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Hypericum, yellow-studded shrubs from ankle-height to hard-to-reach


Thanks to their hardiness and the low growing requirements they need, Hypericum are the perfect plants for beginner gardeners, or those who have a difficult garden to bloom.

Overall Hypericum key facts :

Botanical nameHypericum sp.
Family – Hypericaceae, Clusiaceae
Type – herbaceous perennial, shrub

Height – 1 to 5 feet (30 cm to 150 cm),
Exposure – sun to part sun
Hardiness – hardy to semi-hardy

Foliage: deciduous to evergreen – Flowering: summer

Introducing… Hypericum

Common name – Saint John’s wort

The Saint John’s wort botanical genus is so extensive, that it can’t be classified into a single type of plant: some are herbaceous perennials, others are sub-shrubs and yet others are shrubs in their own right.

This diversity begets a vast choice of sizes and shapes with various bearings.

Description of the genus Hypericum

Description of hypericum plants and genusIn general, Hypericum all have in common a summer blooming that’s very characteristic and instantly recognizable. It’s impossible to walk by these gold-colored flowers with prominent stamens, blissfully feeding hordes of bees and bumblebees.

Leaves, however, may be quite different from one to the next. But they all have a lanceloate shape that’s more or less narrow. Depending on the species, foliage is either evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous.

Growing conditions

All Hypericum don’t have the same hardiness to the cold. Though the vast majority of them is quite hardy and copes easily with 5°F (-15°C), some are a bit more vulnerable and will have trouble when the thermometer drops below 32°F (0°C).

How to grow hypericumRegarding the terrain, larger species appreciate fertile soil, it matches their needs better. All require some degree of moisture in the ground, which is usually easily provided with a little bit of the right mulch. Luckily, smaller Saint John’s wort specimens aren’t as vulnerable to lack of water, these are excellent for rocky terrain and low-water gardens.

In addition, apart from their great diversity, another noteworthy advantage of Hypericum is their tolerance to limestone, which is a type of soil that has the reputation of being difficult to flower.

Species and varieties of Hypericum

Among the many available species and varieties of saint John’s wort, we’ll mention here:

Hypericum ‘Hidcote’

The Hidcote hypericum is a culticvar bred in EnglandPossibly the most famous variety, this shrubby saint John’s wort has evergreen foliage. It’s hardy and will settle in basically anywhere in the garden, whatever the soil type and exposure.

With a size that reaches 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide (1.25 m x 1 m), it’s one of the Hypericum that are large.

Hypericum calycinum

Hypericum calycinum has much larger tufts of stamensSmaller than its ‘Hidcote’ cousin, this species won’t exceed 16 inches/40 cm tall and wide. It’s an excellent plant to cover the ground with large flowers.

Hardy and without any particular requirements regarding exposure and soil, it’s great to embellish any garden, no matter how difficult.

Hypericum androsaemum

Hypericum androsaemum is a popular shrub for its berriesThis Saint John’s wort has deciduous foliage, though it may remain semi-evergreen: this depends on how harsh the cold is. Its leaves grow on stems that have a beautiful purple bark, more or less intense depending on whether it’s recent or older growth. Another appealing feature is that its flowers give way to bright red berries that turn black over time.

Hypericum inodorum

Hypericum inodorum has much smaller flowersVery similar to the androsaemum species, this Hypericum is, however, a little bit taller.

Though all the other growing parameters are the same as for other Saint John’s wort, i.e. reasonable hardiness and no influence of exposure, it does have one extra requirement: it prefers cool soil.

Opportunities to plant Hypericum ?

Landscaping with hypericum brings balls of colorThe great diversity within the botanical genus Hypericum allows for many different landscaping uses: edges, rocky terrain, growing beds with shrubs or flowers. It’s even possible to grow these in pots.

Some, such as Hypericum calycinum, are excellent to cover and stabilize mounds, or populate shaded forest underbrush.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: lin2015, Eric Reardon, Hartono Subagio, Annette Meyer, David Reed, Ann Arbor
CC BY-SA 2.0: Leonora Enking
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