With its bold dark foliage and eye catching yellow blooms, Ligularia is a prize specimen for any shade garden. A perfect foil for the silvery blues of Hostas or the feathery foliage of Astilbes, Ligularias' heart shaped leaves range from deep green, to bronze, to maroon, and from smooth edged, to toothed, to serrated. Daisy shaped flowers, in hues of yellow not typical of most shade perennials, rise above the clumping foliage in mid to late summer. Planted in a row, Ligularia will create a striking seasonal hedge, and single plants become large focal points. These moisture loving plants are very well suited for placement besides pools, stream beds and in bog gardens.
Ligularia was first classified by count Alexandre de Cassioni in the early 19th century; it was first categorized under the Compositae family, but has since been reclassified under the Asteraceae family. Ligularia is native to China, Taiwan and Japan, and in Japan the plant is known as Metakaraku, which means "sweet smelling roots".
Hybrid Ligularia have been bred with both foliage (like the highly serrated leaves of L. 'Dragon's Breath') and flowers (like the golden spires of L. 'The Rocket') in mind.
Some varieties you'll find at Portland Nursery include:
Ligularia dentata 'Britt-Marie Crawford'
Broad, glossy, dark chocolate leaves with the dark purple undersides make an extremely bold statement in the garden. In late summer, golden orange flowers are perched atop purplish-black stems for an altogether captivating composition. More sun tolerant than most Ligularia. 3-4'H x 3-4'W.
Ligularia dentata 'Desdemona'
Deep yellow flowers (2"-4" across) appear in summer, rising above the leaves on thick stems. Tooth-edged foliage is just as beautiful in its own right; new leaves are purplish-red, while mature leaves have deep green tops and maroon undersides. 2-3'H x 2-3'W. Wikimedia Commons photo credit to Bff.
Ligularia 'Dragon's Breath'
This smaller variety has a darkly elegant look with its deep green cut leaves and clumping habit. Golden yellow flowers appear on purple black stems above the foliage in summer. This one is slower growing than other species. 24-30"H x 24-30"W. Photo credit to JardinsLeeds.
Ligularia 'Osiris Café Noir'
This dwarf Ligularia has leathery leaves with serrated edges that start out deep purple and lighten through bronze to green as they mature. Yellow flowers emerge in mid to late summer. 20"H x 20"W.
Ligularia 'The Rocket'
One of the most well known species of Ligularia, 'The Rocket' has stunning black-stemmed spikes of yellow flowers that rise out of mounded deep green tooth-edged foliage.
Blooms mid-summer. 4-6'H x 4-6'W.
Common Name: Ligularia
Origin: China, Japan and Taiwan
Culture: A hardy perennial (USDA 8, 10-20 degrees), the Ligularia grows best in morning or late afternoon sun with midday shade; or dappled shade all day. Direct midday sun and intense heat can cause the foliage to wilt. Ligularia thrive in rich loamy soil, but can tolerate heavy clay soils once established. Ample moisture, however, is a non-negotiable for these water loving plants.
Maintenance: Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Feed with general purpose fertilizer before new growth begins in spring. To encourage more blossoms, prune old flower heads.
Pest & Diseases: Slugs and snails are often attracted to foliage. Common control methods include beer baited traps, diatomaceous earth, and iron phosphate based bates such as Sluggo. Leaf wilt is also a common problem for Ligularia. Foliage droops when exposed to direct, intense sunlight and during the heat of summer. Oftentimes the plant will revive in the evening when conditions are cooler. To avoid leaf wilt, plant Ligularia in a place that provides shelter from excessive heat and direct mid-day sun.
Propagation: Dividing is the easiest route to propagate Ligularia and should be done in early spring or late summer. Dig up as much of the root system as possible, then using a sharp, clean knife cut the crowns into smaller sections and replant.