List of Promising Plants

HSA's Promising Plants List

The Promising Plant Program features selected herbs that are either newly introduced or are plants that are currently under-used in gardens today. Generally, these plants have qualities that are not found in more common plants and are selected to further explore their potential. Nominated plants are then voted on by the committee and presented at the Annual Meeting and Educational Conference.

Promising Plants 2016

Promising Plants 2015

Promising Plants 2014

2015 Promising Plants

Pycnanthemum muticum

(blunt mountain-mint; clustered mountain-mint) (syn.: Brachystemum muticum)

  • One species of HSA’s Notable Native Herb for 2016 (native to eastern North America)
  • Found in dry upland woodlands, fields, low woodlands and grassy open meadows from Maine to Michigan to Illinois and Missouri south to Florida and Texas
  • Herbaceous perennial to 59 inches; hardy in Zones 4-8
  • Prefers full sun to part shade; moist but not wet, fertile, well-drained garden loam
  • Dark green leaves with strong mint-like (spearmint) aroma; topped in mid to late summer with pink, densely packed,two-lipped tubular flowers in terminal clusters – each cluster being held up by showy leaf-like bracts. When planted in masses or groups, the silvery bracts give the entire planting the appearance of being dusted by a white powdery snow. 
  • Propagate by seeds or division of clumps in spring

Family: Lamiaceae

Uses: American Indians used this plant for treatment of fevers, colds, stomach problems and other physical ailments; mosquito repellant; limited culinary use as mild tea (not GRAS); in crafts for dried flowers, wreaths, tussie-mussies, sachets; in wildflower and meadow gardens, herbaceous borders (with caution – will spread through stolons and/or rhizomes); excellent bee and butterfly plant; deer resistant.

Available from:

Sources consulted:


Helianthus annuus ‘Hopi Dye’

(‘Hopi Black Dye’) (Hopi dye sunflower)

  • Native to North America; an heirloom variety selected and maintained by the Hopi Indians in Arizona and planted in spring in high, cool desert
  • Annual; to 6 feet or taller; grows best in Zones 4-9
  • Prefers full sun and regular watering; long, hot summers; protect from frost; heavy feeder 
  • Look like regular sunflowers but with hints of purple color on the stems and disk flowers in center of each head
  • Sow direct after all chance of frost has passed in average loamy and clay soil with a pH of 5.7 to 8.1 (weakly acidic soil to weakly alkaline soil).
  • Large central flower head with golden yellow ray flowers and purple green center; flowers within sixty to ninety days of sowing; dye is in the hull of the fruits (or “achenes”)
  • Propagate from seed sown when soil reaches 55°F

Family: Asteraceae

Uses: Used by Hopi Indians to impart a color-fast light purple to wool and basketry; shoots and seeds are also edible.

Available from:

Sources consulted:


Nigella orientalis

(yellow love in a mist; yellow fennel flower)

  • Native to Asia Minor; ranging European Mediterranean to W. Asia; a rare casual in Britain; grows in cornfields and dry hills on calcareous soils
  • Hardy annual (not frost tender), growing 16-22 inches tall
  • Grow in full sun to part shade (will not grow in full shade). Succeeds in any good, well-drained garden soil. Water regularly; do not overwater. Inhibits the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes. Requires low to moderate fertilization.
  • Lacy, feathery foliage; small yellow, bee-pollinated flowers from June to September; followed from August to October by unusual, very attractive uniquely fluted green seed pods
  • Propagate by seed best sown in spring or early autumn in situ. (The autumn sowing might not be successful in harsh winters.) Plants can be transplanted if necessary. Self-sows freely.

Family: Ranunculaceae

Uses: Suitable for xeriscaping. The seed is sometimes used to adulterate pepper (PFAF). Flowers are good for drying and preserving. Harvest the fluted pods when they reach their maximum size and hang upside down in a dry, dark, open, airy place. The fixed oil of N. orientalis affects cholesterol levels and antioxidant status in rats (Kökdil et al.)

N. orientalis ‘Transformer’ (‘The Transformer’)

Available from:

Sources consulted:


Trachystemon orientalis

(oriental borage; eastern-borage; aci hodan; Abraham-Isaac-Jacob; early-flowering borage) (syn. Borago orientalis)

  • Found in forested and subalpine areas of its native southeastern Europe and western Asia
  • Herbaceous perennial; a tough, rhizomatous, shade-loving, weed-smothering, perennial ground cover; 12-18 inches tall by 18-24 inches wide; Zones 6 to 9 
  • Part- to full-shade; medium water; low maintenance; easily grown in moist, humusy, well-drained soils. Tolerates drought, including moderate amounts of dry shade in cool summer conditions 
  • Large, wavy-edged, coarsely-textured, long-petioled, heart-shaped, bristly-hairy, overlapping, medium to dark green basal leaves (each to 12” long) typically mature to full size after flowering has finished and form a dense but attractive foliage mat. Pendant, borage-like, white-throated, bluish-purple flowers (each to 1/2” wide) bloom in early spring (March-April) in loose-branched panicles located atop branched, hairy, pink-tinted flowering stems rising to 18” tall. Flowers bloom at a time when the foliage is just beginning to develop. Flowers have tubular corollas with five spreading to slightly reflexed petals.  
  • Propagate by root cuttings and division. Will naturalize in the garden by spreading rhizomes.

Family: Boraginaceae

Uses: Ornamental ground cover. Naturalize in partly shaded landscape areas and woodland margins. Good selection for dry shade. Provides early nectar for bees. Oriental borage is used as a vegetable and is also considered to have medicinal properties in Turkey. Other members of the Boraginaceae family are known to contain pyrrolizide alkaloids, which may also be present in oriental borage. Consequently there may be health concerns over consuming this plant in large quantities. Trachystemon orientalis is also rather effective as a fungicide (Plant Delights Nursery).

Available from: 

Sources consulted:


Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Mozart’

(‘Mozart’ rosemary; also known as Ed Carman’s rosemary)

  • Rosemarys are native to the hilly slopes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, have naturalized in the Azores, and are widely cultivated. As its use has spread around the world rosemary has given rise to many cultivars. All are shrubby and multi-branched, with pine-needle-like leaves, dark green above, silvery underneath. They have a refreshing, resinous scent and flavor. This cultivar was developed by Ed Carman at his nursery on
  • Mozart Street in Los Gatos, California. It is low growing and grows more slowly than some rosemarys.
  • Evergreen, tender perennial shrub; semi- upright; compact; 2-3 feet tall by 4-6 feet wide; hardy in Zones 7-10; deer resistant  
  • Prefers full sun; well-drained, sandy or gravelly soil; moist, but not wet (on the dry side) (especially sensitive to overwatering)
  • Fragrant leaves narrow, compact; flowers very dark blue in late winter and spring 
  • Propagate by cuttings or layering; repot during periods of rapid growth to prevent root binding; prune judiciously, and maintain air flow through the plant; mulch with pea gravel or sand to reflect light up into the plant

Family: Lamiaceae

Uses: culinary, craft: food additive, honey production, essential oils, medicines (folklore); has antioxidant properties

Available from:

Sources consulted:


Chionanthus virginicus

(American fringetree; fringetree; old-man’s-beard; poison-ash)

  • Native to North America, mostly in the southeast but as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as Texas; also cultivated; moist, open woods and woods edges; also on dry slopes 
  • Slow-growing deciduous shrub or small tree; 6-20 feet tall by 10-20 feet wide; Zones 3-9 
  • Full sun to part shade (mulch to keep roots cool in full sun); moist to dry, sandy, slightly acidic loam (will tolerate drought) 
  • Leaves are opposite, oval, 3-8 inches long, mostly smooth. Almost odorless white flowers in drooping clusters appear from May – June; flowers are dioecious (each flower is a single sex); fruits bluish-black, resembling small olives; medicinal part is the dried root or bark
  • Propagate from seed or, with difficulty, from rooted cuttings

Family: Oleaceae

Uses: Ornamental; folklore medicine. Native Americans used decoctions or poultices of roots or bark to dress cuts or bruises and to wash infected sores and wounds (Moerman database). Formerly used to treat many other conditions from cancer to malaria (Duke databases). Used in the treatment of liver and gallbladder conditions, such as jaundice (PDR, p. 341).


Available from: 

Sources consulted:


Cydonia oblonga

(quince, fruiting quince)
(syns.: Cydonia vulgaris; Pyrus cydonia)

  • Native to temperate Asia: Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan; naturalized elsewhere; also cultivated. Woodland margins and rocky slopes; grows wild on creek banks 
  • Large deciduous shrub or small tree, to 10-15 feet tall; self-fruiting or pollinated by honeybees; Zones 5-9
  • Prefers full sun (half-day to full), moist, but well-drained, somewhat acidic, fertile soil
  • Leaves elliptical, with entire margins, often larger than those of apple or pear. Light pubescence on underside. Flowers are borne solitary, terminally on current season’s growth. Self-fertile, big pinkish white blossoms in late spring; very large bright yellow edible fruit in October
  • Propagate from hardwood cuttings; seedlings will sucker; cuttings budded on quince seedlings will not.

Family: Rosaceae

Uses: Quince has a long history of cultivation in the Middle East, where it is native, and throughout the Mediterranean region. Greeks and Romans grew the quince for its fragrant fruit and attractive pink flowers. It has had many ethnobotanical medicinal uses (see Duke databases). At the turn of the 20th century almost every rural family had a fruiting quince tree for cooking and jelly making – quince jelly is a rich, pink color – and adding to apple cider. Quince fruits are probably the “golden apples” of Greek mythology; a symbol of fertility (given at weddings). More important as rootstocks than as fruiting plants, quince is the primary dwarfing rootstock used for pear. The flesh is dry and mealy and is usually cooked or made into jam and jelly, although some cultivars (like ‘Aromatnaya’) have a pineapple flavor and can be eaten fresh if fully ripened. Quinces have long been used as herbal medicines, as an infusion to treat sore throat, diarrhea, and hemorrhage of the bowel. It is effective against inflammation of the mucous membranes, intestines and stomach. They are also used in the cosmetic industry and for medicinal cosmetics. Long used in Chinese medicine, the stembark is used as an astringent for ulcers, and the fruits used for their antivinous (treats addiction to alcohol), astringent, carminative and peptic qualities. The seeds, soaked or boiled in water, release a jelly-like mucilage from the seed coat, which has been used for sore throats and eye lotions. The fruits are so fragrant that a single fruit can fill a room with its rich fruity scent; indeed, quinces were once popular as room deodorizers (Agroforestry News).


  • Raintree Nursery ( offers several cultivars:
  • ‘Aromatnaya’ – pineapple-like flavor from Black Sea region of Russia; sweet enough to eat fresh
  • ‘Seker Gevrek’ – sweet and crispy from Turkey
  • ‘Portugal’ – large pear-shaped old European variety; becomes deep crimson when cooked
  • ‘Karp’s Sweet’ – uniquely sweet, juicy and non-astringent variety from Peru
  • ‘Smyrna’ – reliably productive, self-fertile tree from Turkey; mild flavor
  • ‘Van Deman’ – very large with spicy flavor; heavy bearing
  • ‘Limon’ – new lemon-shaped cultivar with lemon fragrance prized in the markets of Turkey; medium sized fruit
  • One Green World ( also offers:
  • ‘Orange’ – classic variety with light-orange flesh
  • ‘Crimea’ – pineapple-like flavor and citrus-like fragrance
  • ‘Kaunching’ – grapefruit-size fruit, sweet enough to eat fresh
  • ‘Kuganskaya’ – bountiful crops of large, round sweet and mild fruits
  • ‘Mellow’ – more dwarfing than most quince; very tender fruit

Available from:

Sources consulted:


Capsicum annuum ‘Fish’

(‘Fish’ chile pepper)
(syns. of C. annuum are numerous)

  • One variety of the 2016 Herb of the Year
  • C. annuum is native to the warmer portions of the Americas; naturalized elsewhere and widely cultivated. ‘Fish’ is a mutation of a common serrano pepper and probably originated on the east coast of the United States in the 1870s; by 1900 ‘Fish’ was extensively grown by the African-American community around Philadelphia and Baltimore (Tradewinds).
  • Annual; to 2 feet; hardy in Zone 10
  • Prefers full sun; fertile, moist loam
  • Foliage is a distinctively mottled green and white. The 2–3” curving pendant fruits turn from white with green stripes to orange with brown stripes to red, packing considerable heat and full-bodied flavor that especially enhances shellfish. The fruits can look a little like swimming fish.
  • Propagate from seed (80 days). Eliminate any offspring that don’t show the variegation if you are saving seed. ‘Fish’ crosses readily with other peppers, requiring greater populations and more isolation than most others to remain pure.

Family: Solanaceae

Uses: There are many traditional medicinal uses of C. annuum ranging from aphrodisiac to styptic (Duke databases). Native Americans used C. annuum for food in winter; to flavor food; to treat colds; as a poultice applied to feet for “nervous or low fevers” and gangrene; for colic; as a powerful stimulant; to wean a nursing child; to flavor meat and as a delicacy; to flavor stews; for trade (Moerman database). It is quite similar to cayenne peppers in terms of heat, making it perfect for salads and snacks. Its flavor gets milder during cooking (Gurney’s) This African-American heirloom pepper is said to have come into use sometime just after the Civil War, but many believe it is far older originating with the slave trade (Sustainable Seeds). ‘Fish’ is a pre-1947 variety that was used in fish and shellfish cookery (Baker Creek).  

Available from:

Sources consulted:

Online nurseries listed above as sources of seeds


2014 Promising Plants

Promising Plants List 2014 (pdf)

2013 Promising Plants

Asclepias variegata L. (pdf)

Artemisia arborescens (Vaill.) L. (pdf)

Berlandiera lyrata Benth. (pdf)

Citrus hystrix DC. (pdf)

Cryptotaenia japonica Hassk.(pdf)

Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea (pdf)

Cuphea hyssopifolia Kunth (pdf)

Gentiana tibetica King ex Hook. f. (pdf)

Hibiscus sabdariffa L.(pdf)

Lavandula x intermedia 'Phenominala' (pdf)

Lavandula angustifolia 'Thumbelina Leigh' (pdf)

Lycium barbarum 'Phoenix Tears' (pdf)

Mentha aquatica var. citrata - Stewart Smith (pdf)

Mespilus germanica 'Marron'(pdf)

Nigella sativa (pdf)

Rosemary officinalis 'Fota Blue' (pdf)

Rosemary officinalis L. var. albiflorus 'Lady in White'

Rosmarinus officinalis 'Baby P.J.' (pdf)

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