The 2005 Way Hot 100: Heat Seekers

I Love This Plant

The 2005 Way Hot 100: Heat Seekers

March 17, 2005


  • Aristida Purpurea Var. Purpurea (Purple Threeawn) This laid-back, drought-tolerant, warm-season grass has a downtime when burgundy heads turn a tactile buff gold. Not a high-maintenance grass, and nursery owner John Greenlee advises you make the "big cut" once a year in February. Zones 8 to 10/11.
  • Bidens Heterophylla (Tickseed) "My plant of 2004?still standing tall and producing flowers in December.  A tall and upright form with cream daisy flowers?needs no staking. Looks exceptionally good with ornamental grasses." (RC) Zones 7 to 8.
  • Bulbinella Nutans Yet another useful, good-looking plant from South Africa. A relative of the asphodeline. Numerous starlike yellow florets open from the bottom of the flower spike, like "ballerinas in frilly tutus." (DW) It resembles a smaller, more graceful red-hot poker. Good for naturalizing in a sunny site. Zone 8.
  • Caladium Bicolor Cultivars  (Elephant's ears) These cool-looking plants evoke warmer climates and, just like coleus, are becoming increasingly popular for exotic summer containers and bedding schemes. Belying their sophisticated looks: "Caladiums are easy to grow?just like potatoes," says Terri Bates of specialist growers Bates Sons & Daughters in Florida. If you live above Jacksonville, Terri advises digging up these Brazilian natives and bringing them indoors in winter. She recommends 'Florida Sweetheart'?"this one can take any amount of sun. Unlike most caladiums, it goes darker in sun, not bleached out." Chameleon-like, it will change color according to where it is planted?pale pink in shade, darker in sun. 'Miss Muffet', a dwarf form, has been around since the 60s, but took off only about 10 years ago with serious caladium fanciers. Fascinating Jackson Pollock-like dribbles and splashes mark the leaves. Zones 8 to 10.
  • Chamaerops Humilis Var. Cerifera (Blue Mediterranean Fan Palm) Stunning chalk blue. "Looks like a graffiti artist has been out with the baby-blue spray paint." (SH) Diminutive and clump forming. Hardy from sea level to up in the Atlas Mountains. Zones 8 to 10.
  • Cistus x Aguilarii 'Maculatus' (Rock Rose) "Cistus?the quintessential Mediterranean plant." (DW) Loves poor rocky soil and dry conditions. This one has a purple blotch at the base of white flowers. Zones 8 to 10.
  • Coronilla Valentina Subsp. Glauca 'Citrina' "Grow it in a pot if you live in a cold climate. Fabulous light blue delicate foliage paired with creamy-yellow winter flowers that are often repeated in summer." (SH) A good container plant, so good news for cold-state gardeners. Zones 9 to 10.
  • Dalechampia Dioscoreifolia Climber with unusual purple bracts with orange centers. First spotted in an English conservatory. It's impossible to have too many good-looking climbing plants, even if they're tender. This one needs protection but rewards with a cascade of flowers in winter, like a scattering of festive tissue paper has been sprinkled down the plant. (RC) Zones 10 to 12.
  • Dyckia 'Cherries Foster' A compact, richly colored new bromeliad. "This dessertlike dish makes the most scrumptious pot specimen for areas too cold to grow it outdoors. Bright orange flowers call attention to passing hummers, and the maroon-chocolate coloring of the leaves grabs everyone's attention." (CS) Zones 8b to 10.
  • Eryngium Proteiflorum (Sea Holly) "An interesting combination of the prehistoric and the refined." (DW) Large steely-green bracts, some reaching 5 to 6 inches across, form a collar around central green flower heads. Real stop-you-in-your-tracks looks. Give it a warm, sunny site, well-drained, or grow it in a pot. Zone 8.
  • Eucomis Bicolor (Pineapple Lily)  "A phenomenal display from a wondrous bulb." (DW) These drama queens demand a prominent spot in a garden or container. E. bicolor needs attentive watering during the growing season. Zones 8 to 11. Also try Eucomis comosa 'Sparkling Burgundy'?this one has "sumptuous burgundy-tinged leaves" (DW) and purple blossoms. Zones 8 to 10.
  • Gladiolus Permeabilis (Sword Lily) Species gladdies (more subtle than their garden cousins) "are working their way into tastemakers' gardens everywhere. This has cream petals of varying sizes with purple streaks. Up to 18 inches tall. Would look great under cannas." (RC) Zones 8 to 10.
  • Tetrapanax Papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant' (Great rice paper plant) "Tetrapanax have real 'what's-that?' pull in a garden. A large-leaved plant with presence." (SH) Worth including on name alone, this is one steroidal giant that even fastidiously green organic gardeners will want to grow. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it has reached 15 feet tall. Zones 8b to 10.
  • Olea Europaea 'Arbequena' (Olive) "This is one of the hardiest olives. Has survived temps of zero degrees with no ill effects. Great silver foliage?silver undersides to leaves enhance sterling appeal." (SH) Zones 8 to 10.

We didn't have enough room in the April issue of Garden Design to list all our favorite heat-seeking plants, but we hope you'll also enjoy these great plants for hot places:

  • Kniphofia Citrina 'Lime Select' (Red-hot Poker) Digging Dog Nursery has selected a couple of cooler pokers, this one fading from chartreuse to pale yellow. Good with ornamental grasses and looser, modern-style planting.  Kniphofia 'Vanilla' is also a soft shade of pale yellow. Both Zone 7.
  • Nierembergia Gracilis 'Starry Eyes' "A heat-tolerant, blue flower that lasts for months on end?what more can one want?" (CS) A super little evergreen perennial with narrow thymelike foliage. This mounded plant flowers throughout the growing season from March until October. The button-like flowers float in an airy sea of green and catch everyone's heart with their charm. Zones 8 to 10.
  • Polypodium Californicum 'Sarah Lyman' (California Polypody) This fern has been around a long time but is only now becoming more widely available through tissue culture. It will go dormant in summer. "Happy in dry shade, e.g., under oaks. An excellent garden plant." (DF) Lacy, divided foliage. A runner. Zones 8 to 10.
  • Sparmannia Africana (African hemp) Has an out-of-this-world appeal. Gorgeous large downy leaves with big white flowers warmed up by prominent yellow and reddish stamens. A great potful for a conservatory in cooler climates. Zones 10 to 11.
  • Thamnochortus Insignis (Restio) Restios have been stealthily working their way into gardens over the past 10 years or so. Native Sons nursery has grown restios for seven to 10 years. Still regarded as "new" plants since only now are they reaching a wider audience through large commercial growers. "Thamnochortus insignis, a very upright form, to 6 feet, is my favorite restio. It never gets messy like some. It looks good 12 months of the year and is an excellent feature plant." (DF) Zones 8 to 10.
  • Zephyranthes 'Itsy Bitsy' (Rain lily) What gardener isn't attracted to plants with names beginning with "Z"? And the rain lily's ability to produce flowers overnight is universally appealing. "In midsummer when the nights are warm and the dew is heavy in the air, the narrow white buds snake through the monkey-grass-like foliage and reveal themselves to the early-morning light. Within a short period, the elongating buds open up to reveal a pure white spiderlike flower." (CS) Zones 8 to 10.