Design Tip: September 3, 2009

Spiky (Upright) Flowers

Hollyhock Blazing Star

I have a great appreciation for plants that group their flowers on tall spikes that stand above the rest of the plant. Perhaps it's because it appears that have taken great pride in their accomplishments or because since I'm a short person, I appreciate their desire to be taller, even if it is only temporary. Nevertheless, plants with tall flower spikes provide a unique opportunity to vary the height and texture of flowers in the garden. Those that like to arrange cut flowers will also appreciate the variety and ability to add height to their arrangements.

Oddly, every type of plant seems to have a representative with blooms that are arranged in spikes. Put another way, there are plants with flower spikes that are trees, shrubs, perennials, biennials and annuals. The size of these flower spikes can vary greatly and is not necessarily a function of the plant's overall size. I have seen annuals and biennials with flower spikes 2-3 times the size of those found on some trees and shrubs.

Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs with their flowers arranged in upward spikes include: Tardiva Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva'), Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), Catalpas (Catalpa spp.) and Buckeyes (Aesculus spp). Butterfly bushes also fit into this category but I'm reluctant to use them due to their potential for invasiveness.

Tardiva Hydrangea Red Buckeye

Perennials and Biennials

Perennials and biennials with upright flower spikes include: Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.), Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), Ladybells (Adenophora spp.), Hollyhocks (Alcea spp.), Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), Lupines (Lupinus spp.), Lobelia (Lobelia spp.), perennial Salvias (Salvia spp.), Hyssop (Agastache spp.), Lavender (Lavandula spp.), Gladiolas (Gladiolus spp.), Hyacinths (Hyacinthus spp.), Russian Sage (Perovskia spp.), Astilbes (Astilbe spp.), Foam Flowers (Tiarella spp.), Coral Bells (Heuchera spp), etc.

Foxgloves Obedient Plants


Annuals with upright flower spikes include: Larkspur and Delphiniums (Delphinium spp.), annual Bellflowers (Campanula spp.), Snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.), annual Salvias (Salvia spp.), Celosias (Celosia spp.), etc.

Larkspur Snapdragons

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Images & Drawings Copyrighted © 2009 by Theresa Schrum - All rights reserved