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Yellow Wax Bells (Kirengeshoma palmata) – My Favorite Plants


When I was in design school we had to create a plant portfolio.  It was quite a lot of work as there were numerous categories and for each we were to find something like 3 plants and for each plant we were to study and write reports (about 6 pages each), photograph in multiple seasons and generally come to know these plants by heart….a huge effort that took all year.

The idea behind the whole thing was to evolve the plant palette that we would favor as we moved into becoming professional designers.   It was through this effort that I discovered one of may all time favorite plants.

kirengeshoma palmata yellow wax bells
image by Illingworth

Kirengeshoma palmata jumped out at me as I turned a corner at Kew Gardens one day.  It was tucked between some trees in a wooded area, and compared to the surrounding foliage it was the most lush vivid green I have ever seen.  It happen also to be in full bloom (mid to late summer) which meant that it was covered with the most captivating yellow flowers.  It is from the flowers that its common name is derived. They are so beautifully waxy, they look like perfectly shaped pads of yummy butter dangling off the plant.
I have started putting it in every garden I can. It is starting to become a bit of a Greayer Design Associates signature plant. I honestly don’t why it isn’t more commonly used.

kirenshoma palmata yellow wax bells

image by Illingworth

kirengshoma palmata yellow wax bells

image by Dave on Long Island

I have to get about 4 more – I had 2 and then accidentally weeded one out (I hate when I do that!!), so I now have just one, but I have this corner that I want to just fill with this lovely. Mine is about 20 inches tall right now, but it will get much bigger,  and the buds are just starting pop out and beginning to swell until they pop later this summer.

What is your favorite plant that is really under used or under appreciated?

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  1. Definately my fav under appreciated plant is ceratostigma plumbaginoides or “Blue Leadwort”. Noboby seems to have heard of this plant when I want to buy it. I have put it into 3 gardens that I have had over the years and have always loved it. It is a great low edger or groundcover, mine get about 1′ high and 2-3′ wide. It grows by underground stolons, but it is not invasive. It has the most amazing blue flowers starting in late August and while it is flowering in Sept the leaves become scarlet. I plant it over my early small bulbs as it is late to come up, but then it covers the ratty foliage. It is hardy zones 5-9. It is lovely to find a late flowering plant that is not yellow or orange if you have a colour themed garden. By the way, I love your blog!

  2. louise says:

    a beauty- how does the foliage hold up? though?
    does it get raggedy like rogersia? or does it require constant moisture?
    Re: kilbournegrove- Plumbago- Ceratostigma plumbaginoides- isnt that leadwort? I find it not so hardy in zone 5 which most of central Ma is- but up around boston would work…a great groundcover- I have used it in South Carolina and it was beautiful for a very long season in the shade.
    A favorite- so hard to stay.. so many wonderful creatures in our plant world!

    • rochelle says:

      foliage is great….the main reason for the plant. And no one bothers it either….and in my garden, the woodchucks, deer, chippies, slugs, bunnies and moles are winning the battle…but this is strong.

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