Green Curly Plant In Large Pot
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(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Nikki Tilley)

Most plants in the garden grow relatively straight, perhaps with a graceful curving aspect. However, you can also find plants that twist or curl and plants that grow in spirals. These uniquely twisted plants are sure to attract attention, but their placement has to be planned carefully. Read on for information on common twisted plants that make great additions in the landscape.

Common Twisted Plants

Twisty and curly plants are fun to look at but a little more difficult to position in a garden. Usually, they do best as the focal point and more than one in a small garden may be too much. Here are some of the more commonly seen “twisted” plants:

Corkscrew or Curly Plants

Plants that twist have stems that are contorted or grow in spirals like the contorted hazelnut (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’). You may know this plant by its common name, Harry Lauder’s walking stick. This plant can grow 10 feet (3 m.) tall and twists curiously on a grafted hazelnut stem. Enjoy the unique shape; however, don’t expect very many nuts.

Another more common twisted plant is the corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’). The corkscrew willow is a small tree with an oval growth habit and is considered a specialty plant. It has narrow branch angles and interesting “corkscrew” branches with fine-textured leaves.

Then there is the whimsical plant known as corkscrew rush (Juncus effuses ‘Spiralis’). It grows from 8 to 36 inches (20-91 cm.). Cultivars have names like ‘Curly Wurly’ and ‘Big Twister.’ This is definitely a one-of-a-kind plant, with crazily twisted stems spiraling out in all directions. The curly stems are a lovely dark green, making a good backdrop for lighter colored plants.

Plants that Grow in Spirals

Plants that grow in spirals may not be as amusing as other curly plants, but their growth patterns are interesting. Many climbing vines are included in this category, yet not all spiral in the same direction.

Some climbing vines, like honeysuckle, spiral as they grow. Honeysuckle spiral clockwise, but other vines, such as bindweed, spiral counterclockwise.

You might think that plants that twist are influenced by sunlight or heat. In fact, researchers have found that the direction of the twist cannot be changed by external conditions.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.