller, younger specimens in containers. If you live in a frost-free climate, both can live outdoors year-round. Further north, you’ll need to find a place for them indoors away from curious children and pets.
Both of these curious succulents share a love for plentiful sunshine, sharply drained soil and little to no supplemental water. Find a spot where they can shine as a dramatic focal point in containers, in a rock garden or on a hillside.