We’ve been growing the fall-flowering Farfugium japonicum for nearly 40 years, and despite growing numerous cultivars as well as seedlings, had seen no difference in the standard yellow flower color, until a 2008 visit to the Georgia garden of plantsman Ozzie Johnson. There, I first met the cultivar, ‘Beni’, which in Japanese, means red flowers.
Plantsmen in search of red flower plants all share the same frustration when they find that ‘Beni’ almost always turns out to be orange, to those without horticulture color blindness. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to know that there was a mustard orange flowered selection. Thanks to Ozzie’s generosity, a division returned with us for JLBG.
After growing it for 15 years, we still don’t have enough to share, but have recently divided our original clump, and spread it around the garden to build up stock faster. The photo is it in the garden this week (mid-November). We’re hoping it won’t be too much longer before we can share this amazing selection. Hardiness Zone 6a-9b.
Those old enough to remember the incessant Volkswagen commercials of the 1990s probably still can’t get the word Fahrvergnügen out of their brain. We’ve commandeered the term, which means “The Joy of Driving” to Farfugnügen…the joy of growing Farfugium.
We think more people should be growing this amazing genus of plants in the aster family. While most named selection are made for foliage only, with a less than stunning floral show, here is one of our favorite flowering selections, Farfugium ‘Jagged Edge’, that we’ll make available for the first time next year through Plant Delights. These fall-bloomers put on quite a show, which in most climates, ends with the first hard freeze. Hardiness zone 7b to 10b.
We recently had someone inquire if we grew tractor seat plant, a common name I had not heard prior. After a brief pause, I figured few plants, other than our 2000 introduction, could possibly fit that name. Sure enough, a quick web search confirmed that Farfugium japoncium var. giganetum ‘Marco’ is indeed their target. While wandering through the garden this weekend, I found one clump still in flower, that somehow avoided damage from several nights at 27 degrees F.
To our knowledge, this giant form of Farfgium japonicum, native Japan’s southernmost Ryukyu Islands, was first brought to the US by plantsman Marco Stufano, who rationed out one plant per year for a NY Rare Plant Auction. When Marco was ready to retire from Wave Hill, he finally shared a piece with us, so we could get it mass propagated, hence we named the clone in his honor. To our knowledge, all tractor seat plants sold in the US came from Marco’s original plant.
One of our favorite fall woodland plants is a member of the Aster family, belonging to the genus farfugium. Farfugiums have long had a bit of an identity crisis, as they were originally named in 1767 by Linnaeus as Tussilago japonicum. In 1768, the same plant was also published as Arnica tussilaginea. Then, in 1784, it was moved to the genus, senecio, and became Senecio japonicus.
Later in 1891, it was renamed again, this time as Seneciotussilagineus. It remained in the genus senecio until 1904, when it moved to the genus Ligularia, and became Ligulariatussilaginea. Here it remained until 1939, when it became Farfugiumtussilagineum, but corrected the same year to match Linnaeus’s original epithet, resulting in Farfugium japonicum, which it remains today.
Below is our plant of the typical species, Farfugium japonicum in flower at JLBG this week. Through the decades, we have been collecting an array of other forms. Light open shade or a tiny bit of morning sun and average to slightly moist soils produce the best results.
Farfugium ‘Roundabout Fall’ is our selection of a hybrid with our Taiwanese collection Farfugium japonicum var. formosanum and the typical form. We like the smaller, thick, rounded leaf shape.
Farfugium ‘Jagged Edge’ is another upcoming JLBG/PDN introduction, scheduled for a 2023 release. It forms one of the larger clumps of any farfugium cultivars we’ve grown.
Farfugium ‘Bashi Ogi’ is the only cultivar we know of Farfugium japoncium var. luchuense. This rare variety hails from Japan’s southern Ryuku Islands of Okinawa and Kagoshima. It differs in appearance by being a much smaller plant with leaves which are wider than tall. Here is our plant flowering now here at JLBG.
For 2022, Plant Delights will introduce JLBG’s first selection of Farfugium japonicum var. luchuense, that we’ve named Farfugium ‘Sweet Spot’. It’s a miniature seed selection from the above Farfugium ‘Bashi Ogi’, that only gets a few inches tall, so will make a great house plant, where it isn’t winter hardy.
Fall is a great time for gardening. With cooler weather there is less transpiration and water stress on the plants. Also, even though the top of the plant may be dormant, the roots are still growing. This gives the plants a chance to establish a good foundation over the winter and a head-start going into spring.
Speaking of a good foundation, a healthy garden starts with good soil preparation. Soil care is essential in avoiding plant stress and subsequent pest problems. Join us next Saturday, November 12 from 10-noon for an interactive lecture that will cover nutrient balance, soil test reports, how to incorporate organics, taking care of microbes, and an array of misconceptions regarding planting techniques. If you have soil test reports, be sure to bring them with you.
Another perk to attending next weeks soil class, is afterwards you can shop our sales houses, taking advantage of our Fall Overstock 20% off sale and go home with lots of unique plants. Here is just a peak at a few of the gems.
Farfugium ‘Argentum’ blooming in the greenhouse
Dioon ‘Palma Sola’ – Mexican sago palm
Dionaea ‘King Henry’ – large leafed Venus fly trap