5 unusual plants for a summer garden

Will you be adding one of these showstoppers to your planting list this year?

Butterfly flower - Asclepias tuberosa
(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

When it comes to choosing flowers for adding summer color and scent to our outdoor spaces, many of us play it safe and opt for traditional favorites such as  roses, foxgloves, marigolds and pansies. 

While there's certainly nothing wrong with that (after all, who doesn't love a beautiful rose in their garden), there are more varieties on offer if you want to try something new for your flowerbed ideas this summer. 

To get you inspired to step outside of your comfort zone, we've chosen five unusual and often overlooked blooms that are guaranteed to give your garden a talking point this summer. Which ones will you add to your planting list...

1. Lord Bute

Pelargonium 'Lord Bute'

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

Most commonly known as geranium, the pelargonium is a much loved variety.  Lord Bute, however, is one you may not have come across that often. Deep crimson in color with a bright pink edging, this is a striking flower and the velvet leaves are sumptuous. 

You can buy them as plants that will come ready for potting on and planting out as soon as the frosts are over. They are ideal for garden borders and windowsills. 

2. Himalayan poppy

Himalayan Poppy Seeds - Lingholm from Suttons

(Image credit: Suttons)

Hands up if you’ve seen a blue poppy before? If not, we think you'll love this beautiful variety just as much as we do. They’re a hardy perennial that will literally light up your garden year after year. 

Dramatic and striking, you could combine them with other blue flowers for an unusual display or team them with pastel shades of pink and lilac. They will flower from May to June. 

Head over to our garden color schemes for more interesting ways to add unusual shades to your plot. 

3. Granny's bonnet

Granny's bonnet - Aquilegia x hybrida 'McKana Giants Mixed'

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

This pretty flower is part of the buttercup family. It's ideal for cottage gardens and wildlife garden ideas and features pale green leaves with nodding heads. 

Free flowering the seed mix gives you a wide range of vibrant colored blooms on strong stems that make them ideal for cutting. You can sow them until June and they will flower from May to July. 

4. Red hot poker 

red hot poker - Kniphofia rufa 'Rasta'

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/ Sarah Raven)

Uber striking, this red hot poker or torch lily (it has many names) has unusual pendulous tuber flowers that are coral red in bud and open to zingy lime green. 

As they are tall, you can use them to create height in your borders. You can start them off as seeds or buy as seedlings. They love full sun and will flower from July to October. 

5. Butterfly flower

butterfly flower - Asclepias tuberosa

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

This unusual perennial has nectar rich flowers that butterflies love – hence its name. Golden-orange in color, they are a great choice for sunny borders and are showy in style. They will flower from July to September so they’re a good option for late color. 

Ideal for wildlife gardens, when autumn approaches the flowers turn into long seed heads that split open to reveal seeds adorned with strands of silken white hairs. 

There's more tips on how to grow a butterfly garden in our guide.

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years. She recently trained to be a florist and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for weddings and events.