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4 Unusual and Beautiful Flowers for the SF Bay Area

When looking at landscape designs, I often notice certain plants and flowers being used frequently.  Purple Feather Grass, Hydrangea, Gardenias, Coffeeberry bushes - there is quite a list.  These plants certainly have their place, and some of the are beautiful and easy to understand why they are included.  But, sometimes I know I really want to see something different .  Here I am going to share four beautiful flowering plants that we do not see as often, and will thrive in the SF Bay Area.


Blue Star - Laurentia Axillaris

Blue Star flowers are great because they are beautiful and have long bloom times

Blue Star flowers are great because they are beautiful and have long bloom times

  • Blue Stars have pretty purple petals with an interesting striped center.  The mounding nature of this plant along with the flowers and rich greenery almost look like little fireworks in your garden
  • Blue Stars are deer resistant, something that can really matter in the Bay Area!
  • At maturity, the compact mounds will usually be 12-14 inches tall and wide.  This is great for lining walkways, flower beds, and hanging planters
  • Blue Stars take a bit of patience, because new plants take about four months to flower, but the pretty details and aroma is worth it!  Plus, they will bloom all through late Spring to Fall to make up for being so slow.
  • This plant does not like to be over watered, especially during the first four months of growth.  Moist soil is as far as you want to go!
  • In most of the Bay Area, you do not need to start your seeds indoors, as they can survive as soon as the last frost passes.  You can see what your frost dates are through Plant Maps
  • A native to Australia, the Blue Star prefers USDA zones 7-10, which makes it a great choice for most of the SF Bay Area
  • This plant can handle partial shade to full sun, giving some flexibility with your design
  • Weekly watering is good for the Blue Star, but you will want to increase watering if it gets really hot
  • A slow release fertilizer come Spring will really help these blooms
  • Clipping faded blooms will encourage more growth

Stolen Kiss, Exotic Tropical Cajun Hibiscus - Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

The Stolen Kiss Hibiscus is a stunningly beautiful bloom, that usually average three inches across!

The Stolen Kiss Hibiscus is a stunningly beautiful bloom, that usually average three inches across!

  • There are quite a few varieties of hibiscus flowers, but the Stolen Kiss is an exotic variety, which has larger, fancier flowers than their oft-used cousins
  • A hybrid, the Stolen Kiss is more resilient than some other varieties
  • While this exotic can be planted in a landscape, it will usually fair better in a container.  A 10-12 inch pot is good for one plant
  • Look for a neutral pH soil (5.5-5.6 pH), or a hibiscus specific potting mix, and make sure that where you plant has good drainage.  Standing water can kill these pretty flowers
  • While you do not want to over water, Stolen Kisses do need a good amount of water.  Try to make sure that the soil is moist
  • The Stolen Kiss is well suited for USDA zones 10-11, which does well in the SF Bay Area.  If you are experiencing unseasonable frost, you will want to take this heat loving plant indoors
  • Try to get at least a half day of direct sunlight.  As these are tropical plants, they do not do well in the shade
  • Light fertilizer once per month during the blooming season will result in better blooms
  • Early Spring is the best time to prune this plant.  Cut back dry, woody branches and drooping or run-away branches  

Jammy Mouth - Ruttya Fruticosa

Jammy Mouth (sometimes called Rabbit Ears) are a favorite of hummingbirds

Jammy Mouth (sometimes called Rabbit Ears) are a favorite of hummingbirds

  • Jammy Mouth is a bright orange, long-necked flower that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
  • A native to Africa, these unusal orange flowers do best in warmer climates.  They will grow very well in the SF Bay Area, but if you are in a cooler area (especially that gets a good amount of frost), you can expect the plant to die back in the Winter, but return in the Spring
  • At maturity, the Jammy Mouth is a larger shrub, reaching heights of 4-6 feet.  It can grow well on fences and trellises with assistance
  • Another long bloomer, you can expect these unusual looking flowers from late Spring to Early Fall
  • if you find that your Jammy Mouth is yellowing and not growing well, there is a chance that your soil may have a higher alkaline balance (pH) - this plant prefers slightly acidic (6-6.5 pH).  You may want to talk to your local nursery about adding sphagnum peat to your soil to raise the acidity
  • While maturing, moderate watering is best.  Once full grown, the Jammy Mouth is pretty drought resistant, making it a good choice for xeriscape landscaping! 
  • Using a slow release organic fertilizer twice per year will really help keep your Jammy Mouth in good health
  • Pruning in late Summer, or after the blooms have faded, is best

Coral Honeysuckle Vine - Lonicera sempervirens

If you are looking for a beautiful vine to grow for cover in your garden, consider the Coral Honeysuckle Vine

If you are looking for a beautiful vine to grow for cover in your garden, consider the Coral Honeysuckle Vine

  • Coral Honeysuckle is a beautiful crawling vine, great for trellises, fences, arbors, or for erosion control on hillsides.  It will initially require some training for climbing
  • Unlike many other climbing vines, the Coral Honeysuckle is not aggressive  
  • The intense pink and orange coloring attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, but is deer-resistant
  • Once established, the Coral Honeysuckle is drought-resistant, which is great for California gardens
  • The plant is evergreen, so you can enjoy the lush greenery even during California's mild winters 
  • The Coral Honeysuckle has a relatively long bloom season, and you can enjoy these unusual trumpet flowers from March through June
  • Rich and well drained soil is best for this plant.  Without good drainage, the Coral Honeysuckle can mildew
  • Pruning for shape in late Summer after the blooms have dropped will keep your Coral Honeysuckle looking well groomed
 

Of course these are just a few options of flowering plants we do not see as often here in the Bay.  Are there any non-typical plants that you find beautiful and thrive here in northern California?  We would love to hear what you have found! 

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