giant leopard plant produces dark green glossy
leaves that may get 12 to 15 inches wide.
of the aster family can be described by a lot of
wonderful adjectives, but "lush" and
"tropical" are typically not among them. Yet
that is the case with the giant leopard plant.
Botanically speaking, I am referring to Farfugium
japonicum ‘Giganteum,’ and though it is found
growing on rocky cliffs in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, it
is turning some of the squares here in Savannah, Ga.,
into visions of garden paradise.
find this superb, as one of my horticultural heroes
Robert Fortune is credited with introducing it to
England in 1856. He was the quintessential plant
explorer. Savannah is a town rich in botanical history,
ranging from plant explorers from the Trustees Garden of
the 1730s that many consider to-be our country’s first
experiment station, to the USDA Plant Introduction
Station that is now the Coastal Georgia Botanical
Gardens. Giant leopard plants in the historic squares
will just add to the botanical lore.
the giant leopard plant is found not just in our
historic district but also in our finest neighborhoods,
particularly those that are like wildlife preserves.
Here the extraordinarily beautiful plants remain
pristine and untouched by the native deer population.
You won’t see cages or netting protecting these
plants, just some of the most exotic foliage in the
you are not familiar with the plant, you might think it
is a dichondra on steroids, the result being a plant as
large as a giant hosta. The difference however is the
two- to three-foot clumps formed of round- to kidney-shaped,deep
green glossy leaves. The leaves can be enormous,
reaching close 12 to 15 inches wide.
grew it in Mississippi, where winter temperatures were
regularly in the teens. There the plant stayed evergreen
in spite of what might be considered punishing
temperatures. In Savannah the last two winters have been
equally bone chilling. Technically speaking, it is a
zone 7-10 plant, though it is not hard to find testimony
from gardeners who have found success in micro climates
in zone 6b. In colder areas you will treasure this plant
in large containers moved to indoor winter protection.
thrives in moist, fertile soil and doesn’t want to dry
out much and every great leopard plant I have seen has
been growing in shady to filtered-light locations. Any
shady areas you have that tend to stay moist would
probably be just about perfect for this plant.
now you are probably thinking, what about the aster
family type flowers? In October and November, tall
spikes seem to explode from the clump with clusters of
yellow daisy-like blossoms, adding further pizzazz to
your shady area. These spikes may range in height from
24 to 36 inches and will bring in an assortment of bees,
butterflies and other pollinators.
leopard plant would add great contrast to an area where
you might grow hostas, ferns, begonias and shady
ornamental grasses. It will look stunning along a
woodland trail, a meandering stream or a dry creek bed
that stays moist. It is perfect at the edge of water
gardens and looks picturesque grown in a garden with
am touting the giant green selection, but know this can
also be a collector’s dream plant with those that have
spots, variegations and even wavy leaves. These are all
worthy of searching for, even if you have to urge your
favorite garden center to get them for you. The giant
leopard plant, however, is your starting point. I hope
you will give it a try.