Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Sun King Aralia

Some people are suckers for variegated foliage but not me. I can easily pass up a one of a kind variegated pine or magnolia. Show me a chartreuse leaved plant though and you have my attention. My affection for chartreuse first started with Salvia ‘Golden Delicious’ and then ‘Wasabi’ coleus but now I am enamored with Aralia cordata ‘Sun King.’ With the compound foliage and large, clumping form, Sun King aralia provides a punch needed to a New England landscape. We have several plants at CMBG planted en masse. When this perennial began emerging several weeks ago, it was like the sun was rising out of the ground. Not really, but it was nice to see such bright foliage after a long, dark winter. We have our plants sited in full sun but the further south you go, the more shade you want to give this plant. I imagine that as you move into warmer climes, that there is a greater potential for leaf burn to occur with direct or afternoon sun. If you are unsure how it will do in your garden, you might want to try it first in a woodland garden or shady spot. Once Sun King aralia is established, it will form a 3’x3′ clump of that wonderful, bright chartreuse foliage. It does produce white flowers in the summer followed by black berries in late summer into early fall.

Aralia cordata 'Sun King' flower close-up

This Aralia was brought back to the United States from Japan by the wonderful plantsman, Barry Yinger. Supposedly, he found it amongst the racks at a department store garden shop.

If you have not grown this plant yet, give it a go as I am sure the bright foliage will give your garden that pop it needs.


Photos: Terra Nova Nursery flickr,

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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