Unusual fall plants create late season interest

ROB ZIMMER Special Contributor
Gorgeous in striking neon orange, lion's mane zinnias are cactus blooming zinnias with huge, quilled blooms that may reach 6 inches across. There are many unusual zinnia varieties available for home gardeners.

Late summer and fall are a fun time to be a gardener in Wisconsin. Some of our most exciting, interesting and unusual plants bloom this time of year, creating a joyful and colorful show.

With unusual blooms, strange shapes, bizarre growth habits and bright colors, many fall plants are outstanding garden specimens.

If you are looking for unusual plants to add to your garden this year, seek out some of these. They'll be the conversation pieces of your garden.

Here are a few of my favorite unusual fall blooms.

Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate

Once they discover this incredible beauty, everyone wants this statuesque late summer and fall bloomer in their garden setting. With dangling clusters of tiny flowers in hot pink, and reaching incredible heights of 6 to 10 feet, this is one amazing annual.

Bottle Gentian

A striking fall blooming native perennial, bottle gentian is known for its unusual, bottle shaped flowers that resemble small balloons on top of each flowering stem. Its rich, cobalt blue color, perhaps the bluest of the year, sets this beautiful wildflower apart.

Bottle Gentian is an unusual perennial with cobalt blue, bottle-shaped blossoms that are clustered at the tip of 2 to 3 foot stems, as well as at leave joints along the stalk.

Rose Turtlehead

With gorgeous, tubular pink blossoms arranged in spikes that rise 3 to 4 feet, rose turtlehead is another unusual garden perennial. Hummingbirds love this late blooming treat.


Growing quite tall, with spikes of unusually shaped blue blossoms, monkshood has quite a colorful and descriptive history going back for centuries. Said to keep werewolves at bay, this beautiful late summer and fall perennial deserves a place in any garden.

Autumn Crocus

The tennis ball sized blooms of giant autumn crocus are a treat in early fall when they decorate the garden with unexpected beauty. These bulbs are sold at garden centers in September, then planted immediately. In about two weeks, the massive blooms appear.

Ornamental Millet

One of the most spectacular ornamental grasses, millet features extremely thick, fox tail plumes that may reach a foot long. This plant is available in a number of colors including white, black, purple and red.

Tall Verbena

Like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, this plant features tall, wiry stems, tipped with ball shaped clusters of purple bloom. Growing 3 to 5 feet in height, this is one of the favorite nectar plants of monarch butterflies migrating through during fall.

Growing 7 to 10 feet in height, Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate is a breathtaking heirloom annual that features dangling flower clusters in hot lips pink along towering lime green stems and stalks. Reseeds easily once in place.

Love Lies Bleeding

That dramatic form of this outstanding annual is unmatched in the late summer and fall garden. Strings and curtains of crimson red blossoms cascade from the tall stems like dripping blood. There are also varieties available in pink, white, yellow and orange.

Mexican Sunflower

In the brightest, neon orange, the beautiful flowers of this unusual sunflower are held horizontally, highlighted with a brilliant golden center. A stunning annual, and a magnet for migrating monarchs, this plant features beautiful silvery green foliage that is velvety smooth and a bushy growth habit that results in dozens of glowing blooms.

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