Gigantic perennials weeds (see comments) of Buffalo


As promised, here are some oversized leafy plants I’ve been seeing in and around various local gardens. I don’t have information on all the cultivars; sometimes the gardeners don’t know what they have—and they’re often the most successful ones.

In addition to the various hosta (a thriving example of S&S above), darmara, and podophyllum, we have a lot of gardeners experimenting with exotics, making such plants as musa and colocasia staples in the summer garden.

But the most interesting (and largest) plant I’ve seen lately is this agave, which is not perennial here, but has grown in the cactus house in the Botanical Gardens for some years. It is set to bloom this summer (probably at the end of July), lacking just a few more feet of growth before it bursts forth with whatever. We’re all very interested to see what happens. The stalk starting rising through a glasshouse window in April and had to survive some very bitter temps that month.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I have been enjoying my large leaf plants. Petasites is one but I don’t recommend it. I planted mine over ledge rock and that has slowed its spread. My Rhubarb has kept coming back with bigger and bigger leaves each year. I also have a several Bananas that I take outside each year for a tropical touch. Two of them actually had fruit inside last year. Not bad for Connecticut.

  2. If we’re bragging about size, (which does matter, I’m told) I’ve got a big one for you.

    It’s horseradish. I’ve been growing it in my front perennial bed for years. It’s about five feet tall with narrow dark green bumpy leaves. It’s not very wide, so it stands tall amongst the typical perennials most recognize. No significant flower, but impressive leaves. And one of the most asked about plants in the garden.

    Jarred some horseradish from it years ago. THAT was an experience. Still waiting for the nose hairs to grow back. Fresh horseradish is nuclear.

  3. What about castor bean plant? They have nice big foliage. We call them “mole plants” here in the south, and they are well over head high.

  4. Here in southern California big-leaved plants are generally BIG plants like palms, bananas, giant strelitzia, and magnolia grandiflora. I envy people who can grow hostas, and even that dock looks pretty good to me, so lush and tender. In my quest for big leaves in the border, I’ve set out a rubber plant on the north side of the house, vowing to cut it to the ground whenever it gets taller than me. Hope I don’t live to regret it.

  5. A common Burdock being sold at a nursery? You’re kidding, right? Are you sure this nursery is reputable? Wait until someone gets a hairful of burrs and see how well they like that growing in their flower beds.
    They are great to use for hypertufa though. I have at least a 1/2 million of them growing out back….you can have them for FREE.

  6. I’ve not had a problem with it taking over at all. It’s stayed in pretty much the same clump for the last few years. I know it’s supposed to spread, but it hasn’t.


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