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Time To Become A Plant Hunter

Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

Even plant geeks love a sale. Maybe that should be especially plant geeks love a sale. September is the time to look for plants in the markdown aisles. I am especially drawn to unusual, even peculiar plants. Fall sales are the time to find these weirdoes of the plant world.

Master Gardeners often hold plant sales in the fall. Shop there for the unusual, like Amorphophallus (Voodoo Lily), and pass along plants, like Turk’s Cap. My nickname for the amorphophallus plants in my garden is Snakeplant because of the smooth mottled “skin” of the stems. Its umbrella foliage at the top is welcome in the shadiest part of the garden.


Another shade lover that only gets a bit of filtered morning sun is the tropical Devil’s Backbone (Pedilanthus tithymaloides), so named for its zigzag fleshy stems. It resides on my front porch until frost threatens, and then comes inside for the rest of the winter. It takes little water and fertilizer to keep it growing. If it gets more sun, the leaves take on a sickly pink-red tinge where white should be which I don’t like. Others might prefer this colorization, but I fancy the green and white.

The Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a late summer to fall bloomer in sun or part sun. The flowers are small, peppered along the stems, which can be quite floppy in the shadier locations. Even on the ground, the bright red twisted blooms jump into view. It is a Texas wildflower and is about as easy care as they come. This one could be quite hard to find except as a pass-along from another gardener. It should not be confused with the Turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum), which is another wildflower, from Indiana, resembling an orange tiger lily.

Nurseries often would rather sell plants ready for new pots than pay someone to step them up into larger containers. Carrying plant inventory over the winter can also be costly for growers and retailers. A smart business decision can give you a smart find. You do the potting and overwintering and save bucks in the process. Check out your favorite garden catalog websites, too, for late season specials.

It’s also time to get your spring flowering bulb orders in. You plant daffodils, tulips, and the smaller springtime bloomers from September to January, depending on where you live. Check your local University Extension office for the best time to plant in your area. There are some unusual finds in the bulb world, too. If you haven’t grown the dwarf narcissus in pots or in the ground, try some this year. They are cute and often fragrant. Two of my favorites are ‘Quail’ and ‘Minnow’.

Become a plant hunter and your garden will show up “different” on the neighborhood watch scale.

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