Lespedeza bicolor | ‘Bush Clover’, ‘Shrubby Bushclover’, ‘Shrub Lespedeza’, ‘Two-coloured Bush-clover’ | 25 seeds
Native to eastern Asia, Lespedeza bicolor is a captivating flowering shrub species of the Fabaceae family, commonly known as the ‘Bush Clover’, ‘Shrubby Bushclover’, ‘Shrub Lespedeza’ and ‘Two-coloured Bush-clover’. Several attractive named cultivars are also available, including ‘Little Buddy’, ‘Summer Beauty’ and ‘Yakushima’.
Initially introduced to the USA as an ornamental in 1856, Lespedeza soon became advocated as a useful plant to enlist in erosion control and to revegetate and therefore enhance the wildlife habitats surrounding abandoned mines. From the 1930s onward, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produced and distributed many millions of seeds, with various strains and cultivars being developed in an attempt to improve the species’ drought tolerance and seed production.
By the 1990s, bicolor escaped cultivation and spread throughout North America, and hence the plant may now be found everywhere from New York to Ontario. Consequent to the species forming aggressively dense stands which grow easily across many habitat types – and manage to thrive after fire – it is considered as an invasive weed in some places. It’s capable of disturbing or otherwise preventing native plant growth, especially that of grasses and trees, and proliferates in forests, thickets and other similar places.
Lespedeza bicolor can be rather variable in its appearance, but generally forms a fast-growing and erect shrub or subshrub which reaches roughly three metres wide and three metres wide once mature (it remains smaller in colder environments). Growing from a dense network of roots, bicolor produces stems up to around three centimetres thick, which in turn form distinctive compound leaves comprising two or three oval leaflets, each up to roughly five centimetres in length. Bicolor is notable in that it produces two separate kinds of flowers; ‘chasmogamous’ (open) and ‘cleistogamous’ (closed). Coloured blue-purple-pink-red, the gorgeous pea-like open flowers are bilaterally-symmetrical (and great for attracting bees!), while the ‘closed’ flowers don’t open at all, preferring to self-pollinate instead.
Hardy down to around -15°C, the ‘Shrubby Bushclover’ is easy to grow from seed or via cutting (the new shoots forming at the base of established plants can be removed during dormancy to start new plants), using fertile and well-drained soil in part shade to full sun. Water moderately (bicolor is fairly drought-tolerant) and apply a diluted liquid fertiliser solution once every two to four weeks or so. Don’t panic if you think your Lespedeza is dead, as they are quite late to come back into growth in the spring! You can subsequently trim off the dead growth from the past year as soon as the new sprouts establish themselves.
An excellent addition to any garden – guaranteed to brighten up your borders and flowerbeds long after most shrub species have given up on flowering for the year!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018-2019