Fall is upon us and I am doing a bit of seed collecting from some of my favorite plants. I don’t do a lot of seed collecting, just the few that excelled or those I found myself particularly fond of. Among these is Golden St John’s wort Hypericum frondosum ‘Sunburst’.
Although not flashy, I discovered that I’ve really enjoyed having St John’s wort around. It has grown well while being completely ignored, offered attractive foliage and produced some lovely, bright yellow flowers during the summer. Every time I passed the blooms there were pollinators on them.
Golden St. John’s Wort is a semi woody, low growing shrub with a dense grown habit that rarely needs pruning. The foliage is a rich bluish green and ovate to oblong, somewhat resembling rosemary. The dense growth and compact habit make it a great choice for low growing hedges and borders. While it is a deciduous shrub it can be semi evergreen in southern zones.
As to value in a habitat garden, St. John’s wort can be a host plant for Little gray hairstreak butterflies. While the caterpillars do eat the foliage they will rarely cause extensive damage and diminish the overall beauty of the shrub. This season I did not host any caterpillars on mine but hopefully they will move in next year.
From mid summer to fall the plant produces beautiful, bright golden yellow flowers. Although it does not produce a profuse amount of blooms at once flowering is steady over a long period. The color is brilliant and showy, and against that blue gray foliage they can be seen for quite a distance. Flowers are a pollinator favorite, particularly bumble bees and butterflies in my garden. On a note: the blooms on ‘Sunburst’ tend to be larger than other cultivars.
Even in winter the plant is interesting with peeling reddish brown bark and slightly twisted branching. Attractive fruit capsules will persist into winter months which I am sure the goldfinches will eat if I don’t get my seeds collected first. Golden St. John’s wort is has winter wildlife value as it is shrubby enough to provide coverage for ground feeding birds to forage under for food.
Golden St. John’s wort does best in rich, sandy well drained soil. It may be planted in full sun or part shade but be aware that it does need moisture. Do not let its feet stay wet as it is susceptible to root rot if planted in too wet of a location. It is fast growing and will tolerate some drought once established.
This is is an easy to grow, low maintenance native plant worth looking into. Use it as an accent in a perennial bed or as an informal hedge, or plant in mass to add an understated, attractive area to a landscape which is wildlife friendly at the same time. Plant it, leave it alone and attract wildlife. What is not to like?
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