How to Grow an Unpopular Plant Variety in Your Garden
Growing an unpopular or rare plant variety in your garden can be very rewarding, but also requires some special care and considerations. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to successfully grow an obscure plant in your garden.
Selecting the Right Plant
The first step is choosing the right unpopular plant variety that will thrive in your specific garden environment.
Consider Your Growing Conditions
- Evaluate your garden’s sunlight, soil type, drainage, and exposure to wind and weather extremes. Match a plant that will tolerate your existing growing conditions. An alpine plant may struggle in a hot, dry garden while a tropical plant won’t survive a cold winter.
Research Obscure Plants
Peruse books, magazines, and online resources to find uncommon plants suited for your area. Check with local nurseries, botanic gardens, extension services, and native plant societies to locate rare plants.
Consider heirloom varieties of common fruits, vegetables, and flowers for uniqueness.
Key Factors for Selection
Choose an unusual plant that is hardy in your climate zone, suitable for your light conditions, and fits your garden space. Prioritize plants appropriate for your zone over novelty alone.
Select plants with specific site requirements similar to conditions naturally available in your garden.
Favor native species or well-adapted non-natives over exotic plants that may struggle.
Examples of Obscure Plants
Fruits: Elderberry, pawpaw, honeyberry, lingonberry
Vegetables: Hubbard squash, salsify, yacon, cardoon
Flowers: Anemone, bleeding heart, lythrum, lithodora
Shrubs: Fothergilla, hydrangea quercifolia, ninebark, viburnum
Acquiring the Plant
Finding an unpopular plant can be challenging. Here are some strategies to track it down:
Check Specialty Nurseries
- Contact independent and specialty nurseries that offer unique plant varieties beyond typical big box stores. These specialty growers are excellent sources to find rare, heirloom, or native plants.
Search Mail Order Sources
- Online and mail order nurseries are a good option to find an obscure plant. Search companies that specialize in heirloom, native, alpine or other specialty plants.
Contact Local Botanic Gardens
- Nearby botanic gardens, especially those focused on native plants or conservation, may carry or know sources for uncommon plants suited for your area.
Check with Native Plant Societies
- Join native plant groups to make connections with members who may divide and share their rare plant specimens.
Consider Seed Sources
- Try growing an uncommon plant from seed if transplants are unavailable. Seeds of rare heirlooms can often be purchased from specialty seed savers.
Providing the Right Growing Conditions
An unpopular plant variety may have specific cultural requirements. Tailor its care to help it thrive:
- Amend and prepare the soil to create ideal growing conditions suited to the plant. Enrich soil with compost or other organic matter if needed. Adjust pH if required.
- Place plant in suitable sunlight conditions, whether it prefers full sun, part sun or full shade. Ensure it gets the proper light levels.
- Provide supplemental irrigation if rainfall is inadequate, especially in early stages. But take care not to overwater, as obscure plants may be susceptible to root rot.
- Protect plants from heat or cold extremes beyond their hardiness zone tolerance. Use season extending devices like cold frames, cloches or shade cloth.
Pruning and Training
- Prune and train plants as needed to improve plant shape or performance. But research specific pruning needs, as unusual plants may have different requirements.
Be Prepared for Slow Growth
Have realistic expectations when growing an uncommon plant variety:
Rare and heirloom plants often grow at a slower pace than modern hybrids bred for vigor. Allow adequate time for the plant to reach maturity.
Growth may be reduced while the plant adjusts to your garden’s conditions during the establishment phase.
Uncommon native plants are adapted to your region but not optimized for fast growth.
With care and patience, the reward will be growing a unique plant suited for your garden.
Propagate to Share
Once your rare plant is successfully established, propagate it to spread this unusual variety to other gardeners:
Division – Best for perennials like ornamental grasses, iris and daylilies. Divide root clumps in spring or fall.
Cuttings – Cut and root tip, stem or leaf cuttings of shrubs and some perennials in summer. Use rooting hormone to improve results.
Seed – Collect and sow ripe seed if your plant produces viable seed. Store seeds properly over winter before spring planting.
Share divisions, cuttings or seeds with other gardening friends, plant societies and Conservation groups to increase propagation of rare plants.
Growing an obscure plant variety brings excitement and diversity to your garden. With careful selection, growing conditions tailored to its needs, and propagation to spread uncommon plants, you can successfully grow a plant rarely seen in other gardens. The extra effort required to nurture an unusual plant will pay off when your thriving specimen draws attention from garden visitors.