Stachyurus praecox

Plant of the month: March

Stachyurus praecox

Also known as: Stachyurus

Family: Stachyuraceae

Native to: Japan

Blooms: March to April

Habitats: forest edges of warm temperate Japan

Where to find it at the BBG: Behind the lawn aviary, on Paxton Prospect 

A striking deciduous shrub flowing with beautiful bell shaped, pale yellow flowers borne on catkin like spikes (known as racemes), that appear on bear shoots before the leaves emerge.  It is the first Stachyurus to bloom from late winter to early spring.

Fully hardy this shrub prefers moist, well drained, humus rich soil in full sun or partial shade. Minimal pruning is required to keep a more natural shape, remove any crossing shoots to maintain a good framework and remove flowered shoots after flowering.  They can be fan trained, with strong growth selected and tied in after flowering and the framework may be replaced on a regular basis from young growth at its base.

A very adaptable plant that is suitable for a shrub border, in a woodland garden or growing against a wall, Stachyurus praecox is a great alternative to Kerria (batchelor’s buttons) or Forsythia for an early yellow flowering shrub.

The Japanese name means “Chinese gall tree”, as the fruits have been traditionally used for dyestuff as a substitute for “Chinese gall” (Rhus chinensis). The plant was introduced to the west by Philipp Franz von Siebold, and described in his “Flora Japonica” (1836).  Garden specimens are at a premium in European and American gardens, so it is unsurprising Stachyurus praecox found its way into British gardens fewer than thirty years after its initial discovery.