Ligularia Plant Information: How To Care For Ligularia Ragwort Flower
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
What is Ligularia? There are 150 species in the Ligularia genus. Most of these have lovely ornamental foliage, and occasionally flowers. They thrive in areas near water in Europe and Asia. Ligularia are found in boggy and marshy soils but can survive in dryer areas with supplemental water. They are in the Aster family and are also commonly called ragwort flower. Learn how to care for Ligularia and grow a rich, lush garden of brilliant green foliage perfect for the hard to plant shade areas.
Ligularia Plant Information
The ragwort flower, or Ligularia, should not be confused with the toxic pasture weed ragwort, which is in the Senecio genus. The ragwort plants we are talking about have large toothed or notched leaves and produce spires of yellow flowers in late summer. The plants have a mounding habit, with some species carrying the foliage on long petioles.
The name is derived from the Latin “ligula,” which means little tongue, and refers to the shape of the florets on the flower spire. Ligularia plant information on propagation indicates the plants may grow from seed or division.
Ligularia Planting Instructions
This genus of plants is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 8. They thrive in areas along rivers or ponds in partial shade. Ragwort flower is especially adaptive to a range of pH levels but requires a nutrient-rich soil with plenty of compost or leaf litter worked into it.
Prior to planting mix in a handful of bone meal and some peat moss to increase moisture retention. Ligularia planting instructions state that you must plant the crown at least ½ inch below the soil level. Apply mulch around the plants to help conserve moisture.
Don’t worry if the foliage wilts after planting or in the summer heat. The ornamental leaves are sensitive to excess heat or disturbance. After temperatures cool down in the evening, the foliage will perk up and look fresh again.
How to Care for Ligularia
This is a carefree plant as long as site selection meets its needs. The most common problems with ragwort plants are slug and snail damage, and lack of water. The leaves can also become scorched when the bright midday sun burns them.
Water the plants deeply every week or as needed in warm weather to keep soil moist. Cut off any dead or damaged leaves to the base.
When the plant goes dormant in winter, place 3 inches of mulch over the crown. Pull it away from the base of the plant in early spring when the ragwort flowers begin to sprout.
Use Ligularia as part of a waterway display including rodgersia, lungwort, astilbe, hosta and lady’s mantle as well as other moist and shade loving plants.
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Silver ragwort, unique leaves
Silver ragwort, sometimes also called maritime ragwort, produces metal-gray colored leaves that are surprisingly attractive.
Silver ragwort facts summary
Name – Cineraria maritima
Family – Asteraceae
Type – perennial
Height – 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary
Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – May to July
This is a plant that thrives in rocky ground, marks edges very well, and will provide great ground cover in otherwise colorful flower beds.
Although it wasn’t so common in the past, today it’s making a comeback and has become very trendy.
How to Propagate Ligularia
Ligularia, the groundsel or ragwort family, is a genus of plants originally from China that grows in Sunset's Climate Zones 1 through 9 and 14 through 17. Groundsels prefer moist soil and do well beside water features or in bog gardens. Groundsel is a clumping plant that produces orange or yellow flowers during the summer. Mature plants grow up to 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, depending on the species. Propagate groundsel any time of the year by seed or in the spring by division. The germination time for seeds is four or more weeks. Plant division instantly creates mature plants for the landscape.
Insert a garden fork along one side of the root ball. Work the fork back and forth to loosen the roots from the moist soil. Continue around the outer edges of the root ball with the garden fork to work the root ball from the soil.
Lift the root ball from the soil and set it in your work space. Untangle the roots with your fingers as much as possible. Gently pull the root ball apart, if possible, to separate new groundsel plants from the old ones. Use a gentle prying motion to avoid damaging the root crowns -- where the leaves grow from the roots.
Cut the leaves back to about 6 inches to remove excessive growth if the roots resist hand-prying. Find the buds, or eyes, pointing up from the root ball. These buds develop into a mature plant.
Choose two or three buds that are close to each other and cut straight down through the root ball on all sides of the bud, grouping to create one plant division. Each division must have one or more buds and an ample root system to grow. Use a sharp knife to cut so the roots are sliced and not crushed.
Dig a hole two times the width of the root system attached to the crown and deep enough to bury the plant at the same depth as it was growing. Set the plant in the hole so the crown is slightly higher than the soil line. Fill the hole halfway and reposition the groundsel, if necessary. Water the plant and add the rest of the soil. Tamp the soil into place to remove any air pockets.
Julie Richards is a freelance writer from Ohio. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years, and published a variety of e-books and articles on gardening, small business and farming. She is currently enrolled at Kent State University completing her bachelor's degree in English.
Bigleaf Ligularia, Summer Ragwort, Leopard Plant 'Desdemona' (Ligularia dentata)
A bold display of large round leaves with purple undersides and stems. Sends up all heads of orange-yellow, daisy-like flowers. May wilt some in midday heat but perks up again in evening.
Superb backing plant for mixed borders. Especially nice in waterside gardens. Perfectly suited to informal, naturalized settings. Best planted in groups.
Annually with organic matter.
Do not allow soil to dry out.
Basic Care Summary
Grow in fertile, humus-rich soil. Do not allow soil to dry out. Apply a summer mulch to retain moisture. Remove faded flowers. Provide shelter from strong winds.
Perennials can be planted anytime from spring through fall.
Prepare the garden by breaking up the existing soil (use a hoe, spade, or power tiller) to a depth of 12-16” (30-40cm). Add organic matter such as manure, peat moss or garden compost until the soil is loose and easy to work. Organic ingredients improve drainage, add nutrients, and encourage earthworms and other organisms that help keep soil healthy. Give plants an extra boost by adding a granulated starter fertilizer or all-purpose feed that encourages blooming (for example fertilizers labeled 5-10-5).
Check the plant label for suggested spacing and the mature height of the plant. Position plants so that taller plants are in the center or background of the landscape design and shorter plants in the foreground. To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot.
Dig the hole up to two times larger than the root ball and deep enough that the plant will be at the same level in the ground as the soil level in the container. Grasping the plant at the top of the root ball, use your finger to lightly rake the roots apart. This is especially important if the roots are dense and have filled up the container. Set the plant in the hole.
Push the soil gently around the roots filling in empty space around the root ball. Firm the soil down around the plant by hand, tamping with the flat side of a small trowel, or even by pressing down on the soil by foot. The soil covering the planting hole should be even with the surrounding soil, or up to one inch higher than the top of the root ball. New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks to get them well established.
Plan ahead, for plants that get tall and require staking or support cages. It’s best to install cages early in the spring, or at planting time, before the foliage gets bushy. Vining plants require vertical space to grow, so provide a trellis, fence, wall or other structure that allows the plant to grow freely and spread.
Finish up with a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch such as shredded bark or compost to make the garden look tidy, reduce weeds, and retain soil moisture.
New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.
Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.
Ideally water should only be applied to the root zone - an area roughly 6-12” (15-30cm) from the base of the plant, not the entire plant. A soaker hose is a great investment for keeping plants healthy and reducing water lost through evaporation. Hand watering using a watering wand with a sprinkler head attached is also a good way to control watering. If the garden area is large, and a sprinkler is necessary, try to water in the morning so that plant foliage has time to dry through the day. Moist foliage encourages disease and mold that can weaken or damage plants.
Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.
To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.
Incorporate fertilizer into the soil when preparing beds for new plants. Established plants should be fed in early spring, then again halfway through the growing season. Avoid applying fertilizer late in the growing season. This stimulates new growth that can be easily damaged by early frosts.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed to encourage blooming (such as 5-10-5).
Reduce the need to fertilize in general by applying a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost annually. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.
Depending on the flowering habit, snip off faded blooms individually, or wait until the blooming period is over and remove entire flower stalk down to the base of the plant. Removing old flower stems keeps the plant’s energy focused on vigorous growth instead of seed production. Foliage can be pruned freely through the season to remove damaged or discolored leaves, or to maintain plant size.
Do not prune plants after September 1st. Pruning stimulates tender new growth that will damage easily when the first frosts arrive. Perennial plants need time to prepare for winter, or “harden off”. Once plants have died to the ground they are easy to clean up by simply cutting back to about 4” (10cm) above the ground.
The flowering plumes and foliage of ornamental grasses create a beautiful feature in the winter landscape. Leave the entire plant for the winter and cut it back to the ground in early spring, just before new growth starts.
Perennials should be dug up and divided every 3-4 years. This stimulates healthy new growth, encourages future blooming, and provides new plants to expand the garden or share with gardening friends.
What is Ligularia - How To Grow Ragwort Plants - garden
Ligularia The Rocket Ragwort
Bring brilliant color and exceptional form to your shade garden with The Rocket Ragwort, Ligularia. Large spikes of bright yellow flowers on dark purple almost black stems float over large heart shaped, serrated leaves. The leaves alone are worth growing this beauty. Spectacular in large containers.
Plant in a bog garden or shady moist border. Beautiful alongside water. Plants must have consistent moisture.
Plant in shade to part shade. Adding organic matter to the soil with improve performance.
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Ligularia, a Must Have in the Shade
For as long as I have been gardening I have been planting Ligularia in the shade garden. It wasn’t until I started gardening in the park that I realized just how underused this plant is and how positively people react to it when they see it.
Ligularia in the courtyard garden.
In general, Ligularia have glossy, deep green foliage with a purple underside. Foliage can be quite large and round to heart shape to thin and deeply serrated. Flowers are orange-yellow to yellow and can look a bit like a black-eyed Susan or along the lines of a yellow delphinium. A long-lived plant, mine have been doing quite well at the park for five years with good but not perfect care.
Shade to part shade
Moist, well-draining rich soil
They do not like to dry out and will not tolerate dry soil conditions
Plant with other water-loving shade plants, or plan on deeply spot watering to ensure healthy, vigorous plants. Rodgersia is a great companion plant because it, too, prefers rich, consistently moist soil.
Wilting: These plants will wilt—especially the variety ‘The Rocket’—during the heat of the day. Do not panic, it is simply the plant’s way of conserving water. However, if the plant does not regain full structure in the cooler evening hours, additional water is needed. Water deeply. Ligularia have deep roots and like to draw water from deeper regions of the soil.
This perennial with a bushy bearing stands out with its unique silver-colored leafage. It grows in the wild around the Mediterranean ocean and along other coastlines of the world. Over a thousand different species have been numbered.
Thus, some varieties are perennials, some form shrubs and some even grow into silver ragwort vines.
The variety that is most commonly found in our gardens is often used along egdes or in flower beds, but you can easily groom the plant into pots or containers on your terrace or deck.
It is quite well suited to growing near the sea, and it is often seen along beaches or ocean-lining cliffs.