Virtues: Chinese mayapple, or Podophyllum pleianthum, has large leaves that lend bold texture to the shade garden. This perennial has an edge over US-native mayapples because it usually keeps its foliage all through summer, up to the first frost, while native mayapples tend to shrink away when temperatures climb. Deer resistant.
Common name: Chinese mayapple, dysosma
Botanical name:Podophyllum pleianthum, syn. Dysosma pleiantha
Flowers: Red, rounded flowers dangle from short stems between two leaves in late spring. They are for the most part hidden by the foliage, so they aren't considered a real ornamental feature.
Foliage: Large leaves sit flat atop upright stems, one or two leaves per stem. The leaves are 12 to 16 inches wide at maturity. Chinese mayapple foliage is shallowly lobed, giving it a stop-sign shape when young, but each leaf becomes nearly smoothly round at full size.
Habit: Herbaceous perennial growing to 24 inches tall and wide. Each individual plant has just one or two leaf stems that emerge from the ground, but the plant can spread by underground stems to form a colony or clump. It is not an aggressive runner.
Origin: Central and southeastern China.
Season: Spring to fall, for its leaves.
How to grow it: Site Chinese mayapple in part shade or full shade. It prefers consistently moist soil and will not tolerate drought. Though it likes moisture, it needs good drainage, not standing water or mucky soil. Generally this Podophyllum will remain present all summer, though in extreme heat it may temporarily go dormant. USDA Zones 5b–9.
Learn to use bold-textured plants like Chinese mayapple and more to best effect in your garden with Rebecca Sweet's Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture and Form.
Top Ten Lists for Beautiful Shade Gardening arranges great plants for shade into 52 lists, making it easy to find good picks for shrubs, drought-tolerant plants, flowering perennials, spring bulbs and so on—that will thrive in the shade.