Leopards bane – Doronicum

Splashes of gold. Leopard’s bane is among the earliest of spring flowers. Easy to grow in either sun or shade, it makes eye-catching and long-lasting displays of cheerful yellow in an island bed or a mixed border.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March:

Apply a mulch (ground covering) around established plants. Make new plantings in odd-numbered groups of 3-9. Divide established plants.

SUMMER

May-July: and species in flower.

August:

Early-flowering species often bloom again if deadheaded (have faded flower-heads removed) after the first flowering.

AUTUMN

September-November:

Cut stems back to ground level. Plant new plants in groups. Propagate by lifting and dividing plants.

WINTER

December-February:

Continue to make new plantings, increase plants by root division. Every three years, lift and divide plants to keep them vigorous.

Taller varieties

Taller types of leopard’s bane include great leopard’s bane (D. pardalianches) and golden plantain-leaved leopard’s bane (D. plantagineum). These reach 90cm and are good border plants. Great leopard’s bane needs plenty of room to spread. D. austriacum may reach 120cm.

Planting and care

Plant from October to March, in deep, well-drained, fertile soil. Leopard’s bane will grow in chalky soil, and in clay soil that has had straw and grit added to it.

Leopard’s bane grows in sun or shade. Mulch (cover ground) in spring, stake taller varieties, and remove faded flower-heads.

POPULAR VARIETIES

Name Colour, Height (cm), Flowering

D. austriacum, yellow, 60-120, April-May

D. columnae (D. cordatum), golden, 45-60, April-May Truhlingsprachf (’Spring Beauty’), deep yellow, 45, May-July ‘Miss Mason’, yellow, 45, April-May

D. orientate (D. caucasicum), golden, 30-60, May-July ‘Magnificum’, golden, 50, May-July

D. pardalianches, yellow, 90, April-July

D. plantagineum, golden, 60-90, April-July ‘Excelsum’, golden, 60, April-June

Once

L eopard’s bane, with its daisy-like flowers, belongs to the Compositae family. It has bright yellow blooms and attractive heart- or kidney-shaped leaves.

Leopard’s bane, the genus Doronicum, includes 35 species. The smallest types are the first to flower in April, while the tallest are still in flower in July.

Planting schemes

The species D. columnae (or D. cordatum) grows 45-60cm tall. It makes an excellent border perennial. Put it with Euphorbia cyparissias, or Corydalis lutea. You can also plant it with spring-flowering bulbs, such as a yellow Erythromum revolution, or fragrant hyacinths.

D. columnae grows well in partial shade, planted near lily of the valley (Conuatlaria majalis). It also looks striking grown with white flowers, such as Anemone nemorosa.

IMPORTANT

Growing leopard’s bane from seed does not often produce plants that ‘come true’ (resemble the parent plant). The best way to propagate this plant is to lift it during the winter, divide it carefully into 3-10 sections and replant them.

Island bed displays

D. austriacum grows 60-120cm tall. It makes an eye-catching ‘island bed’ display in the middle of a lawn. Group it with yellow iris or tulip varieties, or with fritillarias.

Also excellent for ‘island bed’ displays are the varieties of D. orientate (D. caucosicum). They also make attractive displays grown with wallflowers.

CUT FLOWERS

Leopard’s bane makes excellent cut flowers, especially the species

D. plantigineum, which grows 60-90cm tall.

If you grow a range of varieties you will ensure that you have a supply of cut flowers throughout the period April-July.

Leopard’s bane

SITUATION

Sun or partial shade. Leopard’s bane will grow almost anywhere: at the front or back of borders, in ‘island bed’ displays in the middle of a lawn, or in clumps under trees or shrubs.

SOIL

Deep, moist and rich soil. Suitable for clay soils as long as the drainage has been improved by incorporating straw and horticultural grit. Will also grow on chalky soils.

CARE

Taller varieties may need staking. Mulch plants early in the year, before flowering. Remove dead flowers to encourage another flush of blooms. Cut stems to ground level in autumn.

Leopard’s bane looks attractive as part of a mixed display made up of contrasting spring-flowering plants.

PLANT HEALTH

Leopard’s bane may be affected by powdery mildew, seen as a white powder on the leaves. Cut off affected parts in autumn, and spray with a suitable fungicide in the spring and summer.

IMPORTANT

Remove flower-heads when plants have finished flowering in the spring to encourage a second flush of blooms in late summer or early autumn.

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