Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pinellia Tripartita... In Light And Dark

The Asian genus Pinellia (pie-nel'-ee-ah), and in particular the species P. tripartita (native to southern Japan) are to me inexplicably ignored by gardeners and garden catalogues. Admittedly a couple of the Pinellias are downright invasive, especially P. ternata, and even tripartita is a bit frisky in seeding about, but potting up or moving these new little cuties is easy, and they fill odd shady spots in the garden with plants that are modest in size and bloom for a very long time in late spring to early summer (up to two months). Pinellias are in the arum family (araceae), and close cousins to jack in the pulpits. Pinellia tripartita in particular has "flowers" that look very similar to some of the Asian jack in the pulpits we grow in the garden, with its leaves with their three leaflets being indistinguishable from jacks. Tripartita is available in plain green, but also in varieties with yellow foliage (var. Golden Dragon shown at top), purple spathes (ssp. atropurpurea shown in second picture), and variegated foliage (Silver Dragon, with silver variegation on the leaves, and Dragon Tails, with yellow splashing of the leaves, both grown in our garden but not shown). I am particularly taken with a patch of atropurpurea that we have planted on a sharp slope in a shaded ravine right by some wooden steps, so that you get can look straight at the purple "dragons" as you climb the stairs, and the clump is planted next to variegated hostas and above purple-hooded Arisaema sikokianum, the Japanese jack in the pulpit.
You do need to take a firm attitude with Pinellia tripartita (after all, it reproduces by bulb offsets, and little bulbils that form at the base of the leaves, AND seeds). The main thing is to remove the seed pods unless you want lots of babies. If you obtain this plant, invest an extra couple of dollars and get atropurpurea with its purple spathes, or Golden Dragon (the latter needs more afternoon shade and seems a bit smaller and frailer and doesn't seem to spread about quite as readily, which all may be attributes in this plant).

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