Rare plants are those infrequently seen in local nurseries, either because of their protected conservation status or because they're simply too tricky for the average gardener to care for. Though some rare plants make beautiful garden plants, some are often better off left in the wild, where their blooms and foliage can be appreciated by the local flora and fauna around them.
Holy Wood Lignum-Vitae
A native of the Caribbean, the holy wood lignum vitae (Guajacum sanctum) is a large shrub or small tree that reaches an average height of about 15 feet. Listed as an endangered species in Florida, the holy wood is a rare sight in gardens and in the wild. The plant produces bright-lime-green leaves accented by true blue flowers, which appear in March and April. Holy wood makes an excellent specimen tree in tropical, coastal areas, as the plant has a high tolerance for salty soils. Holy wood does best in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 10 and 11, in full sun or light, dappled shade. The plant is quite tolerant and will do best in a well drained, sandy soil. No supplemental watering is necessary.
Giant Amazon Water Lily
A native of the Amazon river, the giant Amazon water lily (Victoria Amazonica) is an impressive plant which can produce lush, green lily pads between 6 to 8 feet in diameter. The underside of the lily pad is covered in prickly spikes, which the plant has evolved to ward off underwater predators. In late summer, the plant produces 1-foot-long flowers, which are pollinated by beetles. The fragrant, evening blooming flowers are a clean white for a day before changing to a deep, saturated pink. The giant Amazon water lily is a rare sight and was only discovered in 1801. While it is beyond the scope of most gardeners to cultivate the rare and enormous plant, several botanical societies exhibit the plant to the general public.
Occurring in the wild only in Florida, the Ashe magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei) is a large shrub or small tree that is classified as endangered. The shrub rarely grows to be taller than 20 feet, and is more frequently in the 10-foot zone. Ashe magnolia produces large, almost tropical-looking green leaves accented by huge, fragrant flowers, which may be up to 1-foot in diameter. The flowers have a classic white magnolia appearance, with flecks of red in the center. The plant may be cultivated in USDA zones 6 to 9, preferably in full sun or dappled shade. The ideal soil for the Ashe magnolia is a rich, organic soil that's watered frequently.