Leopard plant is an evergreen, clump-forming perennial that features big, bold foliage and bright yellow flowers in summer and fall. It is not often you find a wow-worthy plant that thrives in shade, but leopard plant is up to the challenge. Plants produce clusters of yellow, daisy-like flowers that hover over dark green, glossy foliage, and create a unique contrast of color and texture. The large, round leaves provide year-round interest and can transform a shaded area into a lush oasis.
Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum) is a native of Japan but performs well in the subtropical climate of the southeastern United States. The name leopard plant derives from the spotted yellow or white patterns found on the leaves of some cultivated varieties. Solid green, variegated, and crinkled leaf forms exist, as well. The plant is also sometimes called “tractor seat plant” owing to its large, round leaves.
These large, lily pad-shaped leaves have a leathery, tropical look that is truly eye-catching. The giant-leaved cultivar, Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’ produces leaves that can reach 15 inches across and 2 feet tall.
Leopard plant performs best in partial shade. In sandy soils, supplemental irrigation is needed, particularly in spring and winter. Divisions should be made in spring and can be massed for outstanding effects in large beds in front of ornamental shrubs and under tree canopies. The plant adds rich texture and color to shady woodland gardens, boggy areas, pond banks, container gardens, and perennial borders. Leopard plants can do for Florida gardens what Hosta does for gardens in temperate, northern climates.
Some additional and worthwhile Farfugium cultivars include ‘Aureomaculatum’ (yellow spots on green leaves), ‘Argenteum’ (white markings on green leaves), ‘Kinkan’ (yellow edged green leaves), ‘Crispatum’ (leaves are curled like lettuce and come in various shades of green), ‘Shishi Botan’ (interestingly shaped crinkled leaves provide texture), ‘Kagami Jishi’ (green frilly leaves with spots of yellow), and ‘Tsuwabuki’ which has green leaves.
The blog was written by Patrick Lynch, Plant Records Curator, and photographed by Erica Smith, Director of Marketing.