In conjunction with the launching of our new database, we will feature a plant of special interest each month. Our staff members will discuss why they like the plant, how it is useful in garden areas, and a description of what the plant does in multiple seasons.
Plant of the Month: October
Scientific Name: Lespedeza thunbergii, L. liukiuensis cultivars
Common Name: Bush Clover
Selected by: Bennett Dowling, Horticulturist
Not many shrubs produce great floral displays in fall, but bush clover (Lespedeza thunbergii) waits until the end of the season to shine. Unlike many of its relatives who blossom in mid-summer, this species patiently waits until September and October to grace the garden in clouds of deep pink. At this point the arching, airy branches are smothered in intense pink to magenta pea-like flowers.
Lespedeza is an easy plant to grow in average to dry, well-drained soils. As a member of the legume family, bush clover fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil and for that reason it will grow and often thrive in even the worst soils. Lespedeza prefers full sun, where it will grow quite large and dense, blooming heavily in fall; however, it is a nice plant under the shade of a high canopy, where its texture will be airier accompanied by sparser blossoms. At the end of winter, cut the entire plant to a foot tall.
We grow a number of Lespedeza cultivars here at Moore Farms, but three are reliable standouts. Both ‘Gibraltar’ and ‘Little Volcano’. Both have the deepest pin flowers on large plants 6’ tall by 6-10’ wide. ‘Little Volcano’ (L. thunbergii var. thunbergii, reclassified as L. liukiuensis) is reputed to be sterile. The other cultivar Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gempei’ is a bit smaller at 6’ tall and wide and has blossoms in tones of pink and white as if two different plants have grown together.