China's more than 32,000 plant species, according to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in India, include thousands of medicinal and edible plant varieties. China is also home to flowering plants now thriving as garden favorites around the world. Spring-blooming peonies and the Chinese dogwood tree are among the showiest of ornamental plants. Many other flowers native to China have also become staples of Western gardens.
Chinese Astilbe 'Diamonds and Pearls'
Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis) is a shade-loving perennial with delicate spires of spring or summer blooms rising above airy, mounding clumps of foliage. 'Diamonds and Pearls' is a Chinese astilbe cultivar reaching 28 inches high. Hardy to minus 40 degrees F, 'Diamonds and Pearls' has July spikes of small, clear white blossoms above deep-green leaves. Although its leaves may become brown where summers are hot or during drought, this plant is relatively problem free, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Use it in the front of shady borders. Mass it in woodland and shade gardens. It likes partial to full shade in consistently moist, humus-rich soil. Divide the plants periodically when flower production decreases.
In their native habitat, China pinks (Dianthus chinensis) may reach up to 30 inches high with fringed, purple-centered pink or lavender blooms. Cultivars of China pinks commonly grown as garden plants usually grow 6 to 12 inches high and wide. These popular garden perennials, hardy to minus 10 degrees F, bloom from early spring to midsummer. Clusters of flowers rise on stems with narrow lance-like green leaves. Plants in a range of colors from solid white to shades of pink and red--as well as bicolors--are available.
Cutting the plants back periodically will extend bloom, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden. Use China pinks as container plants, border edgings or accent plants. They do best where summers are cool. Give them dry or averagely moist, well-drained soil and full sun. Where summers are hot, they benefit from afternoon shade. Plants in poorly drained areas are prone to rust and crown rot.
Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) is an iris family Chinese perennial also native to India, Japan and central Asia. Standing 2 to 3 feet tall at up to 2 feet wide, it has a basal clump of iris-like, green 10-inch leaves. In July and August, its leafless, upright stems bear red-spotted, bright orange lily-like blooms up to 2 inches wide. Seedpods following the blooms burst in late summer to reveal the blackberry-like seeds responsible for the plant's name. Blackberry lily is hardy to minus 20 degrees F. Use it, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden, in perennial borders. It likes moist, well-drained soil and full sun.