Spring is almost here, and the catalogs have been pouring in, exciting homeowners with the gorgeous gardening possibilities. New and seasoned gardeners alike peruse the pages, searching for that single plant sure to give their garden a one-of-a-kind look. If you fall into this group of particular plant lovers, look no further. Here are some most unusual plants that can help jump-start your garden this spring:


Pulsatilla is one of the first perennials to flower in spring and makes a perfect front-of-the-border plant.

Photo Credit: Sheri Ann Richerson

Walking onion

Walking onion is a wonderful novelty in the edible or kitchen garden, and it can be used like a green onion in cooking.

Photo Credit: Sheri Ann Richerson


Some Rodgersia feature striking bronze-colored leaves.

Photo Credit: Sheri Ann Richerson

Five-minute plant

The wickedly sharp thorns and small, pretty flowers of five-minute plant beckon spectators to stop and stare.

Photo Credit: Sheri Ann Richerson

Reach back into time with Rodgersia. Often seen in Victorian gardens, this perennial has regained popularity as today’s gardeners seek dramatic plants with large, unmissable foliage. And Rodgersia flower stalks can reach 6 feet tall – which means it’ll make quite a statement in your garden! The pretty white or pink blooms begin to appear in midsummer. Hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5-9, this plant adores moisture and prefers light shade.

Another plant with dramatic foliage is Gunnera. Also known as giant rhubarb or dinosaur food, this bold beauty will amaze visitors with its humongous leaves! It does have flowers, but the large leaves typically hide the reddish-green blooms. Gunnera can reach 10 feet tall and is hardy in zones 7-10. It also likes moist areas (like bogs), and it prefers full sun to part shade.

Pulsatilla, formerly known as Anemone pulsatilla and commonly known as pasque flower, is the star of the late winter and early spring garden. Hardy in zones 4-7, this plant is one of the earliest-blooming perennials out there with a wide array of flower colors, including purple and red. It’s perfect as an edging plant in the front of a flower or alpine bed because it only reaches 12 inches tall. Pasque flower prefers full sun and blooms from late winter to midsummer. And when the flowers die back, the seed heads put on a feathery show of their own.

Ligularia is another must-have if you’re looking for something truly unusual for your garden. The dark stem color, big leaves and the fact that it’s pretty uncommon make this perennial a great selection for the collector’s garden. It’s tall, too: The yellow flower stalks can reach 4-6 feet! The plant grows in a wide variety of conditions – from full sun to full shade – but it does need adequate moisture and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. The flower spikes attract birds, bees and butterflies, and they’re good for cutting. Various Ligularia species and cultivars are hardy in zones 4-9, so check around and see which ones are right for your area.

Allium cepa var. viviparum, or walking onion, is definitely a unique plant to add to your edibles or vegetable garden! The plant gets its name from the bulblets that form on the end of stalks after flowering. They weigh the stalks down and later root. Then after several years, the onions have literally “walked” around your garden. Also known as tree onion, Egyptian onion, topsetting or Catawissa onion, this plant became popular in American kitchen gardens in the 1790s. Sticking up through late snows, this onion is the first to appear in spring. Hardy in zones 4-9, walking onion prefers full sun and light, well-drained soil. It can be used in cooking like shallots or green onions.

If you like to walk a bit more on the wild side, consider one of these plants:

Solanum atropurpureum, purple devil or five-minute plant, is a definite eye-catcher. This tender perennial or subshrub absolutely demands a second look! A member of the nightshade family, it can reach 6 feet tall in a single season! The stems are covered with wickedly sharp, purple spikes, and the leaves are also covered with thorns (although they tend to be smaller than the ones on the stems). Small yellow and white flowers bloom in late spring to midsummer and remind me of a tomato plant (which isn’t surprising since they’re in the same family). However, don’t be fooled into thinking this plant produces edible fruit – all parts of this plant are poisonous! Five-minute plant needs full sun and average garden soil. (Seeds are best started indoors in late February.)

Echium pininana, giant viper's bugloss or giant echium, is another towering treat. It can reach a staggering 12 feet tall! Hardy in zones 8-15, it’s a striking plant with a huge blue, purple, white or red flowering spike that appears from midsummer to early fall in its second year of growth. The plant is perfect for the sunny, wild areas of your garden where the soil hasn’t been amended. You can start giant echium from seed and overwinter it indoors in colder climates. Just be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant because just touching it can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions (which means it isn’t a good selection for homes with children or curious pets)! And if you live in warmer climates, here’s another thing to be aware of: Giant echium reproduces prolifically from seed and can be invasive.

Finally, if you don’t mind the smell, skunk cabbage might just be that unique garden addition you’ve been looking for. There are two forms: Symplocarpus foetitus, commonly called Eastern skunk cabbage, with a brownish-purple spathe; and Lysichiton americanus, known as Western skunk cabbage, with a yellow spathe. Both are early bloomers, often melting the snow around them to poke their heads through. They also prefer wetlands, making them great for bog areas or other consistently moist locations (but again, only if you can stand the skunky aroma). Hardy from zones 4-7, skunk cabbage can be grown in full sun but prefers partial shade.

Whether you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path or a towering, untamed beauty to really wow the neighbors, at least one of these unusual selections is bound to work – and certainly get your garden off to a unique start!