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Here’s a plant we should see a lot more of: Datisca cannabina, or false hemp. What’s so great about it? For one thing, it quickly shoots up to 10 feet tall in spring, covered in soft, feathery serrated leaves. Then in summer it dangles its elegant chains of chartreuse flowers, which age gracefully and stick around for the rest of the year, transitioning through various stages of beautiful, until you cut the leafless stems back in winter when the new growth begins to emerge. For all that drama, you only need a small footprint, where it takes up about a foot of space on the garden floor, making it one of those great mingling plants that can slink right up against its neighbors.

datisca cannabina by Wendy cutler
Datisca cannabina by Wendy Cutler

My plant has been sharing seedlings each year, which is fine by me, since I’ve had a few to give away, and a few to dot around the yard. They’re not hard to control if you already have your fill. I learned this by accident when I weeded out all my volunteers before I realized what they were, and had to wait another year for a new batch. Take a look at one of the new seedlings here so you don’t find yourself in a similar situation.

false hemp seedling

The babies grow quickly. I think the leaves look especially fetching contrasted with the big bold leaves of a Tetrapanax. The big leaf/delicate leaf combination is one of my favorite things.
false hemp

false hemp foliage 2
false hemp foliage close up

A few buds appear in May, but buds start to appear in earnest in June.
false hemp bud

Flowers are green through most of July. Oh, I love green flowers.
false hemp flower green 2

Toward August the flowers turn ivory and go a bit fluffy.
false hemp flower white

The flowers gradually turn buff as the year advances, looking beautiful against the summer sunsets and fall’s stormy skies.
false hemp flower brown 2

A couple of my plants shot right past the expected 8 foot height, topping out around 12′. Over-performing plants are always welcome around here.
false hemp height 2

The seed heads stick around the rest of the year. Some flowers are still somewhat intact now in mid-January, some are stripped bare but still quite beautiful.

false hemp seed head
false hemp winter flower 2
false hemp winter flower stripped

And perhaps a shot only a gardener could love, but I consider it part of the year round charm that they’re already announcing the advancing spring with new growth emerging from the base in January.
false hemp new growth

Definitely a plant I’d like to see in more gardens.