Cryptotaenia japonica forma atropurpurea

Purple-leaved Japanese honewort

CODE: 006-0001
ZONE: 4a
PRICE: $8.00
POT SIZE: 4.5"sq x 3.5", 475 ml

Also known as Japanese parsley and Mitsuba, this plant has been a staple in my garden since it was introduced to the US in 1997.

Often used in Asia as a seasoning (the leaves and roots are edible), it supposedly tastes like a cross between parsley and coriander and is used in soups, stews, salads, stirfry, and as a strengthening tonic. But beware! In large quantities it can be toxic, and that's not a risk I've been willing to take. I prefer to grow it for its ornamental qualities.

This honewort looks remarkably like a giant celery plant to me, with a few exceptions: it's deep bronzy purple (sometimes almost to the point of being black), the leaves aren't glossy, and I love the way it looks in my perennial beds. The stems are thick and purple, zig-zagging from the ground to the very top of the plant. At each zig (or zag) a cluster of deeply divided, ruffled, leaves hangs off, coarse and dusky, but with the same purple tones as the stems.

In late summer it produces quantities of miniscule bright pink flowers, but they're really not noticeable unless you're almost standing on top of the plant. In fact, I usually cut back the flowering stalks to keep the plant more compact and reduce the number of volunteer seedlings in my garden.

It grows just about anywhere. I have some in dry, well-drained full sun, while others grow in deep, dark shade where it rarely dries out. They seem happier with good drainage and will self-seed freely if given enough light -- that's one reason I prefer to grow it in shadier areas. The chocolate-green to dusky purple foliage seems more attractive when the sun isn't hitting it directly.

It goes quite well with variegated Brunnera, Pulmonaria 'Majeste', Uvularia grandiflora, and light-colored hosta like H. plantaginea 'Aphrodite'.

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