Thursday, July 23, 2009

Battle of the big leaves

My favorite new plant (non-agave) in the garden this summer has got to be the Tetrapanax. I could not be happier with its big leaves and general all around good looks. I planted it in our large, round, stock tank late last fall, it was tiny. Enter winter with all its nastiness and yet there were still two leaves remaining when spring arrived! I thought this plant wasn’t evergreen here in Zone 8 and that it might just die back to the ground, so I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s only gotten better since then! Coincidentally planted in the smaller round stock tank next to the Tetrapanax is the Gunnera. It is breaking new ground with its size this year, far surpassing previous years, when it was in a much smaller container. It is really enjoying the bog-like conditions of a wet stock tank with lots of room to stretch. Last summer the Gunnera was our star, our amazing BIG leaf plant! I still love the Gunnera, but my husband, on the other hand, has dismissed it as an under performer since the new kid on the block (the Tetrapanax) has shown up. We decided to measure.

Well….the largest leaf on the T. is over 36” wide (that’s the 36” mark Andrew is holding the tape at). On the G. it’s 33” so…I guess the Tetrapanax could be seen as the winner. However the Tetrapanax only has 10 leaves to the Gunnera’s 16. I’ll call that a tie.
Since they still have about two months before the growing season ends I can’t wait to see what happens! If you don’t have at least one of each what are you waiting for!?


  1. Those are both beauties! I just hope they don't make all the smaller broad-leaved plants feel inadequate.

    You're so right, I need one of each! Do you suppose Cistus has any Steroidal Giants left?

  2. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    Hi DG~~ No Gunnera for me. I'm a wuss and scared to death of it. Tetrapanax however is a dream of a plant. I bought my nearly microscopic specimen at Dancing Oaks [have you been there yet?] a year ago. I've got it in the ground, fully knowing that it tends to be a spreader. [I saw Dan Hinkley on AM NW awhile back, promoting his new book. He was opposed to growing it in-ground for just this reason.] I guess I enjoy inviting chaos into my life. You're smart to have it contained. It looks fabulous next to the Gunnera. I don't think my leaves measure three feet yet but, like you said, there is plenty of growing time left. Great post, as usual.

  3. I know a stock tank is a must. My Gunnera has been languishing in the woodland for years (the leaves never reach more than a foot or so). I asked about it at Joy Creek, and they said it probably needs more sun. I think the cedar trees steal most of the water.
    I have a Tetrapanax too. When Hinkley was the speaker for HPSO, his funniest schtick was a search through the far corners of his garden to discover rogue sprouts of the rice paper plant. 'Steroid Giant', which is the one I have, is supposed to be better behaved.

  4. I had a Tetrapanex for a few years and then one year it just didn't come back.
    There's a hole left where it once was and I filled it with a Brugmansia but it is inadequate.
    Guess it is time to get me another one !

    enjoyed your photos.

  5. Patricia, well put.

    Jane, as I see it you have 2 options. Call the folks at Cistus and ask...saving yourself the trip if they do not have it. Or just drive out there and see for yourself, knowing that you will find a few things you must have even if it isn't what you went there for! Oh and btw I got this one at Pistils last fall, and another at Garden Fever this spring. The Pistils one was the cheaper one.

    Grace, why do the Gunnera scare you? I have not been to Dancing Oaks yet. It's on my list though! Funny that when I put the Tetrapanax in the tank I had no idea it was a spreader. I just liked the idea of how it would look there. So then you make a habit of inviting chaos into your life?

    Ricki, this one is 'Steroidal Giant' too. So far no babies! You really do need a stock tank, however it's hard to stop at just 1...we are at 9 can counting.

    DD aka M, a Brugmansia inadequate?! But they are so amazing! That must have been some Tetrapanax! you definitely need another.

  6. By comparison, both my tetrapanax and gunnera are microscopic. I have got to get that figured out. I want leaves like that!


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