Farfugium japonicum ‘gigantea’

Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum (Giant Leopard Plant) – This interesting herbaceous perennial holds broad, rounded shiny green leaves that are 5 to 18 inches across and rise up from the ground individually on 3 to 4 foot stalks. In late summer through fall yellow daisy-like flowers bloom on tall branched flower stems. The Giant Leopard Plant will grow in sun or shade, but seems to do its best in part or bright full shade and requires it in hotter inland locations unless ample water is provided. Water regularly – in our shade garden the Ligularia are our “irrigation indicators” as they dry out and wilt before anything else. We need to water our well established clumps every 2 to 3 weeks. This Ligularia will survive temperatures down to about 0 degrees F. with the foliage dying completely back much below 20 degrees F. A great plant in the garden or in a container for lending a tropical look to any garden. The species is native to moist meadows, stream banks and coastal areas in Japan and eastern Asia and this variety comes from near the town of Kushimoto, the southernmost point of Japan’s main island, Honshu and on the surrounding islands of Kyushu, Shikok and the Ryukyu Islands. For many years we sold this plant incorrectly as a cultivar of Ligularia tussilaginea ‘Gigantea’ but the correct name is Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum. The changing of the name of this plant is an interesting story. Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), often called “the father of modern taxonomy”, described this plant as Tussilago japonica in 1767 with the genus name coming from the Greek words ‘Tussis’ meaning “to cough” and “ago”, meaning “to act upon’ in the belief that the plant was related to the European Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara but prior to this Pliny the Elder had written about the plant using the name Farfugium. When the plant was later rediscovered by the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune in 1855 it was described as Ligularia tussilaginea by the Russian physician and botanist, Emil Bretschneider with the name coming from the Latin words ‘ligula’ meaning “strap” in reference to the narrow, strap like petals. The English botanist John Lindley determined that Pliny the elder’s name took precedence and in 1857 reestablished that Farfugium was the correct name but it took until 1939 before the name Farfugium japonicum was applied to this Asian plant by the Japanese botanist Siro Kitamura and the split from other plants that have remained in the genus Ligularia has been verified through subsequent observed DNA differences. We previously listed this plant as a cultivar ‘Gigantea’ until finding out that it was a naturally occurring variety. It is also not clear whether this plant is different from Farfugium reniforme (Cremanthodium reniforme). Common names for both plants are Giant Leopard Plant and Tractor Seat Plant. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum.

Farfugium japonicum ‘Gigantea’

Giant Evergreen Ligularia or Tractor Seat Plant. Frankly, I had never heard the name “Tractor Seat Plant” until one of our customers texted me so see if we had this selection. I actually had to “google” the name to see what she was talking about. Well, the name fits perfectly. After first seeing this Giant Ligularia some years back, I was convinced that it must surely not be very cold hardy. But upon seeing it at Duke Gardens in Durham, NC, after one of our more severe winters doing quite well, I’m now convinced that it must be a really good plant even in the upper reaches of the Deep South. With leaves much more glossy than the species and twice the size, when beholding this cultivar for the first time, it is an awesome experience. I’m told that the word “awesome” is far too overused, but when the word “terrible” is used in the KJV of the Bible, newer translations use the word “awesome” instead. So if I say it is “terrible good,” all of you Southerners know what I’m talking about. It has the same 36″ flower stalks as the species with its bright yellow daisy-like flowers. But probably one of the better attributes of this genus is that every cultivar that I have never been touched by a deer. The best proof of this is on Frip Island, SC, where one never gets out of sight of not just one, but several deer. Although its foliage will be magnificent in fairly deep shade, one will get the best flower production if a plant receives good strong filtered sun or a few hours of direct sun.

Zones 7-10

Farfugium

This farfugium plant is thriving on the UF campus. UF/IFAS.

It’s not often you find a wow-worthy plant that thrives in shade and blooms, but farfugium checks those boxes. When fall arrives, farfugium really begins to shine. It sends up clusters of yellow flowers that hover over its glossy foliage making for a very interesting combination of daisy-like blooms and tropical leaves. The large, dark green, leaves themselves are interesting year-round and can transform a shaded area into a lush oasis.

Characteristics

Farfugium japonicum is native to Japan and grows in zones 7–10 in the United States. Farfugium is also called leopard plant, a name it gets from the spotted yellow or white patterns found on the leaves of some cultivars. Solid green, variegated, and crinkled leaf forms also exist. The often lily pad-shaped leaves have a leathery, tropical look that is truly eye-catching. For something a little larger, F. japonicum var. giganteum produces leaves that can reach 15 inches across. Mature farfugium plants vary in height reaching up to two feet tall. These plants are cold hardy making them great for all parts of Florida.

Some farfugium cultivars include ‘Aureomaculatum’ (yellow spots on green leaves), ‘Argenteum’ (white markings on green leaves), ‘Kinkan’ (yellow edged green leaves), ‘Crispatum’ (leaves are curled like lettuce and come in various shades of green), ‘Shishi Botan’ (interestingly shaped crinkled leaves provide texture), ‘Kagami Jishi’ (green frilly leaves with spots of yellow), and ‘Tsuwabuki’ which has green leaves.

Planting and Care

Farfugium does best when planted in partial shade and irrigated. Keep in mind that these plants really stand out when you have a mass planting; farfugium is so fantastic you can’t have just one. This spreading perennial grows in clumps that can be divided in spring, making it a great plant to pass along to other garden lovers. It is also well-adapted to containers.

Farfugium flowers. Photo: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org.

UF/IFAS Publications

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Leopard Plant

Leopard plant is an evergreen, clump-forming perennial that is widely sought for use in landscapes and containers. This somewhat under-utilized plant offers both stunning foliage and bright yellow flowers in the fall. While not a new plant, it has undergone a botanical name change and a recent surge in demand.

Previously known by the Latin names Ligularia tussilaginea and Ligularia kaempferi, leopard plant is currently known as Farfugium japonicum. The round shiny leaves have also given rise to the common name “tractor seat plant”.

Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum) has stunning foliage and bright yellow flowers in the fall.
Photo by Joey Williamson, ©2016 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Native to the rocky coastal areas of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, Farfugium is generally hardy in zones 7-10. This Asteraceae, or sunflower family member, boasts shiny round foliage that is upstaged in fall or early winter when bright yellow flowers burst into bloom. Bees and butterflies pollinate the flowers, and the resulting seeds can be collected for sowing.

Farfugium prefers moist, rich soil but is not fussy about pH and grows best in partial sun to shade. Too much sun can wilt and burn leaves, so err on the shady side in our warm climate.

While it is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, Farfugium requires consistent moisture and will wilt if allowed to dry out. In my experience, deer don’t seem to bother this plant. In fact, insects or diseases problems are rare, with the occasional problem with slugs and snails.

Farfugium adds rich texture and deep glossy foliage to shady woodland gardens, boggy areas, pond banks, container gardens, and perennial borders. In small beds and containers, it is a great back of the border plant. In larger beds, it can be massed as a groundcover in front of ornamental shrubs and under the canopy of trees.

Ferns, hostas, columbines, astilbe, and other fine textured shade plants make excellent companion plants for Farfugium. Here is a look at a few cultivars with interesting features you might consider adding to your garden:

‘Argentea variegata’ is hardy through zones 8-11. This cultivar reaches 24 inches tall with leaves 6-10 inches across. Creamy variegated foliage is easy to incorporate into mixed borders and shade gardens giving them refined elegance. Although a slow grower, it is well worth the wait as the bright white spots act as tiny spotlights in shaded areas.

‘Aureomaculata’ is known for deep green glossy foliage with bright yellow spots, hence the name leopard plant. Some find this appealing while others think the plants look like bleach was spilled on the leaves. This plant is hardy in zones 7-12 and grows to 20 inches tall.

Aureomaculta leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculata’) has green glossy foliage with bright yellow spots.
Photo by Joey Williamson, ©2016 HGIC, Clemson Extension

‘Giganteum’ creates a dramatic focal point plant for small spaces reaching 3-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. As it’s cultivar name implies, this is the largest of the Farfugium varieties available. The bold foliage is striking enough to hold its own in containers as a single specimen.

‘Last Dance’ is a hybrid of two Farfugium species that has leaves with sharp points and glossy foliage, rather than the smoothly lobed foliage of the other cultivars.

‘Bad Hair Day’ and ‘Crispatum’ both have fluffy, curled edges that give rise to the common name “parsley ligularia”. The edges of ‘Bad Hair Day’ are more angular while ‘Crispatum’ edges are more curved. Both are hardy from zones 7-10 and add a unique texture to the garden.

Divide this clumping perennial in spring, or sow the seeds in a cold frame or greenhouse in winter or early spring to increase your plants. The slow growing nature of this plant, combined with its popularity, means you might have to do a bit of legwork to find it, but it is worth the extra effort.

Leopard Plant Care – Tips On Growing A Leopard Plant

Also known as Ligularia or Farfugium, leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum, formerly known as Ligularia tussilaginea) is a bold plant that stands out in semi-shady garden spots. Although leopard plant is appreciated for the small, daisy-like blooms, the spectacular, dinner-plate sized foliage is the real attention getter. Growing leopard plants in the garden is easy. Read on to learn how.

Farfugium Leopard Plant Info

Leopard plant is native to Asia. Some cultivars sport variegated, leopard-spotted leaves, thus the descriptive name. Small, daisy-like flowers atop 3- to 4-foot stems appear in late November or early December. However, much like hosta, some gardeners pinch the spiky blooms to direct energy to the leaves.

Leopard plant is evergreen in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 10, but the plant dies down if temperatures drop below 30 F. (-1 C.). Unless exposed to a hard freeze, the leaves will regrow in spring.

Growing a Leopard Plant

When mass planted, leopard plants make great groundcovers for a woodland garden. They are a good choice for damp areas, including alongside a pond or stream. They also grow well in large containers.

Leopard plants in the garden can get by with very little sun and too much summer sun will wilt the leaves. Look for a spot in partial or light shade. (Growing a leopard plant is much like growing a hosta.) A location protected from intense wind is also beneficial.

The plant thrives in rich, moist soil.

Water leopard plant as needed to keep the soil consistently moist, especially during hot, dry weather. Regular irrigation is especially important during the first growing season.

Feed leopard plants before new growth appears in spring using a good quality, general purpose fertilizer.

Leopard plants aren’t typically susceptible to plant diseases and they don’t have too much trouble with pests – except for slugs that love to dine on the big, juicy leaves. Watch for signs of slug damage and treat accordingly.

The best method of leopard plant propagation is to simply dig and divide mature clumps in spring.

The leopard plant is a species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants belonging to the family Asteraceae.

Like other species of Asteraceae:

  • Tithonia (Mexican Sunflowers)
  • Gazania flowers (Treasure flower)
  • Bellis Perennis (English Daisy)

… Farfugium japonicum is cultivated as an ornamental plant.

They are used in both gardens and pots to brighten up shaded gardening areas.

The small bright flowers and shiny leaves create a striking contrast and look very pretty planted among other flowering plants.

Larger varieties produce large leaves covering pots, centering the attention on the small daisy-like flowers blooming in the fall.

You may hear it called by its common names including:

  • Leopard Plant
  • Green Leopard Plant

It is also known by the plant synonym Ligularia kaempferi.

Named varieties you may find include:

  • Farfugium japonicum ‘aureomaculatum’
  • Farfugium japonicum ‘gigantea’

Farfugium Japonicum Care

Size & Growth

The Giant Leopard plant is grown for its striking foliage and daisy-like flowers.

The plant has a medium growth rate and sprouts in a loose clump about 24” inches tall and wide.

It spreads by rhizomes, creating a carpet of large green leaves often marked with yellow or cream-colored spots.

It is an evergreen perennial, meaning it stays in leaf all year long.

It is a hermaphrodite, meaning it contains both male and female organs.

Bees and other insects pollinate the plant, spreading its growth.

Flowering and Fragrance

Besides the attractive foliage of large leaves, Leopard plants are also appreciated for their tiny flowers.

These flowers bloom time is in the fall and winter and are borne in loose clusters.

They appear similar to daisies and are bright yellow flowers.

Each flower is about 1” – 2” inches across and looks pretty elevated above the shiny green leaves.

Light & Temperature

Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum are hardy to USDA zones – hardiness zones 7 to 9 growing well in a variety of growing conditions and locations.

When it comes to light, Leopard plants tend to prosper in part shade to full shade areas such as shade gardens.

Although they can grow in full sun, leopard plants are highly susceptible to wilting on very bright sunny days when they are planted without any light shade.

As for temperature, the plant is not considered too hardy and doesn’t tolerate below freezing or very high temperatures.

They do best in tropical climates i.e., temperatures above 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-6° C) but can survive temperatures down to 0° degrees F (-18° C).

If you live in an area where winters are harsh, bring your Gigantea inside or plant it in a container during the colder months to ensure its survival.

Watering and Feeding

Leopard plants require constant moisture in the soil.

This is because, in their native habitat, they are most commonly found near streams and coastal areas.

Make sure to keep a close eye on the soil and keep it moist, especially during the hot late summers.

Avoid both overwatering and letting the soil dry out completely.

Both extremes can cause damage, implicating the plant’s health and survival.

The plants also need fertile soil to prosper, so make sure to feed the plants regularly but don’t overdo it.

Soil & Transplanting

As mentioned previously, Leopard plants love rich, moist soil.

Provided it has good drainage, use sandy, loamy, and clay soils for planting Ligularia tussilaginea.

A pH between 5.6 and 7.5 is suitable for Leopard plants.

When you propagate Leopard plants with seeds, you’ll be starting them in pots placed inside a greenhouse.

When the plants have established, plant them in their permanent locations in the ground or bigger pots.

The suitable time for transplanting the plants is in late spring or early summer.

Use well-drained, moist and humus-rich soil to plant Farfugium japonicum in a semi-shaded location.

Farfugium japonicum (leopard plant) growing in large bowl Disney Springs, Orlando, Florida June 2019

Grooming and Maintenance

Leopard plants have very minimum maintenance needs.

You don’t necessarily need to prune them or do much to keep them healthy and thriving.

The one thing you need to be careful about is watering and lighting.

If you have a particularly sunny and hot summer ad your Leopard plant is located in full sun, add shade to avoid wilting.

Also, keep the soil moist at all times as the plant doesn’t respond well to dry soil.

How to Propagate Leopard Plant

Leopard plants are propagated with seeds and by the division of the root ball.

If you’re using seeds to propagate Leopard plants, they need to be sowed in a cold frame during springtime.

Once the plants have grown large enough to be handled, prick the seedlings and transplant them into individual pots.

Keep them inside in a greenhouse during the first winter, planting them outside once the last spring frosts have passed in late spring or early summer.

Division is done in the spring. Simply divide the root ball or take offsets, planting them in individual pots for the coming winter.

Green Leopard Plant Pest or Disease Problems

Leopard plants are susceptible to common plant pests and diseases. The most common pest being slug attacks.

Use food grade Diatomaceous earth insecticide for control. Consult your local gardening center for other methods of getting rid of slugs.

Known Hazard:

Leopard plants contain tumorigenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids which make the plant poisonous if ingested.

Suggested Leopard Plant Uses

In some areas, the stems of the Leopard plants have edible uses.

The stems are boiled in water to remove the bitter taste.

The outer layer is then peeled, and the stems are added in salads and soups, etc.

Other than this, Leopard plants are used mainly for their beauty.

They look great planted in woodland gardens, moist meadows, flowerbeds, large bowls, under larger trees, and in boundaries.

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