The silver leaf originally comes from southern Mediterranean Europe. As an ornamental plant, however, it was planted in our gardens very early on. Since it tends to become wild, it is now also at home in Germany in forests and on railway embankments. For some time, the plant has therefore been listed under the status of neophyte. Neophytes are plants that have established themselves in areas where they were previously not native. So the silver leaf is well on its way to naturalization.

other names

The silver leaf is known by many names that are sometimes a bit misleading, because the annual silver leaf is not actually an annual plant, but biennial. In addition, the plants do not belong to the violets, but to the cruciferous family. The name is mainly derived from the appearance of the seed pods, which has a shiny silver color and looks similar to the moon or a coin:

  • Garden silver leaf
  • annual silver leaf
  • Judassilberling
  • Judaspfennig
  • Silver coins
  • Garden moon viole

species

Only three types of silver leaf are known worldwide, but their appearance does not differ very much from one another. However, only the first two species also grow in our gardens and forests:

  • annual silver leaf (Lunaria annua)
  • perennial silver leaf (Lunaria rediviva)
  • Lunaria telekiana (occurs only in Albania)

The seed heads are a good distinguishing feature between the two native silver leaf species: the pods of the perennial silver leaf are lanceolate, those of the annual silver leaf are oval. The annual silver leaf occurs much more frequently. The perennial silver leaf is less common. However, the individual stands often contain a considerable number of individual plants.

Night-scented plants

It’s fascinating what nature has come up with: during the day, some plants look a little withered. The petals are closed or half-open and do not make a very attractive impression on the gardener. But as soon as the sun goes down and the night begins, the calyxes open and give off an intense scent. With this they attract the pollinating insects, mainly moths. Both parties benefit from the nocturnal rendezvous: The nocturnal swarmers and owls can feast on the nectar, and the plants thus ensure their continued existence. Night fragrances usually have whitish flowers so that they can reflect the moonlight particularly well. So it is worth taking a closer look at the silver leaf in the dark time of day.

Vegetation period
Contrary to its name, the annual silver leaf is a biennial plant. This means that in the first growing season (the first year) it only forms leaves. After a period of rest in winter, it then sprouts again and in spring forms a stem with purple, rarely white flowers. The perennial silver leaf, on the other hand, is perennial. When the insects have pollinated, the distinctive seed heads develop. After the seeds ripen, the annual silver leaf dies.

location

In nature, silver leaves occur mainly in slightly damp deciduous forests or in ravines. Because they prefer high humidity, they often grow near streams or waterfalls. A good location for the silver leaf in the garden is under high bushes or hedges, where they are a little more protected. There they can tolerate a few hours of sunshine a day.

  • Flowering period: April to June
  • Light requirement: light penumbra
  • Soil: Thrives on almost any soil. Prefers moist, well-drained soil.
  • Nutritional requirement: medium
  • pH value: neutral to slightly calcareous
  • Prefers locations with high humidity.

The Silbertaler also grows in very shady places. There, however, the flower is very sparse.

plant

The Silbertaler can also cope with poor soil. In order to achieve a more abundant flowering, however, a little compost should be mixed under the garden soil before planting. This not only serves to supply nutrients, but also increases the storage capacity for water, which is very important for the plant to thrive. Planting under bushes or tall trunks is particularly advantageous. However, it should be noted that some plants can grow to over a meter in height.

  • Plant spacing: half the growth width (about 40 centimeters)
  • Mix the compost and horn shavings under the soil.
  • Mix in sand in heavy soils.
  • Make sure there is sufficient distance to neighboring plants.
  • Cover the ground with mulch.

Watering and fertilizing

The water requirement of the silver leaf is quite high. It is essential to avoid the soil drying out. Therefore, the plant should not only be watered in extremely hot and dry periods, but regularly. As an exception, the rule here applies: Better to pour a little too much than too little. Fertile, humus soil with a high water storage capacity facilitates constant moisture control. In addition, a layer of mulch prevents it from drying out quickly.

A decisive factor for the growth of the silver leaf is an adequate supply of nutrients, especially nitrogen. In spring, we recommend adding organic slow-release fertilizers such as horn shavings and adding ripe compost to the soil.

To cut

If the gardener leaves the plant to its own devices, it will take possession of the entire garden within a few years, provided it feels comfortable. This can only be prevented by cutting the seed pods before they mature and self-sow. Unfortunately, the decorative character of the plant is then lost in autumn. If the spread is to be contained, the cut must not be thrown on the compost if seeds are already present. Otherwise, the compost will either be overgrown by the silver leaf in the next year, or it will spread when the compost is distributed in the garden. In winter, the above-ground parts of the plant die off almost completely. So that the silver leaf can sprout again in the second year and form flowers,

Propagation by seeds

Silver leaves are usually biennial plants that can only be cultivated for a short period of time. That is why it is always an advantage to maintain the continuity through your own offspring. This is very simple: if you leave the inflorescences on the shrub after blooming, the characteristic seed heads form after a short time: egg-shaped, very flat seed pods about three centimeters in diameter. There are usually 4-9 seeds in them, which can easily be recognized by the initially green, parchment-like cover when fully developed. If they are not cut off, they will look themselves. Of course, the seeds can also be collected in a targeted manner in order to ensure later breeding. When dry, they can be kept and germinable for years.

  • Time: October
  • Planting depth: three centimeters
  • Plant spacing: At least five centimeters
  • Sow in short furrows.

Alternatively, the seeds can also be sown in seed boxes or flower pots in autumn. The seeds should not be sown too densely in moist potting soil or cactus soil. This works best if about 2-3 centimeters deep, straight furrows are made in the bowl with a distance of about five centimeters. Every five centimeters a seed is now placed in the recess and loosely covered with earth. In order to better regulate the humidity, the seed pot is covered with a foil or bag. The location must not be too warm (maximum 10-12 degrees). Germination begins after just a few days. When the young plants have grown a few centimeters, they are pricked out (planted individually in pots).

Note: In order to get particularly strong plants, it is important that the young plants receive enough light immediately after germination. However, they must not be exposed to direct sunlight. If they are too dark, they grow very quickly in search of more light and develop a long, very thin shoot. If the sunlight is too strong, there is a risk of burns or drying out.

Multiplication by sharing

The clumpy growing silver leaves have a pronounced rhizome that spreads underground from the mother plant and ensures a strong expansion. These offshoots can be separated from the main plant and used elsewhere. They are then able to survive as an independent plant. With this type of propagation, the new plant does not differ from the mother plant, it is a purely vegetative propagation.

Overwinter

The herbaceous silver leaf is hardy. In autumn and winter, when the empty seed pods are still on the plant, they decorate the otherwise barren garden in a particularly beautiful way. Covered with hoar frost or over a light blanket of snow, they look like delicate lanterns in the sunshine. If the plants are still quite tender because they were sown in summer, a little dry leaves to protect them from heavy frosts won’t do any harm. After the development of seeds, withered plants have reached the end of their lifespan and die. They can remain in the ground as an ornament over the winter or be cut back to the ground in autumn. As a rule, the roots rot in the earth and do not have to be removed if the bed should be replanted in spring.

Diseases and pests

The silver leaf is not only a popular nectar plant for many butterflies and moths, but also forage for the caterpillars of aurora butterflies and butterflies. So if you suddenly discover a bare plant in your garden, you shouldn’t suspect the snails. In order to preserve the biodiversity and to protect the butterflies, however, the gardener should under no circumstances resort to chemical agents.

In general, the plant is very robust and resilient. Therefore it is almost never attacked by fungi, lice or other pests and diseases.

Conclusion
The silver leaf is a very easy to care for plant in the garden and only needs a partially shaded location and moist soil for lush growth. In spring, the herbaceous plant, which can reach a height of one meter, blooms in delicate pink or purple tones, less often in white. The plants are particularly well-known and popular because of their parchment-like, flat pods in which the seeds ripen. If the plants are left to their own devices in a suitable location, they tend to grow wild.

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