Saturday, April 21, 2012

Money Plants

Day 94
The Daily DuBrule

This week my money plants (Lunaria annua) are in full bloom. You never know where these plants are going to show up. This year, they landed beneath the Potentilla, nestled in behind Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'. Exact same color. Ain't nature wonderful! They are exactly the same color and in bloom at the same time.

Money plants are also called honesty or silver dollars. They are true biennials. The first year they are green, leafy specimens. It's so easy to weed them out if you don't know what they are. The second year they send up flower spikes in May. Wait a minute, this year it's April. Anyway, they bloom in full sun or deep shade for about 4-6 weeks. After flowering, they set up seed pods which are flat, rounded discs. By late fall, the pods turn an ugly beige/brown color. What's the big deal with this? Well, when ripe, you gently slough off the outer skin and voila! Silvery, shiny, translucent, papery  pods appear, the joy of dried flower arrangers everywhere. That is why they call them silver dollars or money plants. 

I used to add them to wedding bouquets when I was a florist, part of the symbolism and meaning of flowers. Honesty. Money, i.e. prosperity. A great symbol for starting out in life.

The plants in my yard came from my friend and employee Jane. She grows tons of old fashioned plants. I brought the uncleaned dried stems home and cleaned them right in the garden. As you take off the outer skin, the seeds of the money plant fall to the ground. I left them over the winter and in the spring, dozens of baby plants appeared. I nurtured them over the first summer and the second spring they flowered and then ripened to become the first money plants in my new yard. Now I have them every year.

When I was in Paris for my honeymoon in late April in 2004 I was surprised to see Lunaria bedded out in many formal public gardens along with bulbs and annual poppies. They earned a special, sentimental spot in my heart. After thinking about it, I realized that the French were onto something, choosing for their spring color scheme a long blooming flower that would marry with the bulbs for their entire flowering span. Bedding out in public spaces means plants are installed, they bloom, then they are switched out for the next round of constant color. In American yards, money plants are so temporary. When I see a stand that is well established, I know the gardener has spent the previous summer not only recognizing the plants but also leaving them to grow in their garden as unexciting green leaves in order to have a dazzling display for the following spring.

When I first bought the Natureworks property in 1990, I inherited a stand of Lunaria that had white flowers instead of purple. For the past 22 years this plant has thrived in our shade gardens. I simply let the seed pods ripen and clean them in the gardens in the late fall, hanging the silvery seed pods in bunches in the kitchen and weaving them into arrangements that I toss together. People always ask what they are when in flower, wondering what this upright white flower stalk is that is blooming under the trees in the spring. "It's honesty" I tell them. What a great name for a great plant. 


  1. Awesome! My daughter and I just picked some dried. They were growing wild in a wooded area just down the street. I love the symbolism. I'm going to send a few to my mom and gift to my sisters.

  2. Awesome! I have just picked a few dried out. They were growing wild in a wooded area down the road. I love the symbolism. I am going to gift them to members of my family.