Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leopard plant a bright spot in the garden

Our backyard has many shady spots, and farfugiums are my favorite group of foliage plants for moist shade. Previously lumped into the genus Ligularia, farfugiums have large, leathery leaves that look both primal and exotic at the same time. In our climate they stay evergreen, but they can handle fairly harsh winters (at least down to zone 7) and come back reliably year after year. After all, they’re native to the mountains of Japan where it does get quite cold.

Farfugium japonicum comes in different incarnations, and I’ve written several posts about them before (1 2 3). I love the giant variety (Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’), the variegated variety (Farfugium japonicum ‘Argenteum’) and especially the mottled variety (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’) commonly called “leopard plant.”

My leopard plant is in a 7-gallon terracotta pot and even though we’re at 40% of our normal precipitation right now, it looks better than it ever has. In the early morning and at dusk, it’s like a beacon with its bright yellow spots.

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Potted leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’) in our backyard

The leaves with the vivid yellow spots are new leaves. They do fade a little as they get older.

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I’m still waiting for an all-yellow leaf, but some of the ones below are at least 50% yellow.

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If you live in zone 7 or above and have a shady spot that gets regular water, I cannot recommend farfugiums highly enough. In addition to the cultivars mentioned above, there are quite a few others, including one with curly leaves (Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispatum’) and one with beautifully mottled leaves (Farfugium japonicum ‘Kaimon Dake’). Check out Alternative Eden’s great collection.

Cultivation notes:

In warmer climates, farfugiums should be kept away from the hot afternoon sun. But even without direct sun exposure, their large leaves tend to wilt when the air is hot (90°F and above). This is perfectly normal. As long as the roots are moist, the leaves will perk up as soon as the temperature drops down into 80s or 70s.

In the fall, farfugiums develop flower stalks with yellow daisy-like flowers (farfugiums are in the aster family, Asteraceae). The flowers are cheery but not very showy, and many gardeners remove the flower stalks altogether. I don’t bother and just let them be. I haven’t noticed any seedlings on any of my seven farfugiums, so I’m not sure how fertile the seeds are.

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Farfugium japonicum ‘Argenteum’ with flower stalks

4 comments:

  1. I can't get enough of leopard plant, easy to care for and lights up it's own spot. Some of the ones planted out in our garden are just starting to come back whilst the ones in the greenhouse are putting out new leaves too.

    The markings on each leaf varies but the one on your fourth photo is stunning, love it!!

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    1. Let's make 2012 the Year of the Farfugium :-)

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  2. That is really beautiful! Love the spots! It would look awesome planted with some succulents! LOL

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    1. Candy, it totally would! There are plenty of succulents that are shade-tolerant. Maybe I'll get another sansevieria, the "other succulent," to go with this leopard plant.

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