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Ligularia, a Must Have in the Shade

For as long as I have been gardening I have been planting Ligularia in the shade garden. It wasn’t until I started gardening in the park that I realized just how underused this plant is and how positively people react to it when they see it.

Ligularia in the courtyard garden.

Ligularia in the courtyard garden.

In general, ligularia have glossy, deep green foliage with a purple underside. Foliage can be quite large and round to heart shaped to thin and deeply serrated. Flowers are orange-yellow to yellow. They can look a bit like a black-eyed Susan or along the lines of a yellow delphinium. My plants have proven long-lived with good but not perfect care.

Care Guide
Ligularias need shade to part shade and moist, well-draining, rich soil. They do not like to dry out and will not tolerate dry soil conditions. Plant them with other water-loving shade plants, or plan on deeply spot watering to ensure healthy, vigorous growth. Rodgersia is a great companion plant because it, too, prefers rich, consistently moist soil.

Note that even when well-tended, ligularia will wilt—especially the variety ‘The Rocket’—during the heat of the day. Do not panic. It is simply this broad-leaved plant’s way of conserving water. However, if it does not regain full structure in the cooler evening hours, additional water is needed. Water deeply. Ligularia have deep roots and like to draw water from deeper regions of the soil.

Holes in Ligularia foliage? Slugs are to blame. Remove damaged leaves and use your preferred method of slug control to keep the voracious eaters at bay.

Here are three cultivars to get you started:

‘Britt-Marie Crawford’: Blooms August to September, reaches 2 to 3 feet in height. Space 24 to 36 inches apart.

Britt Maria

'King Kong': Leaves are 16 inches across and start dark purple-black and transition to burgundy as the plant’s yellow-orange flowers appear. Quite large! Height is 3 to 4 feet and a spacing of 36 to 42 inches is recommended.

King Kong

'The Rocket': Deeply serrated leaves that are typically not as thick or fleshy as other  varieties, perhaps why it tends to wilt. Deep yellow flowers appear on tall spikes in July and August. Height is 5 to 6 feet when in bloom. Spacing should be 2 to 3 feet.

Rocket

Cultivar photos courtesy of White Flower Farm