The 2004 Way Hot 100: Perennials

I Love This Plant

The 2004 Way Hot 100: Perennials

April 15, 2004

For flowers, foliage or both. The hardy and half hardy (annuals in cold climates)

[1] Crocosmia 'Golden Fleece' Perennial for a hot sunny border. Flowers attract hummingbirds and anyone seeking great blooms for cutting. Zones 6-9.
[2] Actaea simplex 'Black Negligee' (sold as Cimicifuga). "What's better than something that is black, lacy and smells terrific?" (Heims) Zones 4-7.
[3] Agastache hybrids Tubular flowers complement everything and attract hummingbirds. Delicate gray-green foliage. 'Apricot Sunrise' is orange; 'Tutti Frutti', pink. Zones 7-9.
[4] Aquilegia 'Swallowtail' "Biggest blossoms I've ever seen on a columbine." (Schultz) Yellow and lemon-yellow bicolor flowers. Zones 5-10.
[5] Arisaema fargesii Cobra-head blooms, plus remarkable three-part, 2-foot leaves that look decidedly tropical. "A really cool Jack-in-the-pulpit Relative." (Druse) Zones 5-9.
[6] Silver Spear (Astelia chathamica) Drama in a container. Silky leaves up to 4 feet long form a 6-foot clump. Zones 8-9.
[7] Tropicanna? Gold Canna Like yellow and green striped banana leaves. "Beautiful with Solar coleus in a whiskey barrel." (Fell). Zones 7-10.
[8] Coreopsis Rosea 'Sweet Dreams' Thread-fine foliage, bicolored raspberry-rose and white flowers, long blooming. Zones 4-7.
[9] Curcuma Alismatifolia Pink ginger relative, called Siam tulip. Striking cut flower. Sold as summer-only plant.
[10] Diascia Flying Colors Light and airy, quintessential container plant spills from a pot. Rose, apricot, lavender, other colors. Grow as annual.
[11] Dicentra Spectabilis 'Goldheart' Classic arching strings of tiny pink bleeding-heart blooms, plus neon-level chartreuse foliage. Zones 3-9.
[12] Echinacea 'Art's Pride' (also sold as Orange Meadowbrite). Major breakthrough in plant breeding, this is the first orange coneflower. Zones 4-9.
[13] Echinacea 'Paranoia' This coneflower is both dwarf (10 inches tall) and yellow. Zones 5-8.
[14] Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' Dusky purple foliage, summer and fall. Zones 5-7.
[15] Farfugium Japonicum 'Kagami-Jishi' Big, bold leaves overlaid with the leaf color and patterns of 'Moon and Stars' watermelon. "Set it along a path with hostas and ferns where it raises a smile from passersby." (Beaudry) Zones 7-9.
[16] Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling butterflies' Airy, graceful, sun-loving. White flowers on 3-foot plants whirl in breeze. Zones 5-8.
[17] Geranium 'Rozanne' Hardy blue geranium. "Outstanding. Flowers from late spring into October, with striking violet-blue blossoms — really attractive in front of tiger lilies." (Ocone) Often called Roxanne. Zones 5-8.
[18] Hemigraphis Alternata Deep purple leaves with silver sheen. Dramatic in pot. Grow as an annual.
[19] Kniphofia 'Jenny Bloom' Grassy foliage, apricot blooms fading to cream. "Converted me to red-hot pokers." (Chivers) Zones 6-9, half hardy.
[20] Leptinella Squalida 'Platt's Black' Ground cover with deep purple foliage. Zones 5-7.
[21] Omphalodes Cappadocica 'Cherry Ingram' Woodland ephemeral blooms relatively long with tiny starry blue flowers. "They glow at dusk, piercing the dark garden from yards away." (Druse) Zones 6-8.
[22] Paris Quadrifolia Woodland shade-lover could pass for trillium. Grow for the oddly charming green flowers. Zones 5-8.
[23] Penstemon 'Red Rocks' (Mexicali hybrids) Pleasant rose color, tidy plant. "Needed finishing school in Europe before it became welcome here." (Druse) Zones 4-8.
[24] Phormium 'Maori Maiden' One of many improvements on New Zealand flax, the faithful companion of white rock mulch in 1960s California landscapes. This is small (to 2 feet) with arching leaves in apricot pink to rose red. Zones 9-10.
[25] Plectranthus Argentatus Use silver-gray foliage as go-with-everything foil in border or pot. Usually grown as an annual.
[26] Podophyllum 'Kaleidoscope' "Omigod! The 18-inch-wide leaves are patterned like an amazing mosaic with huge burgundy bells." (Heims) Zones 6-8.
[27] Pulmonaria 'Northern Lights' Silvery foliage. Tough, mildew resistant, produces a cloud of flowers in cranberry, purple and blue. Zones 4-9.
[28] Salvia Greggii 'Hot Lips'. "Flowers make a fascinating change over the seasons." (Avent) Red and white in spring, all red in summer. Zones 7-10, half hardy.
[29] Saruma Henryi Great woodland plant, related to wild ginger. Fuzzy heart-shaped leaves, very hardy. Small yellow flowers. Zones 5-8.
[30] Tacca Chantrierei Bat plant. "Haunting" comes to mind. Almost black or white, with 18-inch-long whiskers. Greenhouse plant can spend summer outside in a warm shady spot.
[31] Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana). Native to Asia, conquered England, on its way up here.  Woodland plant with small but abundant maroon-spotted, exotic-looking blooms. Blooms late in  August and after. Combine with hostas and ferns. Zones 4-9.
[32] Verbascum 'Sugar Plum'. Dwarf plant (12 to 18 inches), clear purple flowers. Zones 5-9.
[33] Verbena hybrids Tapien® series is flat ground cover or basket trailer with feathery foliage. Superbena® series is vigorous, bushy, trailing, outstanding in pots and baskets. Grow as an annual. Zones 8-10.

ATHYRIUM: Remarkable hybrid ferns, hardy and colorful. Zones 4-8. Latest introductions include:

[34]'Ghost' Silvery with delicate lacy fronds to 3 feet.
[35]'Branford Rambler' Mint-green fronds with a purple tint.
[36] A. Niponicum 'Burgundy lace' Swirling mix of purple and silver.

CORAL BELLS: Today's Heuchera models concentrate more on fancy foliage than flashy flowers. May be no better choices for containers. Zones 4-9.

[37] 'Black Beauty' Dark maroon, ruffled leaves. Airy pink flowers.
[38] 'Amethyst Myst' Deep purple leaves, dusted with silver. Delicate pink flowers.
[39] 'Green Spice' Goes anywhere, always looks great. "The little black dress of the border, except it's not little or black." (Davis)
[40] 'Plum Pudding' Exquisite purple leaves with darker purple veins.

HEUCHERELLA: Hybrids combine Heuchera flowers with Tiarella leaves. Great shade ground cover. Zones 4-9.

[41] 'Dayglow Pink' "The color turns heads or drops jaws. Stubbornly hardy." (Martin)
[42] 'Kimono' "Lovely maple-type leaves with dark markings." (Chivers)
[43] 'Sunspot' "Shocking contrast of a summer yellow and a red blotch at the center of the leaves lights up a container or border." (Heims)

HOSTA: Go for the gold leaves or lavender foliage. Tons of choices today.

[44] 'Brother Stefan' Corrugated gold leaves with blue-green border. Zones 3-7.
[45] 'Holy Mole' Mutation from — what else — 'Guacamole'. Fast, robust. Light green leaves with black-green border. Pale lavender flowers. Zones 3-9.

TIARELLA: Useful, shade-tolerant woodland ground covers. Zones 4-9.

[46] 'Black Snowflake' Striking deep green, black-centered leaves.
[47] 'Neon Lights' Huge black-centered leaves; great in containers.
[48] 'Jeepers Creepers' The bold foliage looks good even when the plant is not in bloom.