Northern Shade Gardening

Asarum Europaeum with Glossy Foliage

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 Category: Perennials
Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny leaves

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny leaves

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) is a wonderful foliage plant for the shade. The rounded, cordate (heart shaped) leaves are thick and extra glossy. When they bloom, these perennials will have small, inconspicuous flowers, like tiny cups under the leaves. The polished foliage is the main attraction. I especially like the way they reflect the smallest amount of light in the shadows. The leaves spread out flat above the soil surface, making a great groundcover.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) closeup foliage folded

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) closeup foliage folded

You can see the newly emerging perennial  leaves are folded tightly in half and are a fresh green colour. The large, flat leaf in front is from last year. About half of the leaves remain on the plant from last season, some in good shape, and some not.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new little leaves

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new little leaves

Here the symmetrical leaves of Asarum Europaeum are partly open, and starting to separate. They are luminous in the dappled light. I noticed that the plants which lost their old leaves over the winter were the first to pop up gleaming new leaves in the spring. I like the way the new leaves of this low-growing perennial appear to be coming directly up from the soil. There are horizontal stems at the soil surface.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) foliage unfolding

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) foliage unfolding

The little hearts are opening along their line of symmetry, flattening out. The lighter patterns along the veins are noticeable on the inside of the European ginger leaves.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) old and new foliage

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) old and new foliage

In this photo you can see the old dark green foliage from last year close to the ground, as well as the fresh light green leaves rising up in the centre. My one group of seven Asarum plants on the east side of my yard all came back, but I only see seven out of nine plants from this group so far. It is still early in the season, so they might be waiting for a better forecast before they come out.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new foliage folded

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) new foliage folded

Here is another picture of the shiny new Asarum leaves appearing, like arrows from the ground. They are gleaming on the top surface, even when they are only half open.

Asarum europaeum May 18 with snow

Asarum europaeum May 18 with snow (You'll never defeat us, Mr. Freeze!)

The European ginger does not mind a late spring snow. The leaves looked perfectly fine afterwards, which is a great trait for a foliage plant.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) flower closeup

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) flower closeup

It is difficult to get a good picture of the flower, since they are very small, and hidden under the leaves, sideways on the ground. The purplish brown structure in the middle of the above photo is the flower. Having your flowers laying on the ground makes it easy for insects that hang out at the soil surface to pollinate your flowers. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see how tomentose (hairy) the flowers are, like the stems.

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny foliage

Asarum europaeum (European ginger) shiny foliage

This group of Asarum have some Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern) planted behind them on one side, but it is much slower to come up in the spring. On their other side, there is a group of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss). The fern is very lacy, and makes a nice contrast, while the Brunnera have a similar cordate leaf, with a silver pattern. On the other side of the yard, I have another group of Asarum europaeum in front of some Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ (lady fern with red stems), and next to some Brunnera macrophylla ‘Mr. Morse’.  Again they make a nice combination of lacy fern, red stems, silver foliage and lustrous little rounded hearts.

These shiny leaves will enlarge, and make a lovely perennial groundcover under the trees. They make a good contrast to other shade foliage. The hardy plants keep their foliage after frost, looking good until they are covered up. I recommend Asarum europaeum to make a pleasing green carpet in the shade, in the dappled light under deciduous trees.

15 Responses to “Asarum Europaeum with Glossy Foliage” »

  1. Racquel :
    May 27, 2009 at 9:17 am

    I’m always looking for great foliage plants for the shade. This Ginger looks like it would be a wonderful addition to my shade loving garden spots. :)

  2. Northern Shade :
    May 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Racquel, it has a very attractive look, and doesn’t mind shade at all. My patches are starting to fill in now, and they are very effective at covering the soil surface.

  3. easygardener :
    May 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    The flowers are interesting, lying on the ground to be pollinated. I’ve not heard of that before. The young foliage looks very attractive and I like the way the leaves unfold. Good that it doesn’t mind a little snow too!

  4. Northern Shade :
    May 27, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Easygardener, the flowers are designed more for the ease of pollinating and seed spreading, than they are for catching the gardener’s eye across the garden. You have to squat down and peek under the leaves to see these flowers.

  5. The Garden Ms. S :
    May 27, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    What an interesting way they come up. You really captured it in your photos.

    I think they are quite charming :)

  6. Northern Shade :
    May 27, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    The Garden Ms. S, the foliage lasts after the snow covers it up, so it extends your gardening season a long time in the fall. It still looked good at the beginning of December last year. The leaves are some of my favourite in the garden.

    Shady Gardener, your Aunt MEA has shared some nice plants with you. My Asarum look well on their way to expanding and filling in this year. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight and magnifying glass to see those blooms.

  7. Shady Gardener :
    May 27, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Northern Shade, My Aunt MEA gave me wild ginger two years ago. It’s growing into a lovely large “clump.” You have reminded me to get out there tomorrow (hopefully it won’t be raining!) to see if it’s blooming! :-)

  8. Adrian Thysee :
    May 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I tried the native ginger a few years ago, but it did not survive.
    Perhaps you treat yours more gingerly?

  9. Northern Shade :
    May 28, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Adrian, the ginger does get fallen leaf cover from the trees in the fall, to help protect it until spring. 14 of my 16 plants returned, so far. Two of the plants that didn’t come back yet were planted in later fall, so they might not have had a chance to establish.

  10. Marnie :
    May 29, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I have ginger in with my hostas but I’m fairly certain its a native ginger. It was a gift and she called it little brown jug.

  11. Northern Shade :
    May 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Marnie, that’s what the flowers look like, little brown jugs. I really like it for a shady groundcover. I’m thinking of adding a third grouping.

  12. Kathleen :
    May 31, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    The foliage is truly a star Northern Shade. I don’t have any experience with Asarums but I think I’d like to try them someday. Everything sounds great about them and the leaves are stunning. I think the flowers are cool too.

  13. Northern Shade :
    June 1, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Kathleen, the glossy texture of the leaves makes this Asarum a winning groundcover. Insects are supposed to spread the seeds around, because they can walk right inside the flowers. I haven’t caught them in the act though.

  14. Anne , Long Island,NY :
    November 12, 2009 at 9:13 am

    This is the best of all the sites I’ve visited re: european ginger . Wonderful photos and commentary. Now I know where to transplant my B. Jack Frost. I was looking for some info that would help me determine why many leaves of my considerable (8’x2′) border of E. ginger became brown and disfigured in August this year. It probably was weather, the drought after a very wet spring??? It’s been a wonderful shiny ground cover for many years and I’m sure it will be again next year.

  15. Northern Shade :
    November 12, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Anne, it might have been the drought that caused the foliage problem for you. I’m waiting for my ginger patches to spread, and can’t wait until they are larger. I planted some Asarum arifolium (another hardy ginger) this fall, and really love the arrow shapes of this new ginger too. I am looking forward to seeing how it performs next year, and comparing it to the European ginger.

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