Paul's Plant Picks: Crocosmia, Cattail and Castor Bean

Master gardener Paul James describes three great plants to try in the garden.
By:

Master gardener Paul James suggests these three plants for the garden.

Crocosmia

gby1701_4a_Crocosmia_Closeup

gby1701_4a_Crocosmia_Closeup

The fiery orange-red crocosmia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) develops from a corm, which is a bulb-like structure. The clusters of tubular flowers lie atop long, curving stems and attract hummingbirds. Crocosmia prefers full sun to part shade and generally tolerates well-draining to semi-moist soils. Native to South Africa, it's hardy to USDA Zone 7 yet marginal in Zone 6 when covered with a thick layer of mulch in winter. In colder climates, the corms can be dug in the fall and stored inside.

Cattail

gby1701_4b_Cattail

gby1701_4b_Cattail

A water-loving plant, cattails (Typha latifolia) are usually found planted along a streambank or in a pond. Late in the season, brown cylindrical seed heads form that are most often associated with cattails. It has green swordlike, or grasslike, leaves with variegated selections available. It grows to about eight feet tall in marshy soils. Hardy to USDA Zone 3. A dwarf selection is available but is only hardy to USDA Zone 8. Caution: this plant can spread rapidly in boggy soils, so make sure to keep the plant in check through maintenance practices or by planting it in a contained area.

Castor bean

gby1701_4c_Castor_Bean_fruit

gby1701_4c_Castor_Bean_fruit

Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is a large-sized annual with a unique leaf that resembles a giant Japanese maple leaf. Its foliage is reddish purple with red petioles, but perhaps more spectacular is the bright red, spiny fruit. Castor bean can grow five to eight feet tall. Plant in full sun in a well-drained soil. Caution: all parts of this plant are poisonous, especially the bean from which castor oil is produced. Keep it away from children and pets.

Next Up

Plant Hardiness Zones

Learn more about the USDA hardiness zone map and how to use it.

What to Plant in High- and Low-Maintenance Gardens

Choose plants for a garden design that will suit your lifestyle.

How To Choose, Plant And Grow Annuals

Add a burst of seasonal color to your garden with easy-to-grow annuals.

Planting Annuals: When and How To Plant Annual Flowers

Learn the ins and outs of planting annuals, including when to plant annuals and techniques you can use to boost success.

Gardening Q & A: Summer Snowflake Plant and More

Master gardener Paul James talks about pruning candles, cool plants, and no-hassle manure tea.

How to Sow Annual & Biennial Plants

Annuals and biennials look more natural if sown in informal swaths, or drifts, that merge into one another. 

Plant and Grow Poinsettias in Your Garden

These tropical beauties can flourish outdoors in warm-winter areas.

Grow Licorice Plant

Use these silvery, gray-green or chartreuse plants as fillers and spillers in the garden.

How to Plant Bulbs in Grass

Create a natural-looking display of bulbs in your lawn by adapting your planting technique to the size of the bulbs.

A Healthy Start: Learn How to Recognize Thriving Plants

Spotting the difference between healthy plants and failing plants will set your garden up for success.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.