In The Garden Now…. The Giant Mayapple

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Mayapple flowers
Text and photos by Victoria Gilleland

 ‘The Giant Mayapple’ is an exotic looking plant with leaves that are often described as similar in shape and size to a “large tractor seat.”  It has blood red globe-like flowers hanging below the shiny leaves and sets yellow or orange fruit in late summer. What’s not to like?

This unique perennial is native to China, likes part shade to shade and enjoys moist soil. It reaches about three feet high and will slowly spread given time and enough moisture. Mayapple is pollinated by flies. To attract those flies the flower scent is on the stinky side. The scent is more pronounced in warm weather. I haven’t noticed an unpleasant odor in my garden because temperatures have been low when my Mayapple has been in flower.

Many Flowered Chinese Mayapple
The Giant goes dormant with the first freeze but emerges fresh and green, looking a lot like an unfurled/unopened umbrella in early spring. The immature leaves open over a number of days to reveal their unique shape and begin their march towards gigantic! They haven’t been bothered by pests in my garden. 

I’ve successfully grown this plant in a mid-sized pot for several years. This has been convenient for me for a number of reasons. I always enjoy having new garden plants closer to eye level where I can better observe their growth pattern and what if any pests are a problem.

Since Mayapple likes moisture I was able to easily provide additional water as needed with my watering can without watering a large garden area. Plus I always like to keep a “Newbie” to the garden up close so I don’t lose track of it. Believe me that has happened!

You’ll find this plant is a surprising and unusual addition to your garden. With the large dramatic leaves, intense red flowers dangling beneath the leaves, and yellow or orange fruit that sets at the end of summer it’s a multi-season performer!

 Botanical Name:  Podophyllum pleianthum ‘The Giant’
   Syn:  Dysoma pleianthum

Victoria Gilleland is the owner of Cottage Garden Designs, a Garden Design company specializing in Redesign of Residential Gardens, Garden Consultation and Coaching. She has been designing gardens in the northwest for over 25 years. (   


SKP May 10, 2020 at 2:58 PM  

Thank you for this article! I have one of these plants, and this is the first year it has buds, so I came in to look it up. My friend gave it to me when she moved and told me it was Japanese Mayapple. It is still in a pot, after 2 years, so only 2 feet tall.

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