When it comes to creating a sense of hopeful expectation there is not much in the gardening world that can compare to seeds. It’s fascinating to me that so much can be produced from something so inconspicuous.
Because a pack of seeds is such a small investment, starting plants from seeds is an economical way to experiment with unusual varieties. I’ve been looking through a stack of new seed catalogs that are full of interesting flowers and vegetables I want to try out in my garden next year.
While it seems like I’ve dog-eared every page in the catalog, there are ten unique varieties that begged to be shared with others. Some of these I’ve grown before and others are new to me.
10 Unusual Plants You Can Grow From Seeds
Night Phlox ‘Midnight Candy’ (Zaluzianskya) – This little flower makes a statement with intoxicating evening fragrance. The dark burgundy buds open at dusk. The blooms are white with five heart shaped petals and a yellow eye. For the best display sow seeds generously. I suggest growing these in a pot positioned somewhere you can enjoy the fragrance.
Annual, full sun, 18-inches tall.
Eyeball Plant (Spilanthes) – Because of its funny name, odd blooms and edible foliage, this is a great little plant to get children interested in the garden. Spilanthes grows into a lush green blanket of foliage with an abundance of round, golden blooms that have a dark brown dot on top, giving the flower the appearance of an eyeball staring up at you from the ground. This plant is also called toothache plant because of the leaves will slightly numb your gums if you eat them. Before you do, be sure no chemicals were used on the plants.
Annual, full sun to partial shade, 12 – 18 inches tall.
Pumpkin on a Stick (Solanum integrifolium) – I really wish I had a photo of this plant to show you. Although the fruits look like tiny pumpkins, this plant is really an eggplant. The foliage is large and almost resembles oak leaves. Small, orange pumpkin looking fruits are borne on dark purple, thorny stems. I’ve been told that the fruits are bitter, but the fruits can be dried on the stems for arrangements.
Annual, full sun to partial shade, 36 to 48 inches tall.
Spanish Flag Vine (Ipomoea lobata) – This fast growing vine produces racemes of blooms on tips of scarlet stems. The tubular flowers emerge red and fade to orange and then creamy white. It’s a spectacular display from summer into fall. Last year the Spanish Flag in my garden was still flowering in late November.
Tender perennial grown as an annual, full sun to partial shade, 6 to 15 feet vining plant.
Red Malabar Spinach (Basella alba ‘Rubra’) – While not a true spinach, this climbing plant is ideal for containers and small gardens because it doesn’t require much growing room. It’s not only edible, but beautiful too with large dark green leaves on scarlet vines. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water before planting shortens the germination time.
Annual, full sun, 8 to 10 feet tall.
Billy Button (Craspedia globosa) – This is a striking bloom in the garden, and in cut flower bouquets and dried arrangements, too. This Australian native has tall sturdy stems topped with golden yellow, 1-inch round blooms. Silvery gray upright foliage provides an excellent contrast to the flowers. It’s a tender perennial that is most often grown has an annual.
Perennial is zones 8 – 9, full sun, 24 to 36 inches tall.
‘Ronde de Nice’ Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) –This summer vegetable produces a compact plant with large yellow flowers that develop into round, green and cream speckled fruits. The flavor is best when the fruits are between 1 to 3 inches in diameter. When harvested young they are delicious sautéed whole in chicken broth and butter with fresh, chopped herbs.
Annual, full sun, 18 to 24 inches tall and 36 to 48 inches wide.
Lemon Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) – This is a unique oval cucumber that is cream colored with yellow highlights. In addition to its delightful appearance the flavor is crisp and less bitter than other cucumber varieties. This is an ideal variety for cucumber sandwiches or salads or just sliced with a little salt and pepper.
Annual, full sun.
Lion’s Tail (Leonotis leonurus) – This member of the mint family produces whorls of bright orange flowers that graduate up the flower stalk giving it the appearance of a plant that would be right at home in Whoville. Leonotis leonurus has a bushier form than its much taller and lankier cousin Leonotis nepetafolia.
Annual, full sun, 4 to 6 feet tall.
Bishop’s Lace (Ammi majus) – This wildflower looks a lot like Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) with clusters of tiny white flowers that form large umbels. The ferny foliage and delicate blooms on tall stalks make this versatile plant well suited for either the cottage or contemporary garden. While this plant will reseed, it’s not invasive like Queen Anne’s Lace and deadheading the flowers will keep it further in check.
Annual, full sun, 24 to 36 inches.
Seed Buying Tips:
- Although seeds usually don’t start appearing in garden centers until early spring the best time to order seeds is in winter. This is especially true if you have your heart set on any specialty seeds or new varieties. These tend to be available in limited quantities that sell out quickly.
- Although it’s easy to get carried away when ordering seeds, keep in mind that seeds turn into lots of plants. As when purchasing any new additions for your garden make a plan of how you will use the plants.
- While we all love a bargain, buying cheap seeds can lead to wasted effort. Buy quality seeds from a reliable source. If you do purchase your seeds on sale, check the expiration date on the package to make sure they were packaged for the current year’s growing season.
- Get to know the seed company before you make your purchase. Check the return policy and look for reviews on consumer watchdog websites.
Thompson and Morgan
Seeds of Change