Monday, January 14, 2008

Pinellia Cordata... The Miniature Dragon

The words Pinellia and prolific seem to go together; the two pinellias I've recently shown (tripartita and petatisecta) are quite frisky to near invasive respectively, and P. ternata is recommended only if you have a gravel driveway you want converted to foliage. However, then there is the other side of the coin; Pinellia cordata, which is sometimes called "miniature dragon". It is demure to the point of delicacy, being considered borderline hardy in zone 5, and borderline difficult everywhere.
It is a small little rambler, but apparently rambles off into oblivion as often as not, from what I read about other gardeners' experiences. My little plant pictured above has hung around for six or seven years, never getting much bigger, though I do now have a second plant that I grew from planting one of the leaf bulbils (you can see a leaf bulbil just forming at the base of the leaf in the top picture). Cordata is only about six inches tall, but its leaves are the cream of the Pinellia world; they have silver patterning on the green upper surface, and the backs of the leaves are purple; when the leaves are first unfurling, these purple backs are held up to view and are quite striking. The little "jack" like reproductive structures have extraordinarily long "tails", and they have a faint, fruity smell. I've seen it described as ripe bananas, bubble gum, pineapple and lemon; I'd describe it as Juicy Fruit gum.
There is a named cultivar available commercially, labeled Yamazaki; it has somewhat larger and well-patterned leaves, but I get the impression it may be slightly less hardy. I wouldn't be surprised though, if some of the cordatas that are lost are due to the fact that it is quite late to emerge every spring. I know in my garden, every spring I think, "Well, the cordata must finally be a goner" when it fails to appear in spring (I have it planted next to a clump of yellow ladyslippers and a cyclamen hederifolium). Then a few weeks later, I happen by, and there it is, creeping about the other plants in a very shy manner; in late spring then, it's tiny little floral structures arise.
I would think zone 5 (I'm 5a) is about as far north as I'd try this one, and it really needs a nice little shady spot, with loose rich soil all to itself, with special attention to not accidentally digging it up when it doesn't appear right away in the spring. It's certainly not a landscape plant, but it registers a bonafide 10 on the cute-o-meter.
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That definitely is a cute 1! I think I might be able to find a spot for that. Thanks for the introduction to this plant.
MMD... it certainly wouldn't take much room! I could cover it with a coffee cup.
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