Lunaria biennis, or money plant, is sometimes treated as an annual but actually better as a biennial. It is also referred to as Lunaria annua.
This cannot be very clear. I’ve seen Lunaria seed packets marked “annual” but have found growing information for it in a couple of my books on perennials.
Basically, a biennial is a short-lived plant with a two-year life cycle. The first year it grows from seed, usually does not flower, and winters over. In the second season, it grows, sets seeds, self-sows, and then dies in the fall.
Once Lunaria is established, you’ll have first- and second-year plants growing side-by-side in your garden, and it will be there spring after spring, just like any perennial.
In fact, if it’s pleased with its growing conditions, it might become a nuisance. If you think having too much “money” would be a problem, just weed out the seedlings to keep it in bounds.
The money plant pays dividends too. One such is its flowers – sweet-scented, decorative purple, pink or white clusters in late spring. And its deeply toothed, heart-shaped foliage also is attractive.
A new variety, Lunaria`Variegata’, has green leaves edged in creamy white. It would make a lovely planting beneath high-trimmed trees or mixed with plain-green foliage plants.
To harvest seed pods for fall and winter bouquets, gather them when they start to turn brown. Although the outer covering will drop off by itself, don’t wait too long – it’s better to harvest the pods and remove the covering by hand than to see them ruined by wet fall weather!
I plan to start some Lunaria seeds about six to eight weeks before planting them outside in mid-to-late May in our Zone 4. It’s a small investment I’m sure will pay off handsomely in two years.
And, by the way, don’t confuse Lunaria with Linaria, which is flax, a fine plant, but not on the money if you’re looking for the former.
Features: Attractive toothed and heart-shaped leaves; striking purple, pink or white flowers; famous silvery, round, flat seed pods perfect for dried arrangements.
Plant info: Start from seed indoors or sow directly in the garden. Lunaria prefers full sun or light shade and almost any well-drained soil. Space plants about 12 inches apart. Grows to 3 feet tall.
Money Plant Growing Tips
Growing your own money (money plant, that is!) is as simple as getting your hands on some seeds. Begin with a sunny location or at least partially sunny. It should have
well-drained soil that has been tilled with plenty of organic matter.
Sow seeds directly into the garden where you want them to grow in midsummer, about the time that they would be ripening and falling to the ground naturally. They will germinate
and grow into a leafy plant that will bloom the following spring.
Treated in this manner, it is genuinely a biennial, flowering in its second season. You can also sow the seeds outdoors in early spring or start them indoors in winter for transplanting into the garden. These plants will grow and bloom as if they are annuals.
But no matter how you get started, you are assured of having them reseed year after year, provided that you are not too conscientious about collecting the pods. They grow where they fall, and it’s up to the gardener to choose which ones and how many will remain.
John Smith, a landscape architect who gardens in Atlanta, says, “I have them all over the garden, and I’ll let some of them stay. I sometimes feel like they can find a better place than I can.
They help give the garden a little looseness. However, if one grows right in front of the border and it’s going to hide something, I’ll transplant it. I find that the ones that I let
stay usually do just a little bit better than those I move.”
Reaching 1 ½ to 3 feet tall, the plant grows best at a spacing of about 1 foot between each plant. Throughout the South, it brings a little old-fashioned currency wherever its seeds fall.
Collect the seedpods as soon as they begin to turn brown. That means the seeds are ripe, but they have not necessarily fallen into the garden.
The satiny disc that is so characteristic of the money plant is only revealed after the outer husks are removed and the seeds released. Twist each pod between your fingers.
The two outer layers will fall off, the seeds will fall out, and you are left with a botanical silver dollar.