Stachyurus praecox: A unique Japanese Shrub

Stachyurus praecox or Spiketail

Pale yellow racemes grow from the Stachyurus in early spring. The leaves of this Japanese will provide brilliant fall color.

I think shrub – unimpressive bush that fills the garden. I blame it on my Midwestern roots. Gardening in the Northwest is starting to change my thinking.

The Stachyurus paraecox, also known as Spiketail, is a not the average boring bush. It’s a unique Japanese shrub suited for the Pacific Northwest climate.

Curtis planted this Stachyurus in the Beacon Hill Garden four years ago. Early in the spring, it’s covered with four-inch strands of pale yellow beads. The botany term for the beads is racemes, and they grow from the leaf axils. They look like beads dangling uniformly from the branches.

Stachyurus praecox or Spiketail 2

Stachyurus praecox are usually found in botanical or collectors’ gardens. This one in the Beacon Hill Garden is young and growing

The Stachyurus is about 4’x4’ and growing. According to the tag, it can reach 10-12 feet tall and wide. If it hits maximum size, we’ll be moving nearby plants. The shrub likes full sun to part shade, and moist conditions in well-drained soil.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens website describes the deciduous shrub best, “During the growing season, attractive red-brown to chestnut-brown branches are clothed (sometimes sparsely) with ovate, tapered, serrate, medium green leaves (to 7” long). Foliage may turn rosy red and yellow in fall.” The fall leaf show is spectacular. The site warns that winter damage can occur in colder climates.

The Stachyurus are usually found in collectors’ and botanical gardens. You can find them at the Pat Calvert Greenhouse in the Washington Park Arboretum. They start small, and cost less than $10. After shopping at many nurseries and greenhouses around Seattle, the Calvert is one of the best places to buy unique plants that thrive in the Northwest.

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