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A splendid plant with stunningly large foliage in a rich burgundy color can really make a splash in the shade. If that isn't enough, ligularia adds in spires of bright golden blooms for contrast. Coming in a range of different heights, ligularia makes a bold statement in a shade garden. Even without blooms, this plant is wonderful for its foliage.
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With giant, coarse-textured leaves, ligularia is a fantastic foliage-heavy plant in shade gardens. The large leaves are often kidney shaped or, in some cases, loosely triangular and often toothed around the edges. As the leaves emerge, many varieties show off rich burgundy coloration. Depending on the variety, this coloration may stay throughout the season or it may fade to a deep green. Along with the foliage, ligularia has interesting blooms. There are generally two types of blossoms, either tall stalks of numerous small blooms reminiscent of a bottlebrush, or loose stalks of erratic, larger, daisy-like blooms. No matter the form of the flowers, the petals are always a bright golden color that is quite striking against the deep, dark foliage.
Ligularia Care Must-Knows
The most important thing to know about growing ligularia is that it requires constant moisture. In warmer climates especially, ligularia needs supplemental water throughout the summer to prevent it from wilting. When you are looking for a home for ligularia, make sure to plant it in moisture-retentive soils or even alongside water gardens. These plants prefer rich, organic soils—in anything less, they would greatly benefit from an amendment of added compost.
It can be a little tricky siting ligularia for sun exposure. Ideally, plants should be placed in part sun for the best overall growth. It is important to note that, unless they are in constantly damp soils, there is a very good chance that they will wilt almost daily in areas with hot summers. Ligularia can also take full shade (preferably dappled), but much of the burgundy in the foliage will be washed out to a deep green, and blooms will be sparser. Very tall flowering varieties will also likely flop in too much shade, or the blooms may stretch toward the sun. So, depending on what your overall goal is for ligularia, sunlight needs may vary.
Despite their constant need for water, these are truly stunning plants even if grown strictly for the size of their leaves, which add a wonderful counterpoint to the soft, fine foliage of plants like ferns. Other than requiring supplemental watering, ligularia do need much more maintenance. They can be divided in spring as new foliage emerges, but dividing is not necessary for optimum growth.
While there hasn't been any terribly new and exciting developments in the world of ligularia lately, there are some fairly recent introductions to note. There are 150 species in the ligularia family, which makes for great potential for new advancements in the future. Some of the particularly interesting varieties have dissected foliage and others have amazing color-changing leaves. Keep an eye out, as there could be some neat new plants on the horizon.
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More Varieties for Ligularia
Ligularia dentata 'Desdemona' has compact mounds of handsome kidney-shape leaves that are serrated along the edges. The leaves emerge brownish-purple in spring, and the stems and undersides remain purple all season. Ragged, brassy yellow-orange, 4-inch daisies bloom in summer. Zones 4-8