Bloom Highlights

Free Smartphone App -- Download our free smartphone app to help you locate plants when you visit.

Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.

Cornus sanguinea

Blood-Twig Dogwood

Blood-twig dogwood takes its common name from the deep red color of its newer stems in fall; mature stems, however, are gray green. It forms a dense, twiggy shrub and tends to sucker and colonize. Small white flowers in spring are followed by black fruit.

Members of the genus Cornus, commonly known as dogwoods, are welcome in the home garden for their multi-season interest--be it flowers, fruit, foliage, and/or bark--and their range of forms from small trees to suckering shrubs. The dominant display, however, varies among the species.

Dogwoods are native to cooler temperate areas of North America and Asia. The genus includes 45 to 60 species, divided into subgenera about which taxonomists disagree. The Chicago Botanic Garden's collection includes almost 100 varieties of dogwood from 20 species (7 of which are native) and over 2,400 plants.

Dichorisandra thyrsiflora

Blue Ginger

Blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora), a member of the Commelinaceae family, is a tropical plant that resembles ginger in growth and habit but is actually related to the spiderworts (genus Tradescantia). This striking plant is native to the tropical woodlands of North, Central, and South America, especially in the Atlantic forest vegetation in Brazil. It is cultivated for its handsome, spotted stems and large, shiny foliage, which is held horizontally, surmounted by intense blue flowers. The lance-shaped leaves grow in a spiral arrangement around its tall stem. The leaf sheaths wrap the stems, and the fleshy, cane-like stems emerge from underground rhizomes. The upright, three-petaled flowers have three sepals, small bright yellow stamens, and a tricornered central white "eye." Individual blooms are one-half inch in diameter and grow in terminal flower clusters up to 8 inches long. This is one of the few tropical plants that blooms in a cool blue; most tropicals bloom in the warmer yellow, orange, or red hues, so it is a prized selection for moist, shady areas of the outdoor tropical landscape garden, where it can grow to 6 feet.

First described by naturalist Johann Christian Mikan in 1823, blue ginger was first grown in England in 1822 and is recorded in Sir William MacArthur's catalogue in 1857 of plants he grew in Camden, southwest of Sydney.

Acalypha hispida

Chenille Plant

Chenille plant, also known as "red hot cat's tail," is a large shrub in the euphorbia family native to New Guinea and Malaysia; it is widely cultivated in tropical areas. It is known for the long, fuzzy red catkin flowers that can reach up to 18 inches long. The leaves are broadly ovate and bristly, with fine teeth. In more northerly climates it can be grown indoors with bright light, or as a potted plant outdoors in partly shaded conditions. On smaller plants the catkins may be closer to 6 to 8 inches, starting to droop as they get longer. It requires even moisture and weekly fertilizing if kept in a pot, and must be brought indoors before frost.

Aloe 'Christmas Carol'

Christmas Carol Aloe

With parents native to Madagascar, Aloe ‘Christmas Carol’ is a small succulent that produces rosettes smaller than 1-foot tall and wide with 6-inch-long leaves. The deep green, lance-shaped leaves have soft but spine-like, vibrant, dark red, raised markings down the center and along the leaf margin and are stippled with creamy white dots. The flowers, which bloom in fall and winter, are reddish-pink, though their color is often described as orange. This Kelly Griffin hybrid is what Kelly calls a multigeneration hybrid that possibly includes the legendary and beautiful Aloe 'Doran Black' as a parent, or at the very least, shares some of its characteristics. Christmas Carol aloe has all the beauty of 'Doran Black', with the addition of vibrant red colors in the leaves. It is successful when used as small-scale ground cover in rock gardens or containers. It thrives in full sun, where its color will be brighter, but it can also be planted in light shade. It requires well-drained soil with occasional irrigation in USDA Zones 9 to 11.

Passiflora vitifolia

Crimson Passionflower

Passiflora vitifolia is a spectacular red-flowered passion vine native to a broad region stretching from Costa Rica to northwestern South America. The deeply lobed green leaves resemble those of grapes—the grape genus is Vitis. The leaves are an important food source for larvae of Heliconius butterfly species; the adults visit the flowers to obtain nectar.

Pollinated flowers are followed by 5-inch, speckled, egg-shaped fruit with edible, juicy, whitish pulp. The fruit is very sour until fully ripened.

This is a large, and fast-growing vine (to 20 feet) that requires a warm, humid greenhouse with bright light to thrive in the Chicago area.

Aloe 'Delta Lights'

Delta Lights Aloe

Aloe 'Delta Lights' flowers in December and January with orange tubular flowers tipped in green on relatively thin stems. Throughout the year the exquisite pale green, creamy bands that contrast with the underlaying dark green layers make this a showstopper foliage plant. Broad triangular leaves grow in spirals around the center of the plant. Plant it in well-drained soil and grow in sunny locations for the best results.

Barleria oenotheroides

Giant Yellow Shrimp Plant

The giant yellow shrimp plant, Barleria oenotheroides, has strikingly brilliant yellow flowers throughout much of the year. Adaptable to full or partial sun, this species of woody shrub matures at 4 feet high. It is native from southern Mexico down to northern South America.

Epiphyllum guatemalense

Guatemalan Orchid Cactus Large white flowers open at night (bat pollinated) on this long stemmed epiphytic cactus native to Guatemala in early summer. "Dragon fruit" in red, orange, pink, and yellow in early winter and are very ornamental as well as edible. Requires bright light, periodic watering, and a support plant or trellis to clamber over.

Heliconia stricta 'Gustavos Yellow'

Gustavos Yellow Heliconia

Tall banana like leaves surround the large upright pure yellow heliconia bracts during Chicago's winter in protected greenhouses and conservatories. From each water storing bract, small pale colored true flowers appear in succession attracting pollinating insects but particularly hummingbirds looking for nectar. This is a plant native to warm humid tropical climates and requires full sun, consistently moist soils and high humidity. Challenging but not impossible in a very large container.

Anthurium hookeri x acaule

Hybrid Anthurium

This hybrid Anthurium was identified by noted Aroid expert, Dr. Tom Croat from Missouri Botanical Garden. It was donated to the Garden by the Garfield Park Conservatory - ergo the specific epithet. It is one of the birds nest type with large green upward spreading leaves creating an open space where leaf litter and other sources of nutrition from the middle and upper forest canopies collect. The long thin flowers are a striking combination of deep purple black spadix subtended by a light green spathe. Seeds have not yet been observed but tend to bright shiny reds, purples or blues. Anthurium thrive in warm humid environments with bright filtered sunlight. Many are epiphytes and as a genus they typically don't tolerate heavy, poorly drained soils.

Simmondsia chinensis


Simmondsia chinensis, or jojoba, is native to the southwest desert and is best known for jojoba oil, a very long, straight chain wax that has more in common with whale oil than with more traditional vegetable oils. This wax is used in cosmetics and has potential for use as biodiesel fuel for automobiles as well as in a biodegradable lubricant. To reduce the harvest of sperm whales, large plantations of jojoba have been planted in arid and semiarid regions in North and South America, the Middle East, and Australia.

Jojoba is an atttractive shrub, with densely set branches covered with small gray-green leaves. The yellow-green flowers, though small, are abundant and more conspicuous on male plants. The shrubs are wind-pollinated, with the flowers bearing no nectar or fragrance.

조조바 오일, 혹은 호호바 오일로 유명한 이 나무는 다른 식물성 기름보다는 오히려 고래 기름에 더 유사하다고 합니다. 이 기름으로 만든 밀납은 화장품이나 바이오디젤유의 원료로 쓰입니다. 고래의 포획량을 줄이기 위해서 조조바 (호호바)가 북남미, 중동, 그리고 호주에서 많이 재배되고 있습니다.

Spathoglottis 'Mello Yellow'

Mello Yellow Ground Orchid

This non-hardy terrestrial orchid features months of broad yellow flower petals outlined in purple. A great selection for seasonal displays needing a bit of tropical flare.

Spathoglottis plicata

Philippine Ground Orchid

This clump-forming evergreen perennial grows to a height of 18 inches with full sun to partial shade and moderate moisture conditions. It has magenta blooms year-round.

The orchid family consists of a large number of genera, each with its own unique characteristics. A common characteristic, however, is the basic form of the flower, which consists of three petals surrounded by three sepals, often in dramatic and contrasting colors and in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although some orchids are native to temperate zones, most orchids tend to prefer a semi-tropical or tropical environment (USDA Zones 9-11) and have epiphytic roots, meaning they derive moisture and nutrients from the air and support from another plant; few orchids grow in soil. Orchids usually prefer a diurnal temperature fluctuation, of warmer days and cooler nights, though the absolute temperature range varies by genus and is consistent with their natural habitat. While requiring adequate sunlight for a stunning bloom display, most orchids will not tolerate sustained direct sun.

Many varieties have pseudobulbs, a portion of the stem between leaf nodes that stores water to help sustain the plant through dry periods. Other varieties are monopodial, meaning upward growth is from a single growing point.

There is an exception to almost every general statement one can make about orchids. The family continues to challenge taxonomists.

Euphorbia pulcherrima 'NPCW05102'


Deep red bracts in a rosette are produced above the dark green leaves that are slightly curved. The bright gold flowers (cyathia) tucked within the center of the bracts are larger and last longer than in most varieties of poinsettia.

Keep poinsettias in a brightly lit environment with good air movement and poke a hole in the bottom of the wrapping paper to make sure the soil drains after watering for the longest indoor displays.

Haemanthus albiflos

Royal Paint Brush

The royal paintbrush (Haemanthus albiflos) is native to southern Africa, where it can be found in a range of habitats from temperate mountain slopes to rocky sea coasts. The evergreen, leathery leaves are resistant to salt spray, and the plant can grow and flower in full sun or shady environments. The petals are absent in this flower, the showy parts of which are composed of the white stamens and the light-colored bracts. In the Chicago area, royal paintbrush requires a frost-free environment. Few pests are attracted to this species; spider mites might be a concern, but they are easily washed away with a stream of lukewarm water. (Actually, most spider mites are killed because the water makes them susceptible to diseases.)

Brugmansia 'Sunset'

Sunset Angel's Trumpet Sunset brugmansia, also sold as Maya brugmansia, matures around five feet in height - relatively short for brugmansias.  The large leaves are splotched in green, light green and creamy white. The double flowers start out light lemon yellow and age to pale apricot in hanging clusters - a plant in full bloom is a sight to see. The mature height of this cultivar makes it adapted to use in containers, particularly those that can be moved indoors to a brightly lighted, warm location during the cold Chicago winters.

Dendrobium parthenium

The Virginal Dendrobium Orchid The large pure white flowers are large for a dendrobium orchid and feature a larger than normal lip. Clusters of flowers appear at the nodes near the tips of the growing points. A native of Borneo, it requires a warm moist environment with good air movement.

Citrus sinensis 'Vaniglia Sanguigno'

Vaniglia Sanguigno Blood Orange This blood orange variety has sweet fruit with a bright orange peel and pink to dark purple flesh. Flowers are white, sweetly scented and appear in late winter, early spring even in lower light levels. Great as a container or patio plant that requires regular watering and fertilizer. Allowing roots and soil to dry in between waterings when light and temperatures are low will encourage vigorous root systems. 

Whitfieldia elongata

White Candles

Whitfieldia elongata is commonly called white candles for its never-ending display of 2- to 3-inch pure white flowers surrounded by a petaloid calyx. Glossy leaves with prominent drip tips are all indicative of its origins in tropical rainforests. In cultivation it requires relatively warm temperatures and high humidity, and grows equally well in a large container or planted in the soil of a conservatory. Bright light is preferable.

This genus was named in honor of T. Whitfield, a nineteenth-century collector of African plants. The species was discovered by the intrepid explorer Vogel in a region known as Fernando Po in equatorial Guinea. Its range extends across much of equatorial West Africa.

Camellia 'Winter's Snowman'

Winter's Snowman ICE ANGELS® Camellia Pale pink buds mature to pure white flowers featuring semi-double to fully doubled flowers. The handsome dark green glossy leaves have a reddish tint when they first begin their growth. Camellias thrive in slightly acidic, humic and moisture retentive soils. Grown outdoors in USDA climate zone 7 and warmer, in the Chicago area they make a great addition to the cool conservatory or heated greenhouse as winter sets in.