16 New and Unusual Plant Varieties
Grow your ketchup and fries on the same plant or start a mini-vineyard. Science is adding a wealth of new plants so we can boldly grow edibles and ornamentals we've never grown before.
'Ketchup 'n Fries'
Grow tomatoes for ketchup and potatoes for fries below the soil with 'Ketchup 'n Fries'. This exciting introduction from the U.K. yields up to 500 sweet, red cherry tomatoes and up to 4 1/2 pounds of white potatoes per plant. The plants are grafted, not genetically modified.
Echibeckia 'Summerina' is a new series of flowering plants created by crossing Rudbeckia and Echinacea. 'Summerina' is fast-growing, with extra-large blooms and good heat and drought tolerance. Hardy in zones 6 to 9, the flowers are available in yellow, orange and brown.
Bioglow 'Starlight Avatar'
Developed by molecular biologist Alex Krichevsky, 'Starlight Avatar' is a variety of flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata) that emits light. It's created by introducing genes from bioluminescent marine organisms into specialized plant cells called chloroplasts. These autoluminescent houseplants glow dimly, like starlight, and live 2 to 3 months. Work is underway to develop a brighter glow and find a way to package and ship the plants that won't compromise their fragile, jelly-like growing medium. At a 2014 auction these plants, which are not yet commercially available, sold for almost $800 each.
Bred from an old pineberry variety, Hula Berry is a white strawberry with a pineapple flavor. White strawberries are not self-fertile so for best results, grow Hula Berries with a red strawberry for pollination (a 3:1 ratio is recommended). Hula Berry kits come with three Hula Berry plants and one 'Sonata' red strawberry. The berries are produced from June through August.
Lily Oriental Asiatic 'Kaveri'
New 'Kaveri' lilies came from a scientific breakthrough: a hybrid cross of the vivid colors and bud-count of Asiatic lilies with the big, sweetly perfumed blossoms of Orientals. The flowers are yellow-gold, tangerine and burgundy. These compact plants are perfect for cottage or cutting gardens.
Small enough to grow in a teacup—or perhaps a wine glass—'Pixie Grape' is a naturally-occurring, dwarf version of 'Pinot Meunier', a grape variety used to make wine and champagne. While most vines take up to 3 years to produce, these clusters of miniature grapes are ready in the first year. The plants can be grown as ornamentals indoors if given bright light.
'Dog Tuff' African Dogtooth Grass
Dog lovers, take note: New, super-durable 'Dog Tuff' grass stands up to dogs and foot traffic and takes a fraction of the water most turf grasses require. This award-winning warm-season grass, recommended for sunny areas, stays green from about June to October in zones 5 to 9.
'L.A. Dreamin' Hydrangea macrophylla
The first hydrangea to produce blue, pink and in-between flowers on the same plant, 'L.A. Dreamin' doesn't require a special fertilizer or aluminum sulfate to show its true colors. Introduced in spring 2015, the plants grow 4 to 5 feet high in sun to part shade.
Buddleia 'Flutterby Pink'
Gardeners love Buddleia because these drought-tolerant shrubs attract butterflies. But they've been banned in some states because of their aggressive, invasive growth habit. 'Flutterby Pink' is an award-winning variety that's both non-invasive and sterile. Check your state regulations to see if it's allowed in your area.
Impatiens 'Big Bounce'
Across the country, flower fans have watched sadly as their impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) succumb to downy mildew. 'Big Bounce' is a new hybrid for shade to partial sun that resists this deadly disease. You'll also find disease-resistant impatiens in the 'Bounce' series.
Hydrangea 'Avant Garde'
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Avant Garde' is a new look in hydrangeas: it can be grown as a patio tree with one basketball-sized bloom. The plants don't require pinching and the flowerhead can last 4 to 6 weeks, up to twice as long as other varieties. If you prefer, grow 'Avant Garde' as a shrub.
Summer Squash 'Cupcake'
'Cupcake' is a hybrid with zucchini-soft skin and the taste of patty pan squash. These round, green summer squash, produced on trailing vines, have a sweet yet savory flavor.
This amazing Cocktail Tree is usually guaranteed to produce at least 3 varieties of citrus. It's created by grafting a ruby red grapefruit, navel orange, Ponkan tangerine, Minneola tangelo, Meyer lemon and Persian lime. The fruits ripen at different times for an extended harvest.
'Pink Icing' Blueberry
Grow 'Pink Icing' for its delicious blueberries, produced on a plant that's small enough to grow in a container and attractive enough to use as an ornamental. In winter, the pink and blue-green foliage looks almost iridescent.
Kalettes - A Kale and Brussels Sprouts Cross
Bicolored Kalettes, the "new kale," are a cross of kale and Brussels sprouts produced by traditional breeding methods (that is, they are a non-GMO cross). The brightly colored florets grow atop stalks and have a nutty-sweet taste. This collection from Johnny's Selected Seeds includes 3 varieties that mature throughout the season for an extended harvest.
Bred by cactus expert Jeff Thompson of Pueblo, Colorado, this hybrid hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus canus x russanthus) opens its green and caramel-brown flowers in spring. Grow it in western and hot desert regions for its highly attractive, ornamental spines.