Syneilesis aconitifolia – Shredded umbrella plant performs!

November 22, 2023

In the list of “top plants that have been around for too long not to be popular,” Syneilesis aconitifolia or “shredded umbrella plant”  (common name) should be near the top. I first came across Syneilesis in 1998, growing extremely well in Raleigh, North Carolina. I saw it again in 2000 in Pennsylvania, growing like gang-busters. Now that I am in Boothbay, Maine (USDA zone 6a), what is one of the strongest growing plants? Syneilesis aconitifolia!

Syneilesis aconitifolia by K M

Any plant that can look awesome from Maine to North Carolina (does it grow further north and south?) certainly deserves more respect in our gardens. As a matter of fact, maybe we should rename this the “Rodney Dangerfield aster.” It certainly gets no respect, and although it is hard to believe, it is in the Aster family. Before your mind goes astray with images of big purple and pink flowers, stop right there. The flowers on this plant are an acquired taste. They are small, and at 3′ high, they are quite nice. Nice, as in, “I really like you, but let’s be friends.”

The hairy leaves when they emerge – they later lose the hair as they open up. Image from Plant Delights Nursery

The beauty of the umbrella plant is its foliage interest. Emerging in the spring like wooly mushrooms or mayapples, the leaves eventually open up like umbrellas left in the crate with our Belgian shepherd puppy, who chews anything. But once the unopened umbrella leaves open fully in late spring into early summer, they are two 2′ tall parasols of coolness. You can still stump people with this plant in your garden.

At CMBG, we have one mass of umbrella plants in full sun and another in part shade. They do well in both locations, but I think the farther south you go, the more shade these plants will enjoy. Once established, they can take dry shade, so they are good to add under small trees.


Another Interesting and related plant is Syneilesis palmata – look for it in specialty nurseries as well. The leaves are less shredded, and different varieties can have a variety of colorations and patterns on the leaves for even more wow factor in your shade garden.

Syneilesis palmata  by Kerry Woods

Note – Syneilesis plants are not native to North America.

Other Woodland Garden Posts you might find interesting:

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