The Perennial Plant Association recently named Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ as its 2020 Perennial Plant of the Year.
Compared to traditional Japanese Spikenard, ‘Sun King’ has golden yellow foliage and is more compact. Although the variety is called ‘Sun King,‘ too much sun will cause leaf burn. For best color and performance, this variety should be situated in morning sun or filtered shade. In heavy shade, the plant will appear more chartreuse green.
In mid to late summer, racemes of tiny white flowers are produced followed by deep–purplish black, inedible berries. Like most Aralias, the flowers attract honeybees and other pollinators.
‘Sun King’ was introduced by plantsman Barry Yinger, who found it in a department store in Japan and brought it back to the U.S. He offered it first through his business, Asiatic Nurseries (now closed), before it became widely available through Walters Gardens.