What is Ligularia?

Mary McMahon

Ligularia is a small genus of perennial flowering plants native to the bogs and marshlands of Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. In nature, some species are under threat as a result of habitat destruction. Several are cultivated in gardens for their bold foliage and colorful flowers. Nurseries sometimes carry Ligularia seeds and seedlings, and it is also possible to propagate these plants by division. Gardeners with this plant in their gardens may be willing to provide seeds or divisions by request.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Members of this genus produce rosettes of large dark green to almost black leaves. The leaves may be heart shaped, palmate with serrated edges, or spiky, depending on the species. Flowers are produced on tall stalks that appear in the late summer, and the plants will bloom into the fall. Ligularia blooms in orange or yellow, with short petals arranged around a central disc, somewhat like a daisy.

These members of the aster family can be cultivated in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones three through eight. They prefer moist, very rich soil worked with organic material and require partial shade for optimal growing conditions. Like other plants evolved for wetland habitats, Ligularia species are tolerant of very wet environments and can handle wet as well as moist soil. The plants are generally very hardy.

Good companion plantings for these plants include other shade loving plants that thrive in wet environments. Because Ligularia spreads over time, it is advisable to give it some space when establishing it, to prevent it from overrunning companion plantings.

A number of common names are used to refer to Ligularia species, including leopard plant, golden groundsel, and rayflower. These plants can be used as specimen plantings and they can also be grown in massed arrangements in flowerbeds or cultivated along borders and pathways. For a shady garden, Ligularia can be a showy and visually interesting addition, bringing color into the garden in months when most flowering plants have died back for the season.

People interested in cultivating Ligularia species have a number of cultivars to choose from, including several patented cultivars with unique foliage or flowers. If nurseries don't stock the plants, they may be able to order them through their suppliers. Gardeners having trouble obtaining plants can look into seed and plant exchanges online. Many gardening websites host forums for people to connect with each other for the purpose of trades, and this can provide access to seeds all over the world.

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