Top 10 Bizarre, Unusual and Weird Plants
Ordinary plants these are not! Walk on the botanical wild side with this top 10 list of unique-looking wacky and weird plants.
Sure, we love plants for their beauty and fragrance, but have you ever browsed the aisles of your local garden center and felt your creative side, I don’t know, sigh just a little? That’s a huge problem: settling for the tried-and-true when you’re really craving weird plants that belong in a school science fair. Botanically speaking, I’m a sucker for a bizarre, funny looking plant.
But committing to adventure often leads straight to disappointment. Either you can’t find a place to buy the weird plant you’re looking for, or you learn the hard way that the plant is too temperamental for the average gardener.
Timber Press’ Bizarre Botanicals authors Larry Mellichamp and Paula Gross introduced us to the plant world’s friendlier eccentrics, focusing on varieties that, with a little work, anyone can grow at home. So bring on the weird plants!
Craving more unusual plants? See our picks for the plants with the weirdest names.
Polka Dot Begonia
Begonia maculata var. wightii
An impressive height of 3 to 4 feet provides a good view of this begonia’s striking leaves. The elongated-heart shape and ruffled edges make for lovely foliage, but the round, sparkly white spots steal the show.
Why we love it: It’s not just beautiful—it’s a brilliant example of nature’s engineering. It is believed that the spots scatter sunlight within the leaves, helping this begonia adapt to lower light below a forest canopy.
Also check out our favorite foliage plants for garden pizzazz.
It’s easy to grow this compact perennial indoors near a window or outdoors on a bright patio. With tiny green leaves on multiple stems, the artillery plant offers a pleasing mound of green year-round. Periodically, flat-topped inflorescences appear, tipped with tiny reddish buds. Watch carefully as they plump up.
Why we love it: Mist those fattened buds and wait about 30 seconds. Poof! Whoof! Puffs of pollen begin bursting out as the flowers open, wafting up like smoke from a cannon.
Check out 10 seriously cool succulents that make great houseplants.
Like other window-leaved succulents, this one has chubby leaves tipped with triangular patches of translucent pigment. The windows protect these weird plants from burning desert rays while letting in just enough light for photosynthesis. A large white flower rises up from the sand to attract pollinators.
Why we love it: In bright light, baby toes produce a red pigment that gives them further protection from the sun. They take on a pink tinge, almost seeming to blush.
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To me, it looks like a skinny starfish on a stalk. But to wasps, the five banded petals of this tropical orchid resemble big, tasty spiders. While wrestling with the blooms, a wasp becomes covered in pollen, which it will helpfully—though hungrily—take to the next spider orchid.
Why we love it: When it comes to botanical moxie, it’s hard to beat a wasp-wrangling orchid.
Here’s our complete guide to growing orchids.
With delicate powder-puff flowers and lacy fernlike leaflets, the sensitive plant seems to earn the name pudica—shy—based on appearance alone. But touch it gently and the leaves fold up, one pair at a time, all the way down the axis.
Why we love it: Within 15 to 20 minutes, the leaflets open back up. It’s hard not to admire such resilience.
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In its native Bolivia, this cactus creeps along the rocky ground—but in a tall pot, its stems bend to resemble an enormous, hairy spider emerging from its hole. Just when you get super creeped out, pretty salmon-colored flowers bloom.
Why we love it: With regular water and fertilizer, it can grow several inches each year, making this tarantula cactus more fun than horrifying.
Learn how to care for a Christmas cactus and help it bloom.
Black Tree Aeonium
Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’
Tight rosettes of leaves high atop narrow, gently crooking stalks: Even without the murky coloration, the black tree aeonium smacks of the Gothic. But this perennial craves bright light and warmth, so be prepared to bring it indoors for winter.
Why we love it: Black tree aeonium doesn’t bloom easily, but when it does, the breathtaking contrast of yellow flowers against the dark leaves makes all the effort worthwhile.
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It starts out innocently enough, a 2-foot-tall plant with elegant lobe-shaped, gray-green leaves. Then—bam!—bright, nasty spines start popping up through those leaves. The leaf tops, the undersides, the stems and even the fruit sport these pointy prickles.
Why we love it: Petals usually get all the points for prettiness, making devil’s thorn a lovable, although far from huggable, underdog.
Like the coneflower, sea holly is a relatively hardy perennial (Zones 5 to 8) sporting a central head ringed with a ruff of “petals.” Except these aren’t petals, but bracts that also sprout out along the stem. And the cone is covered with individual, fully functioning flowers, complete with male and female parts.
Why we love it: Sea holly is the Dr. Jekyll to coneflower’s Mr. Hyde, with its spiky bracts and eerie metallic hue.
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Carnivorous plants are the famous villains of the botanical world. But leave the Venus flytrap for the kids: Butterwort has all the carnivorous action without the creep factor. Rather, showy petals and curvaceous rosette leaves lend a charming sophistication to this Zone 7 perennial.
Why we love it: Sticky mucilage on the leaves traps small insects, and nutrients are absorbed throughout the plant in a matter of few hours. Icky, yet fascinating.
For more weird plants you should grow, try carnivorous pitcher plants.