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Asarum splendens – Wild Ginger

Categories:Choosing Plants Deer Resistant Drought Tolerant Easy to Grow For the Shade Garden Ground Covers Perennials Winter Interest

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Wild ginger, Asarum splendens, is a superb, albeit slow-spreading, groundcover for the shade garden.  Asarum splendens looks native, but it is not.

wild ginger - Asarum splendens
A pretty standard size for one established wild ginger (Asarum splendens), maybe 12″ total. Click to view larger.

Wild ginger, Asarum splendens, is non-invasive and at home in the woodland or shade garden.

It is native to China. What I love most about Asarum splendens is that, like lenten rose, this wild ginger species shines in the winter garden, staying healthy and rich green even on the gloomiest days.

I grow Asarum splendens under bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora).  The bottlebrush buckeye is so dense in the growing season that the wild ginger disappears into shade so thick I am amazed any plant could live, much less prevail.  Indeed, I have seen Asarum splendens growing under stairs.

As you who are familiar with bottlebrush buckeye can attest, when the leaves come off (and they come off early in the season), there is quite a bit of bare real estate underneath the buckeye’s branches.  Asarum splendens would be a fantastic choice for any area where deciduous shrubs with a thick canopy during summer reside…so long as the lower limbs of the shrub are at least a foot or so above ground level.

For super heavy shade, Asarum splendens would make a superior alternative to cast iron plant, which always looks tatty and bedraggled.

Culture is easy…no hot, dry soils or direct sun.  Growth is 4″-6″ high at most and this wild ginger species grows at a leisurely pace…please do not let this deter you. I have indicated this plant as a groundcover, but frankly, do not count on much spread from individual plants…in my experience a foot or so over a few years.   Better to plant as a specimen plant or tuck here and there in the garden.

Hardy zones 5-9, and evergreen in Athens, Georgia.  Asarum splendens, nor any of the wild gingers from what I can tell, is not for areas with foot traffic.  Soil can range from alkaline to acidic.

Leaves are 2″-4″ and have a mottled-variegation, ranging from a darkish green to grey through to silver.   Asarum splendens is reputedly deer resistant although I can not personally confirm.


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