Perennial Spiky Green Plants

Written by marie roper
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Perennial Spiky Green Plants
Yucca makes a bold statement wherever it's used. (yucca image by photlook from

Spiky plants provide a useful textural contrast to the rounded or spreading habit of most perennials. They can mark the ends of flower beds or signal a transition between colours in traditional perennial borders. Like exclamation marks in writing, however, they catch the eye most effectively when used sparingly.

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Irises have spiky green foliage. The bearded iris (Iris germanica) has stiff, swordlike leaves and tall flower stems in early to midsummer. Bearded irises are available in almost any colour imaginable; some even have striped foliage. They require full sun and excellent drainage. Siberian irises (Iris sibirica) have upright, grassy foliage and slender flower stalks with floppy flowers, usually in white or blue. They grow well in full sun or light shade and prefer moist soil. Siberian irises reach 3 to 4 feet when in bloom, depending on cultivar. Both irises are cold-hardy throughout USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 9.

Perennial Spiky Green Plants
Bearded irises come in many colours. (Blue Iris image by bluefox from


Torch lilies, or red hot pokers (Kniphofia), are African plants with stiff grassy foliage 3 to 4 feet in height. In summer, they send up tall spikes of reddish-orange and yellow flowers that give the plant its common names. Flower spikes open from the bottom up. These plants are at their best in full sun. The cultivar 'Primrose Beauty' has all-yellow flowers. Red-hot pokers are hardy throughout Zones 5 through 9.

Perennial Spiky Green Plants
Red hot pokers are eye-catchers. (pokers red hot image by robert mobley from

Feather Reed Grass

Most ornamental grasses have a rounded or weeping habit, but feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora) is rigidly upright, adding a strong vertical element to the garden. Summer flowers are upright and narrow, in a white to reddish-white colour that changes to golden-buff in autumn. The flowers persist until spring, so these are good plants for adding winter interest to the landscape. The cultivar 'Overdam' has white-edged foliage instead of the usual solid green. Feather reed grass is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.


Yucca, or Adam's needle (Yucca filamentosa), is a hardy member of the agave family, native to the southeast U.S. The evergreen leaves form a stiff clump about 30 inches high and wide. White, bell-shaped flowers shoot up in midsummer on a stout stem 8 to 12 feet high. Yucca can be a specimen plant in sunny flower or shrub borders. The ends of the leaves come to a sharp point, so avoid siting it where small children or pets play. Yucca is hardy in Zones 4 through 9. Like many succulents, it is extremely drought-tolerant once established.

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