Plant Guide

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Shady

epimedium-rubrum

Epimedium x rubrum

Bishop's hat, red barrenwort

Perennial ground cover with heart-shaped leaves and sprays of small, rosy-red flowers in spring. The green leaves have a reddish tinge when young, turn more red in autumn and may persist as brown-red foliage during winter. Grows relatively slowly, spreading with underground rhizomes.

Prefers a moist, but well drained position in partial or full shade. Keep moist when young. Once established, Epimedium x rubrum tolerates dry conditions. Old leaves are best removed in spring or earlier so that the young foliage and flowers are better visible. Apply mulch or compost after removal of the foliage. Can be propagated by division.

Excellent ground cover for shady, dry areas such as beneath trees. Make sure to water the plant regularly until it is well established. Mine took a while to start growing, and at some point I thought it had died, until the young leaves emerged again in spring.

griselinia-littoralis

Griselinia littoralis

kapuka, papauma, broadleaf

Glossy bright green oval leaves 5 to 10 cm long and to 5 cm wide. Panicles of very tiny greenish flowers in spring. Occurs in forests throughout New Zealand. Grows as a tree up to 15 m high in nature, but is generally grown as a shrub or hedge in garden situations and maintained at a height of 1.5 to 4 m.

Will grow in a wide range of conditions. Prefers a sunny position, but also tolerates shade. Intolerant of excessively wet sites. Suitable for exposed areas. Quite drought tolerant once established. To keep the plant compact, prune once a year, preferably with secateurs (as opposed to pruning shears).  Hardy to -12 0C.

The fresh green foliage of Griselinia littoralis combines beautifully with divaricating plants such as Muehlenbeckia astonii, with flax-like plants and with taller grasses such as Chionochloa flavicans. Forms a good background for feature plantings, and perfect as a hedge.

griselinia-lucida

Griselinia lucida

puka, akapuka

Evergreen plant with large, glossy foliage, endemic to New Zealand where it is found in forests and coastal areas. Grows well as a shrub or tree in cultivation, but in its natural habitat, Griselinia lucida commences life as an epiphyte, perched high in tall trees, sending roots towards the ground. These roots can become quite thick and deeply furrowed. Eventually the plant may establish itself as an independent plant, but it usually  remains epiphytic and collapses when the host plant dies. The ovate to oblong leaves are thick and leathery, about 10-18 cm long and 4-10 cm wide. Leaf margins on either side are attached at different points to a 2-3 cm long petiole. Inconspicuous, male and female flowers on separate plants in spring. On female plants, the flowers are followed by 0.5-1 cm long fruits, green initially, and turning dark bluish purple to black later.

The common name 'puka' is also used for a different New Zealand native, Meryta sinclairii.

Griselinia lucida requires free-draining soil. Suitable for a position in full sun or shade. Leaves tend to be larger on plants grown in shady spots. Tolerant of wind and coastal conditions. Susceptible to Phytophtora (root rot). If the plant is sulking and its leaves are losing their gloss, dig it up, prune, and transplant (if there still are some healthy roots present) in a drier position. Prune to keep compact. Tolerates moderate frosts.

Attractive, lush foliage, perfect for a tropical themed garden. Often grown as a shrub, but can be trained to a single leader. Forms a lovely contrast with fine-leafed shrubs, such as Muehlenbeckia astonii, flax-like plants, and grasses like Chionochloa flavicans.

helichrysum-petiolare-limelight

Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight'

limelight licorice plant

Evergreen, trailing shrub in the daisy family. Behaves as a climber when given support. Woolly, lime-green, rounded to ovate leaves with entire margins, 3.5 x 3.5 cm, emitting a mild licorice scent when crushed. Rarely flowers with insignificant creamy white flowers in late summer. The South African species Helichrysum petiolare is more vigorous and has become an invasive weed in several areas of the world, including New Zealand. The cultivar 'Limelight' won the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1992.

Synonym: Helichrysum petiolare 'Aureum'.

Prefers partially shaded position in any well-drained soil. Will also grow in full sun or shade. Drought-tolerant once established. Usually pest-free, but may be affected by powdery mildew. OK for coastal gardens. Prune at any time of the year to keep tidy and compact. Tolerates light to moderate frosts of about -7 to -1 degrees Celsius (USDA zones 9-11).

Looks great when combined with dark green, bronze, or burgundy foliage. Also suitable for large containers.

helleborus-anna's-red

Helleborus orientalis

Lenten rose, Winter rose, Lenten hellebore, Oriental hellebore

Clump-forming, evergreen, relatively slow growing perennial with palmately compound leaves and nodding flowers during winter. Native to Greece, Turkey and around the Black Sea. Leathery dark green leaves with 7 to 9 coarsely toothed leaflets, 15-25 cm long. Flowers (5-8 cm across) resemble single rose flowers, and are held above the foliage in loose clusters. Colours range from pure white to pink or dark red, often spotted. All parts are poisonous. Sap may cause skin irritation. In cold climates, Helleborus orientalis is semi-evergreen.

Most hellebores sold as Helleborus orientalis belong to a large group of hybrids, now collectively known as Helleborus x hybridus. Many of the latter have their own name. For example, the stunning deep red flowers in the close-up photograph belong to the hybrid Helleborus 'Anna's Red'.

Prefers partial or full shade and moist, well-drained neutral or slightly alkaline soil. Tolerates drier conditions once established. Dislikes being disturbed, so may take a while to recover after transplanting. Naturalises in suitable climates. Plants are propagated from seed or by dividing large plants in late summer. Old, unsightly leaves can be removed in autumn before the flowers and new leaves appear.

Great ground covering plant for shady gardens. Since the flowers are quite subtle and delicate both in colour and size, they are best used en masse in smaller areas. The leaves contrast beautifully with hostas or ferns. Suitable as cut flowers, but flowers last longer when you allow them to float in a shallow bowl of water.

jasminum-polyanthemum

Jasminum polyanthum

pink jasmine, white jasmine

Very vigorous evergreen climber native to China. Pinnately compound, dark green leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets. Masses of reddish pink flowerbuds open during late winter and early spring (and intermittently during the rest of the year) to fragrant white, starry flowers, 2 cm across and 4 cm long, sometimes followed by small glossy black berries. Spreads quickly by producing long runners and forming roots where nodes are in contact with soil. Runners can even grow under buidlings since the plant is tolerant to full shade and drought. Is naturalised in Australia and New Zealand, and is regarded as an invasive species in several regions of these countries. Forms a dense ground cover, preventing the establishment of native seedlings and smothering other vegetation. 

Very easy to grow and propagate. Tolerant to a range of extreme conditions including sun, shade, drought, dampness, salt, and wind. Prune to keep compact and remove runners to prevent the plant from spreading elsewhere. If you wish to grow Jasminum polyanthemum in New Zealand or Australia check with the local authorities to make sure it is not banned in your area.

Grown for its strongly perfumed flowers and vigorous climbing habit. Suitable as an indoor plant.

ligularia-japonicum-aureo-maculata

Ligularia japonicum 'Aureo-maculata'

leopard plant, spotted leopard plant

Evergreen mound-forming perennial to 60 cm tall and wide. Large, 15-25 cm wide, glossy dark green, rounded, undulating leaves with yellow spots. Yellow daisy-like flowers in clusters during autumn, rising above the foliage.

Synonyms: Farfugium japonicum 'Aureo-maculata', Ligularia tussilaginea 'Aureomaculata'.

Best in a partially shaded position where it receives some morning sunlight, but also grows well in deep shade.

 

ligularia-japonicum-giganteum-leaves

Ligularia japonicum 'Giganteum'

tractor seat plant

Clump forming plant with large, leathery, glossy leaves on long stalks. Often referred to as tractor seat plant in New Zealand because the leaves have the same shape and nearly the same size as the metal seats of vintage tractors. Long flowering stems with panicles of yellow daisy-like flowers during late summer or autumn. All parts are poisonous. Hardy to -18oC. Tolerates drier conditions than many other Ligularia species, but even with adequate moisture leaves may wilt if the position is too sunny.

Synonyms: Ligularia reniformis, Ligularia tussilaginea, Farfugium japonicum var. giganteum, Farfugium reniforme.

liriope-muscari

Liriope muscari

lilyturf, big blue lilyturf, border grass, monkey grass

Evergreen, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial, native to East Asia, where it occurs as an under-story plant in forests. Glossy, dark green, grass-like, arching leaves. Flowering in summer and autumn with small purple flowers, tightly packed in erect spikes. They resemble the flowers of the grape hyacinth, Muscari, hence the specific epithet. Fibrous roots, often with small tubers. Several cultivars are available, including a white flowering form and a variegated cultivar.

Liriope muscari prefers a sheltered position in partial or full shade, and any well-draining soil. Tolerates sun, drought, and coastal conditions. If leaves turn brown in winter, they can be cut back (or mowed) before the new foliage appears. To propagate, divide the plant and replant straight away. Generally disease-free. Hardy to about -15 deg C.

Excellent choice for under-planting en masse. Neat edging and ground cover plant. Suitable for containers. Combine e.g. with lime-green foliage plants, ferns, spring-flowering bulbs, or hostas.

mackaya-bella

Mackaya bella

forest bell bush, river bell

Evergreen spring-flowering shrub, endemic to Southern Africa where it grows as an understory plant in forests and along stream-banks. Glossy dark green leaves, 7-13 cm long, arranged in opposite pairs, with wavy and sparsely toothed margins. Pale lilac, tubular flowers, 3-5 cm long, marked with delicate, darker coloured lines, arranged in racemes.

Synonym: Asystasia bella.

Thrives in deep shade and any well-drained soil. Low drought tolerance. Flowering tends to be encouraged by a few hours of sunlight, but foliage may turn yellow when planted in full sun. Responds well to feeding. Water regularly during hot dry summers. Prune after flowering to maintain a compact shape. Tolerates light frosts (zones 9-11).

Attractive plant with lush foliage and lovely spring flowers. Perfect choice for shady areas, in particular as a filler or a backdrop for other shade-lovers.

Macropiper-excelsum

Macropiper excelsum

kawakawa, pepper tree

Bushy shrub or small tree with rounded to heart-shaped, 5-10 cm wide, aromatic leaves with prominent veins. Dark green foliage in shade, lighter green in more open positions. Leaves often covered with holes caused by the kawakawa looper moth caterpillar. Zigzagging branches, swollen at the nodes. Minute, inconspicuous female and male flowers on separate, 4-8 cm long spikes, usually on separate plants. Female flowers are followed by tiny tightly packed berries, green at first, turning orange later, providing food for birds. Occurs naturally in forests and other shady areas throughout the North Island and northern parts of the South Island of New Zealand. Leaves, bark, fruit and roots have medicinal properties.


Tolerates light frost. Prefers moist, well draining soil, but in warm humid areas, a more exposed position and relatively dry soil is best to prevent fungal diseases. Can be pruned to shape.

Excellent filler for shady areas. Also suitable as a container plant.

metrosideros-carminea

Metrosideros carminea

akakura, carmine rata, crimson rata

Evergreen climber, endemic to New Zealand, but only occasionally found in its natural habitat of coastal and lowland forests in the northern half of the North Island. Climbs by adhering to tree trunks and other rough surfaces with aerial, adventitious roots. When the juvenile plant eventually reaches the light, it gradually transforms into the shrubby, non-climbing, flowering, adult form. Cuttings from an adult plant will result in a small spreading shrub rather than a climber. Shaded parts of an adult shrub may produce juvenile climbing or creeping stems. Glossy, dark green, rounded leaves, 1-2 cm long on juvenile plants and 2-4 cm long on adult plants. Bright crimson flowers in dense clusters from mid winter to mid spring.

Synonym: Metrosideros diffusa

Prefers a position in well-draining soil. If you intend to use Metrosideros carminea as a climber, then find a spot in the shade, preferably where it can grow towards the light. If you want to grow it as a shrub, then a sunny position is best. Suitable for coastal gardens. Once established, the crimson rata tolerates drought, and light to moderate frosts (USDA zones 8-11). The adult form copes well with exposed, windy conditions. Generally trouble free.

Very tough, but slow growing plant. Spectacular when in flower. Worth the wait!

phormium-surfer

Phormium 'Surfer'

flax 'Surfer'

A tough little flax with narrow, olive green leaves and reddish-brown leaf margins. Usually, some of the leaves have an obviously twisted section. Its little brother Phormium 'Surfer Bronze' has chocolate-bronze foliage. Phormium 'Surfer' may produce long spikes with orange-bronze flowers in late spring.

Phormium 'Surfer' is very easy to grow in a sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining soil. It can handle drought once established, and also copes well in windy locations. Frost hardy to about minus 12 deg Celsius (zones 8-11). Suitable for coastal gardens.

Nearly daily I walk past a garden where groups of Phormium 'Surfer' have been planted in the shade of large trees. They look awesome even though they don't appear to grow any taller. The ones in the photographs are planted in full sun, and after one year they are fuller and bigger than the plants in deep shade.                                                                                                  

Phormium 'Surfer' looks great in groups, especially when combined with grasses and groundcovers such as Coprosma acerosa. I also love the beautiful colour combination of the bronze-purple foliage of Loropetalum 'Burgundy' and the bronze-edged leaves of Phormium 'Surfer'. 

pseudopanax-cyril-watson

Pseudopanax 'Cyril Watson'

Pseudopanax lessonii hybrid in the Araliaceae family, named after Cyril Watson, a sales manager at Duncan and Davies nursery in New Plymouth, New Zealand, who was instrumental in the development and release of this plant. Bushy, slow-growing, evergreen shrub with lush, green foliage. Leaves are leathery and have 3 to 5 rounded, partially fused lobes with toothed margins. Inconspicuous, greenish flowers in summer.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-draining soil. Seems to cope with full shade quite well also. Tolerates moderate frosts once established, but may require frost protection when young. Trim yearly, or prune relatively hard every couple of years to keep compact and maintain a good shape.

Attractive fresh green foliage plant, perfect as a filler or backdrop for other plants. Suitable for containers.

pseudopanax-linearifolius

Pseudopanax 'Linearifolius'

Erect growing evergreen New Zealand native shrub, probably a hybrid of Pseudopanax crassifolius and Pseudopanax lessonii. Leathery leaves with three to five (3-5 foliolate) long, narrow leaflets with serrated margins. Leaves may become 3-foliolate or even simple (i.e. a single leaf per node) as the plant matures.

Requires well-draining soil and is not tolerant of damp soil conditions. Grows well in any light situation from shade to full sun. Tolerates light to moderate frosts, coastal conditions, dry shade, and exposed sites.

Ideal tub plant. Great as a backdrop for smaller plants and useful as a contrast plant in particular when combined with large-leafed shrubs such as Griselinia lucida or Meryta sinclairii.