These perennial plants look like shrubs to me!
(Buddleia - Butterfly Bush, Cestrum, Anisicanthus- Hummingbird flower, etc.)
Some perennial plants are hard to categorize and fall into groups known as subshrubs. Others, may be woody shrubs in a warm climate, but become perennials when growing north of their normal range. A few of our listings here (especially the dwarf conifers) are truly shrubs, but since we are a perennial plant nursery, we list them here as woody perennials.
Read More About Woody Perennials
If you can put it into a perennial garden bed and it looks like it belongs, then it is a perennial plant in our book! Technically, a perennial is any plant (including woody plants such as trees and shrubs) that lives for more than 2 years. The term "perennial" designates longer-lived plants while the term "annual" is used for plants that live for 1 year and "biennial" is used for plants that live for 2 years.
The technical definition of a shrub is a woody plant less than 13' tall with many branches or stems arising at or near the base that do not exceed 3" in diameter. Shrubs under 6' in height are sometimes referred to as sub-shrubs. Some of the perennial plants below are not shrubs because they do not make "real" wood (e.g., palms, and bananas) or their wood is not very rigid. Some are not shrubs because although they are woody, the branches remain wiry or very thin. And others are not shrubs because although they are woody, they die back to the ground each winter and re-emerge from the soil like an herbaceous perennial does.
Plants do not always fit easily into our man-made categories, but instead exist along a continuum that goes from shrubbiness to non-shrubbiness. But we like 'em all no matter where they are along the continuum and include them in our online plant catalog of garden perennials despite any woody-leanings. Most of our woody perennials are either hard to find plants in nurseries, or new plants that have excited us. When you’re ready to buy some new exotic plants for your garden that fall into the woody perennials bucket, we hope you’ll check out our list of new plants below.
Since 1988, Plant Delights Nursery has been the choice of serious gardeners and plant collectors looking for the best and rarest perennial plants. We are pleased to have received the Perennial Plant Association Retail Award in 2011, the American Horticulture Society Commercial Award in 2002, and to have been selected as one of the Best Mail Order Plant Sources - Garden Design Magazine 2010. Welcome to our family of plant lovers!
In our winter hardiness trials, Abutilon 'Bartley Schwarz' (named after the late California plantsman, although incorrectly spelled "Schwartz") has been one of our best performers. The slightly pendent branching habit of this Abutilon megapotamicum hybrid makes a 4' tall x 4' wide clump clothed with small, fuzzy green serrated leaves and adorned from early summer through fall with 1.5" wide, salmon-orange (RHS 24B) bell-shaped flowers that dangle from the outstretched woody branches. As a houseplant, this mallow relative is everblooming (should be the same in an apartment)...just watch out for hummingbird droppings. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Abutilon 'Canary Bird' is a marvelous hummingbird plant that has survived 6 degrees F in our garden. This hibiscus relative has maple-like foliage on a compact 6' tall x 3' wide plant. For us, Abutilon 'Canary Bird' starts flowering in early summer with large, dangling, 3" wide, canary yellow, bell-like flowers and continues until the first frost. For those in more northerly zones, Abutilon 'Canary Bird' makes a great centerpiece for a container planting. Good winter drainage is key for maximum cold tolerance in the ground. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Abutilon 'Fool's Gold' is an upright abutilon, clothed with 2" wide, fuzzy green leaves and adorned from early summer until fall with 2.5" wide, hanging, orange (RHS 24B) lantern-like flowers, each highlighted with dark orange veins...a hummingbird delight. This 4' tall x 2.5' wide flowering maple has proven to be reliable in our climate since 2004, but is also a great summer container specimen plant. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Abutilon megapotamicum is a fun and easy-to-grow Brazilian native that makes a great hummingbird magnet for the perennial border, spreading to several feet wide in a single season. If you're into container gardening, a flowering maple also makes a great hanging basket plant. In the wild, Abutilon megapotamicum reaches 8' tall, but in temperate climate cultivation, it rarely exceeds 5' tall. From late summer until frost, the plants are laden with very cool 2" hanging red lanterns, carefully placed between the thumb-sized green leaves. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This vigorous hummingbird favorite makes a 5' tall x 5' wide upright mass of woody stems adorned with fuzzy, dark green leaves. During the summer, the outermost branches are laden with dangling parchment-yellow flowers, each highlighted by a dark red calyx. This has been a superb performer in our winter hardiness trials. Although we list this as a selection of Abutilon megapotamicum, its vigor and leaf shape suggest its baby-daddy is instead a close relative. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
I longed for an abutilon with pastel flowers and plantsman Luen Miller of Monterrey Bay Nursery came to the rescue with this fabulous selection of Abutilon megapotamicum. The 3' tall x 4' wide clump of Abutilon 'Pink Charm' is adorned from early summer until fall with small pink dangling bells that line the stem...simply charming for both the gardener as well as nearby hummingbirds. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Thanks to Luen Miller of Monterrey Bay Nursery for sharing his splendid 2005 introduction...a hybrid of Abutilon megapotamicum. The 3-4' tall mass of stems is adorned with pointed green leaves and, from early June until fall, with hundreds of dangling bell-shaped flowers. The flowers are clear orange, highlighted by red bloodshot eye-like veins. Each flower is held tight by a dark burgundy calyx (the thing the flower sits in). Abutilon 'Orange Hot Lava' has been a standout in both our summer flowering and winter hardiness trials. Nine out of 10 hummingbirds agree, Abutilon 'Orange Hot Lava' is a top choice! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This Jon Dixon hybrid has been an amazing performer in our garden trials. Not only did Abutilon 'Voodoo' continue flowering into the upper 20s, but it kept green stems and leaves down to 20 degrees F. Abutilon 'Voodoo' makes an upright 6' tall x 3' wide clump, adorned, starting in late summer and continuing into late fall, with large 2", blood red, bell-shaped flowers dangling from the top half of the plant. This hummingbird favorite is one of the best performers of the large-flowered, upright flowering maples we have ever grown. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We purchased this lovely form of Agave americana in 2005 from a grower in Thailand, but unfortunately it came without a valid cultivar name, so we've named it Agave americana 'Marshmallow Cream'. Agave 'Marshmallow Cream' has a much wider and shorter leaf than the typical Agave americana 'Marginata', which is more common in the trade. Agave americana 'Marshmallow Cream' also makes a much more elegant plant in the ground as well as in a container. Since it isn't winter hardy for us, we can only guess about a mature size, but we would expect 5' tall x 8' wide. Quantities are very limited. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This beautiful, but slowly offsetting selection of the Mexican Agave americana makes a 2' tall x 3' wide clump, with each wide blue leaf highlighted with a wide central stripe of white. Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba' is often used as a specimen container plant by gardeners in colder zones. Because of the leaf layer arrangement, Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba' is one of the few variegated agave that cannot be successfully tissue cultured. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
I was fortunate to see this amazing, un-agave-looking agave in the wild near Monterrey, Mexico, where it precariously hangs off lightly shaded, high cliffs. Eventually spreading to 2' wide, the easy-to-grow, user-friendly Agave bracteosa resembles large, gray-green spiders with NO spines. We recommend that Agave bracteosa be planted on a slight slope to duplicate the great drainage they receive in the wild. After 2-4 years, Agave bracteosa will begin to form offsets and, when they mature, each clump will produce an amazing 5-7' tall flower spike that resembles a giant yellow bottlebrush! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
It was lust at first sight when I saw Agave bracteosa 'Monterrey Frost' in California's San Diego Botanic Garden. This rare form of the northern Mexican Agave bracteosa has been passed along in California collectors' circles for more than a decade, but is rarely available to the general public. The frozen squid-like architectural rosette of sandpapery green foliage is edged with a perfect creamy-white margin, eventually producing a 1' tall x 18" wide variegated specimen that will offset sporadically after it matures. Agave bracteosa actually enjoys part shade, which also keeps the white edge from scorching. The white edge reduces its winter-hardiness, so where this isn't reliably hardy, Agave 'Monterrey Frost' makes a stunning unarmed container specimen. With great age, your Agave 'Monterrey Frost' will flower with lovely fragrant yellow blooms that attract hummingbirds. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We haven't been able to track down the origin of this splendid hardy century plant, but we now feel confident that it is a hybrid with Agave salmiana. Our seven-year-old patch has produced 2' tall x 3.5' wide rosettes that offset quite fast. The 9" wide, flat, blue-green, deeply-lobed leaves are particularly architectural. Because of the somewhat scabrous leaf back, we wonder if Agave scabra might be the baby daddy, but then Agave cupreata looks like a candidate also. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Available 6-6-2013Agave 'Desert Diamond' is the latest Hans Hansen introduction...a wide edged sport of Agave 'Kissho Kan'. Compared to its parent, Agave 'Desert Diamond' is slightly slower growing due to the extra white in the leaf, but will eventually make a 15" tall x 18" wide, sparsely offsetting variegated rosette. Agave 'Desert Diamond' is a stunning plant, especially in a container for the summer patio. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This stunning selection of the tropical Agave desmettiana comes from Joe Hoak of Hoak's Nursery in south Florida. Agave 'Joe Hoak' makes a stunning specimen plant with wide, pliable, glaucous grey leaves, each bordered in creamy white, which is in turn surrounded by a dark green edge. Many people consider this the most striking agave cultivar in commerce. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Agave flexispina is a rarely grown agave, related to Agave palmeri and Agave shrevei, that struck my fancy when visiting the Ruth Bancroft Garden in California. Hailing from 4,500' to 7,500' in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango and Zacatecas, Agave flexispina has shown great winter hardiness in our trials. The powder blue leaves with long red spines form rosettes that are often solitary but will offset occasionally once established. In cultivation, expect the clumps to reach 18" tall x 3' wide. Carl Schoenfeld tells us that in west Texas, Agave flexispina was unblemished down to 0 degrees F, so we think this gem holds great promise for garden use in warm temperate climates. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(syn: Agave lophantha 'Marginata') We originally acquired this rare selection from Thailand as an Agave lophantha, which it is obviously not...we're betting on Agave funkiana. The 18" long x 1" wide, upright, shallowly grooved leaves are dark green and edged with a dramatic wide white border. The few scattered teeth along the leaf edges turn papery and fall away as the leaves age. Agave 'Hakuro Shiro Fukurin' (translated as "frosty white margin") makes a stunning 18" tall x 3' wide clump. These are slow growers in containers. Agave flowers attract hummingbirds. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Agave gentryi 'Jaws' is a stunning Yucca Do selection, from 8,000' on the south side of La Peña Nevada in the Nuevo León Province of northern Mexico. The offsetting, glossy, dark green, 4' tall x 8' wide rosette of Agave gentryi 'Jaws' is composed of long leaves with exceptionally deep sinuses between the short red teeth, resembling a shark's mouth...a maxillofacial delight! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(syn: Agave guiengola 'Marginata') We are pleased to make available this elegant collector plant, whose parent originated in the Guiengola limestone cliffs of Oaxaca (pronounced "Wahaka"), Mexico. Since the name 'Marginata' has been invalid on plants named after 1959, we chose a new name, Agave 'Creme Brulee'. This soft-leaf agave is simply elegant with wide, medium green leaves surrounded by a 1" border of creamy white. While Agave guiengola can reach 3' tall x 4' wide, the variegation should slow it down considerably...we're guessing about 25 percent. Agave 'Creme Brulee' was discovered by California agave specialist, Kelly Griffin. Agave flowers attract hummingbirds. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Agave gypsophila 'Marginata' is the rare margined form of the gypsum century plant, which hails from alkaline, gypsum-laden soils in southern Mexico. Each powder blue leaf is surrounded by a narrow, but irregular creamy yellow margin. In cultivation, Agave gypsophila usually flowers in 5-7 years, yielding small clonal plantlets from the flower stalk which form after the flowers fade. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)