You’d expect to find this lovely, old-fashioned plant in a garden where pixies and elves dance at night. It is found naturally growing near water in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
Common name: Leopard plant
Botanic name: Farfugium japonicum or Ligularia tussilaginea
A clumping evergreen perennial to about 60cm (24″) tall and wide. Although it produces loose clusters of yellow, daisy-like flowers, it is mostly grown for its attractive foliage. Leopard plants have leathery, rounded or kidney shaped leaves, often variegated with irregular white, cream or yellow markings. The species has shiny green leaves, while the cultivar ‘Aureomaculata’ (the true ‘leopard plant’) has green leaves randomly spotted with yellow.
water feature planting
tropical-style foliage garden
accent plant in shady areas
cheerful yellow flowers
This plant has been though many name changes. As well as F. japonicum, it has been known as F. grande, Ligularia kaempferi, L. tussilaginea, L. japonica and Senecio kaempferi.
- Leopard plants prefer a position in light shade, such as the filtered shade under a tree. They will wilt if exposed to the hot summer sun.
- They like moist but well-drained soil enriched with organic matter.
- Water and mulch well. Leopard plants must never be allowed to dry out.
- Leopard plants are easily propagated by division of the clump in spring.
Leopard plants are difficult to find in nurseries. Your best bet is to try indoor plant nurseries, or ask your local nursery to order one for you. They cost about $22 for 150mm (6″) pots.
To read more about leopard plants, refer to the book More Exceptional Plants by Stephen Ryan. It is published by Hyland House and costs approximately $50.