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Doronicum - Leopards Bane. Hardy Herbaceous Perennial

Doronicum is a very showy hardy perennial, but only for a short time each year. As that short time is quite early in the year when not too much else is happening to create such a stir, Doronicums can be considered as a useful addition to any shaded or part shaded area. The bright yellow blooms certainly cut a path through any gloom in late spring and through to early summer.

When Doronicums are in flower and growth, they have the appearance of being somewhat tender or in need of protection. No need to worry on that front - Leopard’s Bane is as tough as they come, and there should be no problems keeping it going for many years.

Herbal Confusion.

I have always known the Leopard Bane as Doronicum caucasicum, but it seems that Doronicum orientale is preferred. Whichever, there can be no confusion of its common name of Leopards Bane or the reason for that name.

Doronicum orientale - Leopards Bane.All parts of the plant are toxic to animals, and presumably to humans also. (As is the confusion often caused by ‘common names’ of plants, there are several other ‘herbal medicine’ plants that have been known as Leopard’s Bane. Amongst them being Aconitum lycoctonum; an extremely poisonous plant if eaten!)

Doronicums - there are several in cultivation - are hardy but herbaceous perennials, with showy yellow daisy flowers held on single stems. The foliage is clump forming, but the plant spreads slowly by rhizomes so eventually you will end up with a small drift of them.  Whilst we grow them for their flowers, the foliage is also very attractive, being a bright pale green, with heart shaped leaves before and well after flowering has finished.

If the plant appears to wane towards end of summer, it is simply going into dormancy before the onset of ‘autumn. It is a case of ’Early to bed, early to rise’ - as the saying goes.

Early Flowering Period.

Doronicum is certainly the first of the yellow daisy flowered perennials to put in an appearance. The attractive clump of light green foliage precedes the flowers by two months, starting to fill out with the tight flower buds almost immediately it breaks cover in February.  The flower buds turn into the bright flowers in mid April, and carry on for two months into the end of May, or even early June dependent upon season.  The flowers are held on slender stems and are individually up to 8cm - 4in across, with the flower stems being up to 60cm, but normally 45cm. There are many of them and they are quite a sight swaying in the breezes of spring, or even strong winds. They do not need support, even when grown in exposed situations. Their tough constitution is as a result of their origins - from Northern Syria down to Turkey.

Where to Grow Doronicum

Doronicum is easily grown in most parts of the garden that are shaded from the excesses of midday sun, preferring overhead shelter by trees or large shrubs. One of the best drifts I have seen was around the base of a flowering cherry tree.

They are suited to herbaceous borders – especially if shaded  by taller plants in the middle of summer.

In relation to aspect, it is happy east, west or south – but rarely north facing, for it needs sunshine in early summer.

They are very suited to growing in light, stony ground, though might need early summer watering in this situation.

Propagation of Doronicum

Division in early spring – before the grow starts gives extra plants. Division for the sake of division, is not normally necessary.

Seed can be bought and sown in mid spring, and as with most perennials seed, germinate and grow on in cool place. A cold frame is ideal for the seed stage.

Problems of Doronicum.

Powdery mildew can be a small problem in late summer – just as they are building up reserves for their early hibernation. It seems not to do any harm, but would be as well to treat it as soon – and if – apparent.

The roots – both tuberous and rhizomatous can suffer from basal rot – especially if grown in overly damp areas.

For the most part, just plant your Doronicum; enjoy and forget!  


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