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Plant of the Month: Farfugium japonicum

Jitsuko's Star Leopard Plant

At a glance
Latin name: Ligularia tussilaginea ‘Aureomaculata’
Common name: double-flowered leopard plant
Flowers: 3-inch double yellow daisies
Foliage: large, rounded, shiny deep-green foliage
Mature height: 2 ft.
Hardiness: winter hardy Zones 7 to 10
Soil: well-drained 
Exposure: part sun to light shade
Water usage: frequent
Sources: mail order or Internet suppliers

Thanks to a grant from the Founder’s Garden Club of Dallas, I have started a small shade trial area for the weird, wacky and underused. One question I get a lot is What plant can be used in shade? Well, slowly but surely, the trials in this area are helping me discover some new plants other than Asian jasmine and English ivy. 

One plant I have been familiar with for quite awhile is leopard plant, a spotted form of this particular genus. Personally, I like the polka dotted foliage, but some gardeners think it just looks sick. So I was pleased to run across ‘Jitsuko’s Star’ three years ago while perusing the Plant Delights catalog ( This variety has shiny green leaves, loves light shade, and in late fall sends up a fountain of 2" golden-yellow, double-star-shaped blossoms. The flowers start in early October and last through our first light frosts. The one in my trial garden is in absolute full bloom right now! After a hard freeze the foliage will die to the ground until early spring.

So many of our shade plant choices have fine-textured, lacy leaves – like wood fern (Thelypteris kunthii) – that I find the bold, saucer-sized leaves of ‘Jitsuko’s Star’ to be a great contrast in the shade garden. This plant will never attain the level of worship that hosta has reached, but for our climate it’s a much better shade perennial. You probably won’t find ‘Jitsuko’s Star’ on the shelves of your local nursery. It just isn’t that popular yet, but you can easily find it on the website mentioned earlier or by entering the name in Google for other Internet sources.