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A Lacy, Graceful Shrub: Bush Clover

Use this shrub as a focal point or in a shrub border to create fall interest.

bush clover

Photo: Leonora Enking (flickr)

Lespedeza thunbergii.

Lespedeza is a graceful, lacy-looking shrub that is covered in pretty little white, pink or purple flowers in late summer and into fall.

In my zone 5 garden it dies to the ground each winter but returns reliably each spring. It can be thinned by cutting some of its branches to the ground repeatedly until they die out.

In zones 6 – 8 it needs a complete hard pruning every spring.

It has small leaves and produces a fountain of willowy stems that makes a dramatic statement in the garden. Locate it in a spot where it has plenty of room, and it will make quite a show.

Its common name is bush clover, and it has some relatives that are invasive. Be sure that you get Lespedza thunbergii, which grows 3 – 4 feet, and though it looks fragile, it is vigorous but not invasive like the Chinese lespedeza.

L. thunbergii is a wide-arching shrub that likes room around it, and once it is established it is drought tolerant. Mine covers itself with deep purple, tiny blooms at a time when our annuals and perennials are winding down for the season.

Use this shrub as a focal point or in a shrub border to create fall interest, but site it carefully as it does not relocate well.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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  • GardenMum13

    A lovely plant. I have it growing in a hot spot. The deer do like to browse it periodically…but it is a beautiful shrub.

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