St John’s Wort Hypericum frondosum

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’.


st johns 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.


native st jonhs wort

St. Jonh’s wort foliage

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?

© 2012, Karyl Seppala. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. Susan says

    I have two of the native-to-MIchigan Shrubby St. John’s Wort Hypericum prolificum in a shrub border that I made last spring of mostly native shrubs. It is charming. So Northern gardeners can have a St. John’s Wort too.

  2. says

    I planted one of these this year but the deer have been browsing on it so I haven’t seen any flowers yet. The foliage is obviously tender enough for them. They have not browsed on my Hypericum densiflorum, however – it has thicker leaves and perhaps that is why they have not.

    I plan to protect this one more next year and look forward to those big beautiful flowers!
    Ellen Honeycutt recently posted..This Grass has got to GO!

    • says

      The flowers are gorgeous on that smokey foliage. They really stand out. I am lucky not to have deer issues here…Hypericum densiflorum is one I haven’t found yet. Working on that!

  3. says

    Nice article. I’m especially impressed with the leaves, not at all like the species at my place.

    This species is native to Florida, but seems in the panhandle only. I guess Central FL weather is not appreciated. I have at least 5 hypericum species which naturally occur on my property. One of my favorites. I’ll just have to dream about your beautiful plant.
    Loret T. Setters recently posted..New Garden Visitor?

    • says

      This year I didn’t get many seeds from mine. I don’t know if they fall quickly or were eaten by birds. I did get warned by a nursery man friend that the ‘small srubs’ get quite wide, so you may have a lot more plant ext year. :)


  1. […] She had to meet some formidable challenges: bamboo marching over from a neighboring yard, ivy veritably creeping into windows, lots of lawn and a husband who loved grass, and serious erosion from stormwater runoff. Cliff gave her  practical advice on improvements to meet her stated goals, helped her with choosing some native plants, and steered her toward other sources for help with the stormwater. Kasha had been thinking a rain garden would solve her erosion problem, but a visit from the county’s Environmental Services Department saved her from a costly mistake. The amount of water that was flowing would need to be controlled by a rain “sink.” This required a  deep pit filled to the bottom with gravel, but it solved the problem completely; and decorative stones were placed on top for beautification. A rain pit in the right was needed to halt the stormwater flow St. John’s wort is loved by pollinators […]

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