943 Farfugium japonicumCommon Names: leopard plant, green leopard plant, ligularia Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)
Most cultivars of leopard plant have shiny green leaves variegated with irregular creamy white or yellow markings. The leaves are leathery and large, 4-10 in (10.2-25.4 cm) across, rounded or kidney shaped with wavy or toothed margins, held aloft on long stalks, and they are evergreen. Leopard plant grows in a loose clump about 2 ft (0.6 m) tall and just as wide that spreads by shallow rhizomes. Daisylike yellow flowerheads, 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) across, are borne in loose clusters rising on downy stems above the foliage in autumn and early winter. The typical species (which is seldom found in cultivation) has glossy all-green leaves. The cultivar 'Argenteum' (a.k.a. 'Albovariegatum') has leaves mottled with irregular creamy white margins. 'Aureomaculata', the true "leopard plant", has random yellow spots all over the leaves. 'Crispula' or 'Crispata', sometimes called "parsley ligularia", has ruffled leaves.
Farfugium japonicum, the leopard plant is native to rocky coastal cliffs in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
CultureSlugs can be a pest. Leopard plant may suffer if given too much fertilizer. Light: Leopard plant prefers partial shade. Protect from midday sun or it will wilt every day in summer. Moisture: Leopard plant does best in a moist, well-drained, humus-enriched soil but does not tolerate wet, soggy situations. On drier sites, be sure to mulch well. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10. This perennial should be sheltered from cold drying winter winds, and mulched before the first freeze. Remove mulch in spring. Leopard plant performs best in zones 8 and 9, and may be killed to the ground during severe winters. Grow as a container plant in colder climates. Propagation: Divide the root clump in spring.
Leopard plant is usually grown in borders or containers for its bold, attractive foliage. It is sometimes used as a dramatic ground cover and benefits from the moist atmosphere along ponds or stream edges as long as the roots are not subjected to flooding or perpetually wet soil. As an accent plant, it is superb in moist, shady woodland locations. The late season flowers are showy, too.
Leopard plant was formerly classified in the genus Ligularia, and has been known under many names, including Ligularia tussilaginea, L. kaempferi, L. japonica, Senecio kaempferi, Tussilago japonicum, and Farfugium grande. There are just two species classified in the genus Farfugium.
Steve Christman 2/15/02; updated 2/2/04, 8/20/06