One of the harbingers of Spring is Stylophorum diphyllum, the Celandine Poppy. Its slightly felted, pinnate, very lobed, light green leaves usually foliate in April but this year it was in early March. Then, normally in May, small green balls emerge on hairy, twelve to eighteen inch stalks. Those balls resemble the buds of Papaver orientalis (Oriental Poppy), thus its common name . As the covers unfurl, bright yellow, four-petaled blossoms take stage, usually three to five per stalk.
Right now, these blossoms are still nestled down in the foliage but by the end of the week, they will be standing tall. This lovely perennial stays in bloom for about a month and the foliage provides an interesting texture for a very long time. It does rebloom sporadically during the summer and even early fall.
Grown in a shady, moist garden, the foliage remains green well into fall but when grown in a drier site, the foliage becomes ratty looking in midsummer and should be cut to the ground. New, fresh-looking foliage will then remain until frost. In the meantime, the silvery-green, hairy seedpods will dry and the seeds within will be blown by the wind into the garden to produce seedlings, thus an excellent candidate for naturalizing. Celandine Poppy will also grow in full shade although it will not bloom as prolifically.
This native of Eastern North America is hardy from zones 4-8, is very low maintenance, and need never be divided. It does have very thick roots. Another one of its virtues is that the deer tend to ignore it.
I have grown Stylophorum diphyllum in my dry woodland garden for many years to hide the bare legs of the peonies behind it. It has mixed well with Epimedium, Hesperis, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, and Geranium phaeum (Mourning Widow). This showy wildflower would also combine well with other native woodland wildflowers like Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine), Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the –Pulpit), Aruncus (Goat’s Beard), Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells), and Polemonium reptans (Jacob’s Ladder).
For bright Spring color, you can’t go wrong with Stylophorum diphyllum.