Money Plant

Variegated Money Plant,
a cruel tale


When we were children, my sister & cousins & I would pick the money plant seeds at the edge of the woods & actually try to think of them as money. The pods dry into transparent papery membranes the size of silver dollars. Quite wonderful to play with, though if you carry them around in your pocket like loose change, they crumbled to bits.

I somehow didn't remember what it looked like when not seeding, so when I spotted young starts in four-inch pots, I didn't really recognize the "Variegated Money Plant" (Lunaria annua 'Alba Variegata') as a fancier form of a weed that provided us kids with toy money.

When I got the two little starts home & checked the gardening books, I realized I'd just bought two starts of a weed from childhood. But I intentionally grow quite a few "weeds," a category that is in the eye of the beholder. I nevertheless new I did not want money plants self-seeding all over tarnation, though I had no clear plan in mind what I would do to restrict it.

As a shade-loving plant it went in the primary shade garden amidst ferns & a big hosta & Bleeding Hearts & so on.

Though it was labeled as a perennial, it is actually bi-annual. The first year it has large heart-shaped green leaves on a central stem that grows a foot or so high. It does not flower or seed. The second year the variegated form develops attractive cream-&-green leaves which makes it more interesting than an ordinary money plant. In its variegated year it shoots up to three feet high or a little higher forming a pyramid, with fluffy white flowers all over it. After it goes to seed, it dies.

The picture above was taken late in May. I liked this plant the first year when it was a lower-growing big-leafed thing, & I liked the variegated change the leaf went through the second year. But it was overall very far from being a favorite. Its enormous leaves so shaded other plants, it crowded more delicate things away. It even killed some creeping jenny, & that's some trick. There were two of these money-plants side by side, but before the second year's growth had gotten very far along, I pulled one up. I carried it about the fringe of the property trying to decide where to plant it, where it would be okay if it seeded itself a great deal. I was having no inspiration for its future fate until I passed the compost pile. I furtively chucked it into the compost.

I tried & tried to appreciate the remaining one, as it grew so nicely. I felt like I was a mother with lots of kids & loved them all except one, who no matter how it tried to please me I just liked the other kids better. The taller & more flowery it got, the less I liked it.

It was always is in the back of my mind that it was the least interesting plant in a corridor full of intensely interesting plants. I also knew I had to do something about the blooms before letting those go to seed. Since it would die after it seeded anyway, I'd just have to time it right, & dig it up a little prematurely.

One day in May Granny Artemis & I were in the yard admiring & commenting upon the bleeding-hearts & Japanese Tassel Ferns & the Black Mondo Grass & so much else that's exciting in the shade corridor, including hellebores & azaleas at the sunnier fringes.

Granny Artemis said, "I forget what that is."

"It's a variegated money plant. Doesn't it have nicely fringed leaves?"

"I don't like it very much."

"It's so big & healthy & full of blooms, why don't you like it?"

"I don't know exactly, but it doesn't seem to fit."

"Well, I've been feeling guilty myself for not liking it very much. Should I get rid of it?"

"That's up to you, but I wouldn't miss it."

So, cruel heartless gardener that I am, I pulled it right out of the ground & composted it.


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