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Sunday, November 13, 2016

November Plant of the Month: Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum'

With winter fast approaching, I think it is so important to honor the plants that are helping chase away the winter mood while most other plants are quickly embracing it. For November, Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum' is the CLEAR winner! Although the name doesn't quite roll off the tongue, I promise you will not want to forget it.

Farfugium japonicum is a shade loving plant known for its beautiful foliage. I can best describe the leaves as a robust big leafed begonia cultivar with the texture of plastic. During most of the year the requirements for this plant are similar to hostas - partial to full shade, a good amount of water, and kept away from extreme heat. Farfugiums are not nearly as cold hardy as hostas, but they are all around so much more spectacular and interesting than anything most people are growing here. When I saw beautiful Farfugiums at the Rutgers Gardens Annual Plant Sale (if you are a gardener in the area you have to visit this plant sale at least once!), I was so excited because it is a plant NO one offers here.

The foliage is very exotic although the plant is low growing so you'll want to keep it either in a pot or on the edge of gardening beds so it can be enjoyed. 'Aureomaculatum' is an especially nice cultivar for its foliage because it is spotted with golden flecks all over its leaves. I also like 'Gigantea' which has very large and glossy leaves. That cultivar is especially nice for tropical gardens.

In the fall when the weather cools down this plant kicks into overdrive and throws up beautiful, cheery bright blooms. The flowers look similar to dandelions or mums but are held up on very ornate delicate stems. The bees LOVE these blooms. Maybe it's just the lack of other flowers to enjoy, but my farfugiums are swarmed by honeybees all day long even in the chilly and short days of November. And the foliage still looks as healthy, full, and spectacular as ever. If anything it seems like the cooler weather has only benefited this plant. For these reasons Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum' is the plant of the month in my yard!

Here is the photographic proof!

For winter storage here in New York, both my farfugium 'Aureomaculatum' and 'Gigantea' will be kept inside my unheated garage when temperatures start to dip below 30F in the overnight. Farfugiums are generally considered root hardy to at least zone 7, but if I learned anything from my cast iron plants (which survive my winters but almost always have complete dieback), it is sometimes it's worth the extra work of bringing a plant inside than to risk it in the ground and have it never reach its fullest potential. Farfugiums actually look nicer in pots than in the ground where they would get lost among fast growing vines and tropicals in my yard. I recommend this plant to anyone in zone 8 and up for use in the yard and anyone at all as a potted plant, especially if you have long, frost free falls like we tend to have in New York City. Average first frost here is about mid November.

As always thanks for looking. I would love to hear your experiences with Farfugiums and if you have any other plants that bring some energy to an autumn yard.

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