PLANT OF THE WEEK #104: Persicaria orientalis

Since I’m here at Dixter, I thought I’d wander ‘round the garden and see which plant was most currently deserving of Plant of the Week.

This garden is full of great plants, of course, but one that on several levels (including the literal) that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Persicaria orientalis (Princes feather).

Almost everywhere you look right now the pink, pendulous, tassel-like flowers puncture through and hover over the surrounding planting.  This is no mean feat in planting as dense as this.  There are very few tall annuals indeed (on the spot, I can’t think of any others) capable of bolting straight up, unbranched, through shrubs and perennials, to then umbrella out once clear of the competition, and to flower in such a way as to produce no shade, and provide no competition to the companion planting.  Persicaria orientalis appears to achieve this without effort, flowering at about 2m tall, producing a spacious, airy over-layer of flower.

I’ve always wanted to grow Persicaria orientalis.  I’ve tried, in a half-hearted way, and failed, several times.  It’s not that it’s hard to grow.  It’s just that I misunderstood its basic needs.  While it’s an annual, it needs cold over winter to germinate in the spring, so it’s important to sow the seed, either in situ, or in pots, before winter, though you won’t see any germination until spring.  In warmer areas you could no doubt use refrigeration to provide this stratification (as such cold-treatment is known), but I couldn’t access any info online.  I’d imagine six to eight weeks in the fridge would do it, but I’m just guessing.  We need someone in a warmer zone to try it, and let us know!

Diggers used to sell the seed, but it’s not on their current list.  I must find out if they’ve got any sitting around.  Now I know that its availability is uncertain, I want it all the more.

(Please note that Persicaria orientalis is reported to have naturalised in some of the warmer states of Australia.  Please check the weed status before adding it to your garden)

the natural growth habit of Persicaria orientalis

Discussion

  1. Michael. If it’s naturalized in warmer parts of Australia, wouldn’t it be that it gets along fine without our intervention with intentional stratification?
    Looks like Bergamo is completely inspiring.

  2. Diggers had its common name ‘Kiss Me Over The Garden Fence’. I sowed seed into pots and planted them out and they just struggled and stalled and eventually gave up the ghost. I was adamant I got my timing right so I was disappointed. I was going to have another crack this year, but alas, as you say, it didn’t appear in the Diggers catalogue again. It’s such a good plant when you can get it to take but it’s been temperamental for me. More like Punch Me In The Guts Over The Garden Fence. There are other persicarias that are a bit more reliable, and perennial. Fat Domino springs to mind. I have it planted amongst a client’s rose garden and it does wonderfully, adding a bit of the sensational to late summer roses, which can look a bit tired at that time of year.

    The only other annual that approaches Persicaria orientalis in terms of dramatic, tall annuals I can think of is Nicotiana sylvestris. A doddle to grow compared to the persicaria in question.

  3. Another tall treasure here in north Vic is verbena bonariensis.

    1. Good thought. The perfect lofty/transparency balance

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