I Love Lespedeza thunbergii

Aug 20, 2021 | Love This!

Name:  Lespedeza thunbergii including varieties such as ‘Gibraltar’

Type of Plant:  Often called a bush clover, this is a shrub in warmer climates and a herbaceous perennial in colder climates such as my warm zone 6 on Cape Cod.

Why I Love/Hate this plant:  I love this plant for so many reasons! First, because it’s not often seen in gardens when in the early fall it deserves center stage! Secondly, I appreciate this plant because if it’s placed where it has plenty of space to grow, it will require little to no maintenance but produce high drama at the end of the growing season.

Plant this in full day sun or afternoon sun from noon to five. If you have a place where you need a draping, almost weeping plant, place this Lespedeza there. This is the perfect perennial for next to a wall where it can hang down over the edges.

A Word to the Wise: Give this plant plenty of room…I’m talking a good 8 feet in diameter, okay? If you don’t allow that amount of space, I don’t want to hear you say anything like “It’s gotten out of control!”

If those words come out of your mouth, you don’t deserve this plant.

When it’s in full bloom this Lespedezia ‘Gibralter’ is spectacular. It’s hard to believe that on Cape Cod this is a perennial that dies to the ground in the winter and grows to this size to bloom in one season.

In the early summer the Lespedeza is a fountain of green. In this picture my dog, Sparky poses in front of the summer fountain-of-green that the bush clover provides.

When this perennial/shrub just starts to flower in late August or early September, it’s a fountain of lovely sage green and purple tones.

And finally, in September this plant says, “Ta DA!” It’s a dramatic, “let’s put on colorful clothes and GO OUT DANCING!” type of plant. How can you say no? As Irving Berlin wrote and Nat King Cole and Fred Astaire sang, “let’s face the music, and dance.”


  1. Elizabeth Lawrence

    I have a sloping bank that goes down to the road that I run about 30 feet that is in full sun all day. It is a difficult spot to mow. The bush clover looks like it might do well on the bank. Will it grow well here in Southern Virginia. I live about an hour from the North Carolina line.

    • CL Fornari

      I assume that it will do well in that part of Virginia in that I saw many lovely Lespedeza flowering in the Raleigh, NC area when I was there once fall. Know, however, that you’ll probably still need to mulch or weed on your slope in that the Lespedeza isn’t particularly “weed smothering.”

  2. Denise Lafountain

    There’s a food pantry/lunch service/donation center/growing garden almost in to Chatham. I have pictures of this stunning plant on their hilly slope. Could you direct to where I can purchase the plant (eastern to western Mass)?do you think growing by seed would work? Thanks!


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