You may be surprised to know that the spice saffron comes from a crocus called Crocus sativus, or the saffron crocus.
One of the reasons saffron is so expensive is that it is the stigmas inside the crocus, which not only have to be harvested by hand, but it also takes 150 crocus flowers to make a single gram of saffron.
The good news is that you can grow and harvest this spice yourself. As recipes often call for a couple of strands of saffron, you won’t need to plant more than a hundred bulbs, but what a sight that would be!
Just make sure you dry out the saffron in a warm place for a few days before you plan on using it.
Saffron crocuses are perfect for color in fall, producing pale blue, pure white, or lilac flowers which get to a maximum height of 20cm.
It helps that they are perennials, and as long as you give them soil which can dry out during their dormant period, they will flower for years to come.
While you can grow them in containers, you’re better off growing them in the ground, where they’ll have access to adequate moisture and will be protected from frost.
Saffron crocuses are hardy in USDA zones 5 through to 9.
Saffron crocuses need to be planted in summer, in constantly damp but well-draining soil, somewhere sunny.
Part of the mint plant family, scarlet sage, or Salvia splendens is a smaller variety of ornamental sage (see also Pineapple Sage), capable of reaching 40cm tall.
Instead of producing a flower spike that towers above the foliage, which is the ornamental sage you might be familiar with, scarlet sage produces its flower heads in short flower spikes, just peeking above the foliage.
They feature the same long, tubular shaped flower heads, in a bright crimson.
This versatile perennial will flower from summer well into fall if the weather allows, giving any garden a solid display of color.
Salvia splendens ‘Blaze Of Fire’ has been selected for its brilliant red blooms, which are a favorite of bees and hummingbirds alike.
Salvia splendens leaves are deep green, while the stems are tinged with bronze.
As with all salvia varieties, the plants require full sun and a sheltered position, away from strong winds and frost.
It’s classed as a half-hardy plant, which means that if you live in a colder climate, you’ll need to start off the plant indoors, and gradually introduce it outside once all risk of frost is gone.
It will tolerate moderate levels of drought, able to withstand some dry spells, but it will benefit from a good soak in really hot weather.
Sand Dollar Cactus Flowers
Otherwise known as Astrophytum asterias, the sea urchin cactus, or the star cactus, this is a cactus worthy of any collection.
The sand dollar cactus looks like a sea animal, specifically the sand dollar sea urchin, if you stuck it in a pot full of compost, and it managed to survive.
The sand dollar cactus will grow to a maximum of 6cm tall, and 15cm wide, but it is a slow-growing plant, and it will take years before it reaches its eventual size.
When given as much sunlight as possible, the sand dollar cactus will eventually flower in spring, blooming in shades of yellow, each flower able to reach up to 7cm wide.
It’s commonly grown as a houseplant, though you could grow it outdoors in areas which are perpetually sunny, and don’t see much rain.
It’s a great choice as a houseplant for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to watering and plant care, or someone who travels a lot, as it’s very drought tolerant.
Phlox bifida, cleft-petalled phlox, or sand phlox is a much smaller type of phlox, with a mat-forming growth habit and starry, light purple to blue flowers.
At the most it will grow to 15cm tall, spreading to about 30cm wide.
Eventually, it may serve as a carpeting plant, while producing plenty of blooms that will invite many pollinators, including butterflies and moths.
As long as you place it in full sunlight at the front of a border or rockery, it will grow happily.
This is a robust plant that will weather drought, dappled shade, nutrient-poor compost, root rot, and deer.
It makes a great addition to any garden, introducing plenty of color, while helping to suppress weeds.
You may be more familiar with other types of phlox, in which case you probably know that most types are susceptible to root rot and powdery mildew, which is a problem as phlox remains tightly compact as it spreads.
Powdery mildew and other fungal diseases are not so much of a concern when it comes to sand phlox, as this plant has a good resistance against them.
It’s hardy in USDA zones 4 through to 8, but it can also be grown as a summer annual in places which are normally too cold for it.
Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus Flowers
Echinocereus coccineus, needle-spined claret cup, or the scarlet hedgehog cactus is famed for its crimson flowers.
It’s resistant to both deer and rabbits, thanks to the spines covering the succulent foliage.
These spines won’t cause an issue to humans, as long as you keep it somewhere you don’t walk past!
If you do manage to get your hands on one of these plants, you’ll find that they produce an abundance of red flowers, reaching up to 20cm high.
They bloom throughout spring, making this a popular plant for those looking to add some color to their garden or indoors.
When this cactus blooms, you’ll see a lot of bees visiting the flowers, as well as hummingbirds, if you live somewhere that has them.
While the scarlet hedgehog cactus will thrive in poor soil with very little water, it does need full sunlight in order to stay healthy.
At the most, it will get to 20cm tall, spreading to 45cm wide. It’s suitable for rockeries, alpine gardens, or as a houseplant.
Fragaria virginiana, the Virginia strawberry, or the scarlet strawberry, comes from the rose plant family, as a North American strawberry variety.
It’s one of two parent plants which were crossed to create the main strawberry variety we grow in our gardens, called Fragaria x ananassa.
It produces bright white flowers with golden anthers in late spring into summer, which last for about a month. These are soon followed by tiny strawberries.
It’s worth knowing that once the fruit has developed, it will go dormant.
You can use it as a ground cover, where it will spread through its runners, and it’s an easy plant to grow, especially if you haven’t grown fruit before, as it makes a good starting point.
This plant likes full sunlight, but it will also live in partial shade. To get the best out of this plant, put it in a sunny position in good quality, well-draining soil that gets damp often.
Part of the carnation plant family, Saponaria, or soapwort, comes from parts of Europe and Asia.
You can get them in either perennial or annual types, and both produce five-petalled flowers in different shades of white or pink.
The common name, soapwort, comes from the saponins contained in the plant.
If you soak the foliage in water, you can make a natural liquid soap, which is still used by conservators to clean antique tapestries without damaging the incredibly delicate fabric.
Most soapwort plants will resist some drought, and prefer neutral or alkaline soils which drain well.
This plant needs full sunlight in order to grow, and remains a perennial in zones 2 through to 9.
It’s a great option for introducing a lot of color in a ground cover plant, helping to suppress weeds and keep some borders or rockeries low maintenance.
While the name scabious, or scabiosa may put you off, don’t be deterred. The origin for both of these names comes from their historical use to treat scabies, as part of traditional medicine practices.
One of the most popular flowers used as a bedding plant or for cut gardens, pincushion flowers or scabiosa produces lots of colorful flower heads which are composed of tiny, individual florets.
These flowers come in a range of shades, such as pink, blue, purple, deep burgundy, and red.
They’re usually found growing on stems up to 1m high, although they can be shorter or longer depending on your climate and the type of scabiosa you choose.
In cooler climates, they tend to be more compact, while in warmer areas they can grow taller.
The flowers are produced in summer, well into fall if the weather allows. They like fertile, well-draining soil which isn’t moist all the time.
You can divide these plants every year, or let them self-seed naturally.
For best results, grow scabiosa as part of a mixed border, or to fill in the gaps in beds and containers, where these flowers will attract plenty of bees.
Perennial scabiosa will thrive in USDA zones 3 through to 9, and while you can grow them as biennial plants or annuals, perennials will last much longer, providing your garden with color for years to come.
Also known as the fan flower, half-flowers, and naupaka, scaevola hails from the Goodeniaceae plant family, mainly from parts of Australia and Polynesia.
Outside these regions, (or USDA zones 10 and 11), the fan flower plant is usually grown as an annual, to add unusual texture and color into containers and beds.
You can also grow it as a houseplant if you prefer, but you may not be able to provide it with enough light, as the fan flower needs plenty of it.
Aesculus pavia, red buckeye, or the firecracker plant is a lovely shrub which is native to southern and eastern areas of the US.
It’s proven to be a very hardy plant, capable of withstanding temperatures as low as 5°F (or -15°C).
Reaching between 5 and 8 meters tall, the scarlet buckeye makes a statement in any garden, blooming in spring with clusters of deep red flowers, lasting for weeks at a time.
It’s also a great way of inviting beneficial insects into your garden, helping to keep pest numbers at a manageable level, and benefitting the health of all parts of your garden.
The flowers are followed by brown fruits in fall.
This plant won’t ask a lot of you in return. Plant it either in full sunlight or dappled shade, giving it well-draining but damp soil.
It’s important to note that this plant is poisonous, so it’s worth considering a different plant if you have pets or children, even if they only visit your garden occasionally.
Sweet Scented Geranium
Pelargonium graveolens, or the sweet scented geranium, comes from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and it’s grown as an ornamental across the world.
If you live in a temperate region, then you’ll probably want to grow this plant as an annual, but if you live somewhere warmer, you can treat the sweet scented geranium as a perennial.
Either way, the sweet scented geranium likes a sunny spot in the garden, and should be planted in rich, well-drained soil.
You may prefer to grow them in containers or even as a houseplant.
One thing to watch out for is overwatering. These plants don’t like their roots being in wet soil all the time, so make sure the soil drains as well as possible.
They can also get leggy, which is a big problem with the sweet scented geranium.
It’s easily fixed, however. Just pinch out growth at the top of the plant, which will encourage it to grow outward, rather than upward.
You can also readily propagate a scented geranium from cuttings, which is something worth thinking about.
As you might guess from the name, the whole plant is scented, not just the flowers, but the leaves too. As the flowers are edible, they are used to make tea, and as accompaniments in desserts.
Also known as squills, scilla plants (see also Scilla Grow Guide) are perennials which grow from bulbs, hailing from the asparagus plant family.
There are many varieties of scillas, and some are often confused with bluebells. It doesn’t help that the common bluebell used to be classified as part of the scillia genus, and that both are woodland plants which grow from bulbs.
These versatile plants are not fussy about the soil type, as long as it lets water drain away from the roots.
Flowers are most commonly blue, but they also come in shades of white.
Scilla is popular for providing life and color underneath large shrubs and trees, but they will also grow in full sunlight as part of mixed borders, or even in containers.
They have some resistance to deer and rabbits, and remain hardy in USDA zones 2 through to 8.
If large, blousy flowers are not your thing, the sea holly is worth considering (see also Sea Holly Uses).
Sea hollies, or eryngiums, produce flowers similar to a thistle in both form and color, usually in a silvery gray or bright blue.
They contrast well against the foliage, which is typically spiky.
Sea hollies come in annual and perennial forms, and do well in exposed areas, or even those with salty soil, making them suitable for coastal gardens in particular.
Depending on the variety you go for, sea hollies can reach between 45 and 90cm tall, spreading to about 30cm wide.
They are perfect for breaking up beds where plants are all the same height, which makes your gaze ‘stagnate’, and grow bored when there’s no variation.
The flowers attract plenty of pollinators including butterflies.
These characterful plants like a sunny position, well-draining and moist soil. Because the plant has a long taproot, they will also withstand nutrient-poor soil and long dry spells.
Sea hollies bloom through summer and fall, and you can leave the spent flower heads on to dry, which also make good additions to dry flower arrangements.
This is another plant which produces clusters of vivid pink, white, red, or purple flowers, pink being the most common.
Like other members of the plumbago family, sea thrifts are very easy to grow, and are drought tolerant once established.
This makes them perfect for rockeries, dry borders, softening stepping stones, or even xeriscapes, and for the climate-conscious gardener, who wants to grow plants that have less demanding watering needs.
These evergreen perennials can be found across coasts in the Northern Hemisphere, in different conditions such as grassland, salt marshes, road verges, and cliffs on the edge of coastlines.
You may also see it labeled as sea pink, or Armeria maritima, which refers to its tolerance of salty habitats and coastlines.
The sea thrift remains a perennial in zones 4 through to 8, though you may also be able to grow it as an annual plant.
Give it well-draining soil and full sunlight, and watch it flower for years to come.
Another drought tolerant plant is the sedum, or the stonecrop. As you might guess from their leathery, thick foliage, sedums form part of the succulent plant category, under the Crassula plant family.
Sedums are very tough plants, able to survive in conditions that other plants would wither in.
These perennials don’t mind drought, and one thing they should get is plenty of light.
Some sedums are perfect as ground cover plants, especially on rockeries while others get much taller as upright sedums.
They range between 15 and 60cm tall, growing well in acidic or neutral soil.
You can even use them for mass planting, providing a wealth of color and texture into any border.
It also helps that these plants flower during summer, producing clusters of tiny flowers above the foliage. These plants are hardy in USDA zones 3 through to 10.
Note that these plants don’t require deadheading, but very hot weather and little light will cause them to struggle, sending out leggy growth.
Also known as Leucanthemum x superbum, Shasta daisies – surprisingly enough – come from the daisy plant family.
These showy perennials are actually a hybrid, a result of crossing wild species of daisy with Leucanthemums.
The flowers of this plant are white with a bright yellow eye at the center.
You can get both single-flowering and double-flowering types, and in warmer parts of the world, the plants won’t drop their leaves during winter.
They will stay perennials in USDA zones 5 through to 9.
It’s worth knowing that you should aim to plant Shasta daisies into your garden during the first few weeks of spring or summer, so the roots can settle themselves into the soil well before the temperatures plummet in fall and winter.
Shasta daisies will also spread through their rhizomes. If you find there’s too many, and they start to take over the bed they are in, you can easily dig them up and divide them.
One thing to note about Shasta daisies: these plants are toxic to pets.
Shooting Star Flower
Primula meadia, sometimes known as Dodecatheon meadia, or the shooting star flower comes from the primrose plant family.
It hails from eastern parts of the United States, able to grow well in both forests and prairies.
You can recognize it by its unusual umbel-shaped flowers, which nod with the wind. These flowers are usually pink, purple, or white, and appear in spring.
The name shooting star stems from the idea that the flower looks like stars falling out of the sky, when viewed from afar.
It’s not just pretty though; this perennial grows quickly and can be cut back after flowering to encourage new growth.
It’s easy to grow, happy in partial or full shade, and likes well-draining soil.
It’s worth knowing that these plants go dormant in summer after they have finished flowering in spring.
It’s also a good source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
To get the most out of these plants, situate them under trees, shrubs, and other dark areas which may be tricky to fill with color.
Silene plants come from the Caryophyllaceae family, or the carnation plant family. You may also know them as campion or catchfly, known for their ability to attract flies.
This is one of the easiest perennials to grow, and oftentimes, you’ll see them growing alongside other annuals such as marigolds.
Some species are annuals, and most will produce flowers in shades of purple, pink, or white.
These plants are a great option for gardens that don’t get a lot of light, as they are shade lovers.
Asclepias speciosa, commonly called showy milkweed, hails from western parts of North America, and comes from Apocynaceae, the dogbane family.
A trait of many plants within the dogbane family is the milky sap contained within the plant, which is toxic.
This means that you shouldn’t attempt to grow this plant if you have pets or children in your garden, even as visitors.
Its common names include butterfly weed, butterfly milkweed, and monarch weed.
This perennial features hairy foliage, an upright growth habit, and globular clusters of baby pink or purple flowers.
These plants are loved by butterflies, specifically the monarch butterfly, which uses the plant as a food source and a habitat.
This plant is also a favorite of other pollinators, such as moths and bees.
Showy milkweed ranges in size anywhere from 6 to 36 inches tall, depending on the growing conditions and the space available.
It thrives in full sunlight, in dry or damp soil which drains well, and will survive winters in USDA zones 3 through to 9.
One of the most popular types of rose is the shrub rose. They are favorites of garden landscapers across the world, thanks to their beauty as well as being easy to look after.
Most shrub roses need plenty of sunlight, well-draining soil, and lots of air circulation around the plant to prevent disease.
Depending on the cultivar you go for, shrub roses can reach anywhere from a single foot to 20 feet high when they mature.
If you choose the right variety, you will be able to fill your garden with fragrance, color, and even rose hips in fall.
Some shrub roses are hardier than others, and will thrive in USDA zones 3 through to 10.
The silky wormwood, Artemisia dracunulus, also known as wild tarragon, herbaceous sagewort, or dragon sagewort comes from the sunflower plant family, hailing from parts of North America and Eurasia.
As this is the wild variety, it’s not especially suitable for culinary or even herbal use, and there are much better options.
For example, Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’ is a good option for both, also known as French Tarragon.
Silky wormwood is useful as an ornamental plant, in dry, sunny areas, in neutral, well-draining soil.
It’s worth knowing that this plant is poisonous to dogs, horses, and cats, so don’t plant it in your garden if you have any pets.
It’s a very drought resistant plant, and doesn’t have a spreading growth habit, so it won’t take over your garden.
This plant will also bloom in summer, producing petite, feathery flower heads in yellow.
The smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria, hails from warm parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and belongs to the cashew plant family, Anacardiaceae.
This plant is true to its common name, producing fluffy flowers which look like smoke, covering the plant.
For such an unusual-looking plant, this plant is easy to grow, loving full sunlight and well-draining soil.
It can grow as a shrub or a tree, at around 10 to 15 feet tall. For it to grow properly, the soil pH needs to be between 6.1 and 7.8.
The snow-in-summer, Cerastium tomentosum, is native to alpine parts of Europe.
It’s a member of the pink or carnation family, Caryophyllaceae, and produces ‘blankets’ of silvery foliage and white flowers during summer.
It’s a petite perennial, and what it lacks in height it makes up for in its spreading growth habit, making it a good choice for a ground cover.
It loves full sun, but will tolerate some shade in well-draining soil as a drought tolerant plant.
King Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum, or Solomon’s Seal is an interesting plant which is part of the asparagus plant family, having been moved from the lily plant family.
This flower can be found in temperate zones within the Northern Hemisphere, with the vast majority coming from Asia.
The curious common name may reference one of two things, either the markings on the roots look similar to a royal seal, or the cut roots look like Hebrew.
The plant produces pendant, bell-shaped blooms which may be white or pink in summer.
It does best in full shade, beneath larger plants such as shrubs and trees, or beneath structures.
Sorrel, Rumex acetosa, is a member of the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, and has leaves which look like spinach, and can be treated as such.
It also produces small, red flowers on spikes.
It’s native to Europe.
It prefers moist soil, and tolerates poor soil which doesn’t have much nutrition. This plant is often used as a salad green, and is also edible when cooked.
Syringa, or lilacs, are members of the olive family, and produce fragrant, tiny flowers in spring.
They’re native to Europe and Asia, grown in many parts of the world for their beauty and perfume.
They prefer full sun, and do not tolerate wet soils. The most popular variety of syringa is the double form, or the common lilac.
They are an important food source for moths.
The Serbian bellflower, Campanula poscharskyana, comes from the campanula plant family, and can be found in the wild in the Dinaric Alps.
It has a clumping growth habit, suitable for rockeries and borders.
It’s an attractive addition to any garden because of its bright blue flowers, which carpet the foliage.
It likes full sun, and well-drained soils.
Shining Blue Star
The shining blue star, (see also Growing Blue Star Flowers) Amsonia tabernaemontana, comes from the dogbane plant family, and grows in open woodland.
It produces clusters of starry, light blue flowers in late summer. It’s native to Missouri, and blooms reliably as a perennial plant in summer.
The foliage dies back in winter, allowing for other plants to have their turn.
It can reach up to 3 feet high, spreading about the same, and makes a great statement in a mixed border, preferably in wet soil, either in full sunlight or partial shade.
Siberian Bugloss, Brunnera macrophylla, is also known as heartleaf, or the great forget-me-not, and comes from the Borage plant family.
This hardy perennial will reach about 45cm tall, which is rather large for a forget-me-not!
Its leaves are dark green, and it produces blue flowers in spring, lasting for as long as ten weeks at a time.
It prefers damp conditions in shady parts of your garden.
Siberian larkspurs come from the buttercup plant family, under the delphinium genus (see also Delphinium Guide). You may also know this plant as Delphinium grandiflorum, or the Chinese delphinium.
These plants are easy to grow, and they bloom in shades of bright blue. While it is a perennial, it’s not a very reliable one, so many people grow it as an annual instead.
It’s shorter than most delphiniums, and instead of producing its vivid blue flowers on a single spike, they appear throughout the stems.
It is a poisonous plant, so keep that in mind if you decide to grow it in your own garden.
Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea, or sweet garlic, comes from the Amaryllis plant family, found in parts of Southern Africa.
This striking plant is capable of reaching 60cm tall, and produces fragrant, violet flowers during the height of summer, well into fall if the weather allows.
While it’s easy to grow, it will not tolerate freezing temperatures, so you will need to protect it.
As you might guess from the common name, some people use this as an edible plant rather than for its ornamental value. The leaves can be used as a replacement for garlic or chives.
Southern Blue Flag
The southern blue flag, Iris virginica, is a wetland species of iris, as a striking perennial.
It’s perfect for boggy or wet soils, such as the borders of ponds or streams, adding hints of violet and yellow where other flowers won’t grow.