A Gardening Journal
The Best Spring Ever: 'Kaimon Dake' Leopard Plant
- Published: March 09 2016
Leopard plants are easy in containers, and thank goodness: They aren't usually hardy in sites colder than Zone 7, and yet their spectacular foliage and tolerance of shade and intense heat can make them stars of Summer and early Fall gardens everywhere.
Young leaves of this one, Farfugium japonicum 'Kaimon Dake', are cream with green flecks, but mature to solid green. The performance is interesting only as long as new foliage emerges, so I keep the colony fertilized and watered all Summer long.
Because I also keep the plant in a container year round—and bring it into the greenhouse before heavy frost in the Fall—I don't need to worry about letting it slow down to dormancy in preparation for a Winter outdoors. Rather, I keep the colony active even into October, then withhold everything for several weeks after sheltering it later that month. With the short days and cool temperatures, I don't need to resume watering until the foliage has begun to wilt sometime in November.
Even so, I water only lightly until March. Leopard plant's hardier cousins, the ligularias, can enjoy much greater amounts of water year round, and much worse drainage in the Winter. As is typical for evergreen plants in general, Farfugium requires at least average drainage when less active in the cool months; it's better to water less then and, so, maintain a higher degree of soil aeration.
Now that it's March, the colony has become more active. I've become more generous with watering, and will resume fertilizing, too. I'll revisit 'Kaimon Dake' as the colony matures, especially when it bursts in flower—unexpectedly—in late Fall.
Here's how grow the original leopard plant, Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum'. Its hardiness and handling are similar.
Here's a look at the largest of the "leopards," F. japonicum 'Giganteum'. It is grown as much for the striking glossiness of its deep-green leaves as for their size, eight to ten inches across. A mature colony can be three to four times as high and wide as one of 'Kaimon Dake'. This substantial size difference would be expected: The leaves of 'Giganteum' are not only larger, but also have their full complement of chlorophyll.