An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

April 10, 2009

Stachyurus praecox

One of the pleasures of my job is learning about new plants, doing some quick research on them and finding a source to get them into the garden center. Several years ago I came across Stachyurus praecox in a catalog from Nurseries Caroliniana in North Augusta, SC. As I have said in another post, this is one of my favorite nurseries to buy from as they always have really unusual plants. I got maybe 10 Stachyurus to see how they would sell; some were the cultivar 'Issai' and the others were 'Mitsuzaki'. Disappointedly they sat in the nursery all season - that is until they began blooming late the next winter. As they came into flower I would put one in a glazed pot on the counter by the register and every plant brought in sold; one 'Mitsuaki' found its way to my garden.

There are several species of Stachyurus native to Asia, but S. praecox is from Japan. The genus name means "spike tail" which is its common name. The buds form in late fall and hang down from the branches on long racemes. As spring nears they swell and begin to open with chartreuse bell-shaped flowers, for me it is late March and they peak in April. The new foliage is a fresh bright spring green but there is no appreciable fall color. Hardy from zones 6 to 8, it gets about 6-10' tall by slightly wider and prefers light shade in normal garden soil. The drought we had in the summer of 07 really stressed it and as a result last year's flowers were minimal. Mine at home is planted right by the pond and I have been pruning it to grow out over the water.
The following pictures were taken last March at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, and this is S. praecox 'Issai'. It seems to have longer racemes and there are more of them. I may have wished I had gotten this one (typical man, having trouble learning to be happy with what he's got).


  1. Wow! I love that hanging cluster. No wonder they all sold out. Now, that's a really unusual plant. I too am a collector of strange plants.

  2. Very unusual and very beautiful. This is the first time I've heard of it.

  3. Think I saw this one at the Botanical Garden earlier this week. I was too wrapped up with all the Camellias. The name jumped out at me. Think I will be posting about our trip to the garden later today...thanks for the heads up on the Camellia Garden.

  4. Wow, cool! I've never heard of this plant! Happy Easter.

  5. Oh, you warmer climate folks! The things you can grow — and in some shade, too. Must also say that the camellias in the previous post were stunning; the colors are so warm and yet not overwhelming the way some hot colors can be.

  6. Very interesting Les. Looks like a great plant for a pond - bet it looks really good there.
    Thanks for your help earlier today. I really enjoy touring through the gardens. I could spend hours just browsing thru and reading all the tags.

  7. What a neat plant Les! I love the clusters that hang from the branches. It probably looks great next to your pond.

  8. I've not seen a S. praecox in person so thank you for sharing the wonderful photos.

  9. Chandramouli,
    I am glad you like them. I can only imagine what unusual plants you could grow where you live.

    Keep an eye out for it, it should be hardy for you.

    I am not sure if it is the same one you saw, but this one was planted near the healing garden. I am anxious to see your post.

    Happy Easter to you as well!

    I am a sucker for chartreuse and try to keep the backyard garden's color palette simple - mostly whites and greens.

    I appreciate that you stopped by today, and it was good to meet your family. Besides finding new plants, the other favorite part of my job is connecting people with them.

    I put it by the pond over the waterfall so the cascading flowers would compliment the cascading water - at least that what I tell myself.

    You are quite welcome.


  10. Ha! I thought it was a woman's problem never being happy with what she has:) Neat plant. I will keep my eyes open for it. Always love new and unusual things. Have a great weekend and Happy Easter.

  11. Les, I love learning about new plants and this one sounds interesting! I am going to be paying close attention to marketing at the nursery the next time I go...that shrub in the pretty container technique works on me almost every time! That's how I brought home a I know it won't be happy here...but! Warmest wishes for a great Sunday!

  12. I first saw this plant in the Witt Winter Garden at Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. It's really spectacular. Had it in my garden here years ago, was gone for 14 years and now I'm feeling the need to introduce it into my new one.

    1. I love mine, but I'm not sure how long it will live. It seems to have a canker of some sort on the main branch. I'll enjoy it while it does live.