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Cool Plants

Click through pictures of Paul James' not-so-normal garden favorites.

Acanthus, also known as bear's breeches, features two-foot-long architectural leaves with tiny spines and a three-foot flower spike. Hardy to USDA Zone 8, it will overwinter in Zone 7 if mulched heavily; or you can grow it in a pot. Prefers shade.

Alpinia, a variety of ginger popular in tropical landscapes south of and including USDA Zone 9, performs well in pots anywhere. This plant's variegated leaves add a touch of brightness to shady areas of the garden, where it thrives.

'Twisty Baby', a variety of black locust, is hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 9. Unlike other species of black locust, 'Twisty Baby' is unbothered by leaf miners and borers. It tops out at only 15 feet (as opposed to 75 like many other black locusts), making it a great choice for small landscapes or containers.

Cordyline is a striking tropical plant featuring long, sword-like leaves in rich burgundy. Native to USDA Zones 9 through 11, cordyline can grow to 10 feet tall and produce large clusters of fragrant white flowers.

False sea onion (Urginea) is an old-fashioned houseplant, hardy to USDA Zone 9, which Paul James grows in containers.

This cool plant, called fiber optic grass (Scirpus), gets it name from the tiny flowers at the end of each leaf blade. It's hardy to USDA Zone 8 and does well in bogs, water gardens and containers.

The Madagascar palm isn't really a palm at all but a succulent that's hardy to USDA Zone 10. Because of its spiny trunk, you probably don't want to grow it around children.

This Mexican petunia (Ruellia) isn't really a petunia at all, but it is from Mexico! Hardy to USDA Zone 8, it's easy to root and produces tons of blue flowers that butterflies adore. One note of caution: Mexican petunia is considered invasive in Florida and could get out of hand in other subtropical climates.

Burro's tail falls in the family of succulents and sedums and in most areas should be grown in containers.

Hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11, Persian shield (Strobilanthes) prefers shade and moist soil.

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