Top 10 Unusual Plants for Gardeners

By Nikki Tilley | July 2, 2016
by Nikki Tilley
July 2, 2016

Those that know me or have read my books, such as The Garden Crypt, are not surprised that I have a love for anything strange and unusual – especially when it comes to gardening. And while my list of favorites is nearly endless, I wanted to narrow down the field to share some of my picks with other fellow gardeners. Here are my Top 10 unusual plants that can be grown in the garden or indoors, depending on your location and fondness of such plants.

1. Dragon flower (Dracunculus vulgaris) – The dragon flower is an unusual plant having a dark purple spadix that resembles a dragon’s tongue. Although its appearance alone makes it unforgettable, you’ll never forget the foul smell of rotting meat in which the plant emits. I’d steer clear of growing this one indoors, but it makes a great accent to moist woodland gardens. Fortunately, the offensive odor lasts only a day, just long enough to attract a few flies.

2. Walking iris (Neomarica gracilis) – This unusual plant gets its name from the way the stems bend over to the ground, where it roots easily, making it appear as if it is “walking” through the garden. Walking iris plants produce white, yellow or blue orchid- to iris-like flowers and graceful sword-like foliage. This also makes a good addition to woodland gardens.

3. Snake’s head iris (Hermodactylus tuberosus) – Not a true iris at all, this plant is especially unusual. Its common name is said to come from the unusual black coloring and shape of its flower, which resembles the head of a snake.

4. Fishbone orchid cactus (Cryptocereus anthonyanus/Selenicereus anthonyanus) – Another unusual plant, the fishbone cactus has uniquely shaped foliage that resembles a fish skeleton. This easy-to-grow plant makes an exceptional indoor specimen. Other popular names include Ric Rac and Zigzag cactus.

5. Living stones (Lithops spp.) – If you’re looking for something a little different, then this plant is definitely for you. Its conical shape mimics the look of pebbles or stones rather than a plant. But once the beautiful white blooms come bursting out, you’ll have no doubt. Lithops is a great plant for beginners since it thrives on neglect, going a month or so without water.

6. Air plants (Tillandsia spp.) – These plants are not only diverse in their range of color or variety but also another good choice for newbies. Air plants are epiphytic, meaning they don’t require a pot or growing medium. The unusual looking plants gather everything they need from the air, requiring only occasional misting.

7. Bat flower (Tacca chantieri) – This exotic and unusual looking plant produces nearly black flowers resembling a bat in flight. Bat flower is an orchid and, as such, can only be grown outdoors in suitable climates; otherwise, it makes a great indoor specimen.

8. Monkey cups (Nepenthes spp.) – Yet another strange plant, this tropical pitcher plant is carnivorous. Its name refers to the fact that monkeys were often seen drinking from the large, hollow pitchers. It is also the pitcher that attracts and drowns prey such as spiders, insects, scorpions, snails and small frogs or lizards.

9. Mouse tail plant (Arisarum proboscideum) – This unusual plant is related to both the jack-in-the-pulpit and pitcher plant. Mouse tail derives its name from the chocolate-colored flowers, which when bunched together resemble mice that sit below the leaves with only little “tails” visible.

10. Mickey Mouse plant (Ochna serrulata) – Ok, so you can’t have a mouse plant without including Mickey Mouse, which so happens to be one of my childhood heroes. This unique bush is named for the black berries resembling the face of this infamous mouse. It’s also a great choice for attracting pollinators to the garden.

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