Plant of the Week: Firetail Mountain Fleece

Many beautiful blooms on the High Line are fleeting— for example, spring ephemerals pop up for only a few weeks and are soon gone. But Firetail mountain fleece, this week's plant, is long-blooming, sometimes lasting until the year's first frost. Currently it's in peak form in the Washington Grasslands section of the park near the Standard Hotel.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Firetail mountain fleece (botanically known as Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail') is an herbaceous perennial native to the Himalayas, China and Pakistan. It is a member of the polygonaceae family, which has around 1,200 species (and is also known informally as the knotweed or smartweed family). Firetail mountain fleece grows four-inch long red flower spikes on a long stalk, which rises from a mound of six-inch long dark green leaves. The leaves clasp at the stem, a condition called amplexicaulis, and that gives the plant its botanical name. Persicaria can handle full sun to part shade and likes a moist environment. The plants are 3-4' across and over time can form large clumps.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Firetail mountain fleece can be an attractive addition to a garden, with blooms lasting from June through October, or potentially even later. It can survive in USDA climate zones 4-7, and although it is not a native species, it still attracts birds and butterflies. It is not invasive, but needs a lot of space and will spread over time so monitor it in your garden to make sure it does not take over. To propagate, divide the mountain fleece in spring or autumn. Persicaria does best when protected from heavy winds (but also seem to be thriving in the extremely blustery conditions on the High Line).

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

PLANTING TIP

Firetail mountain fleece could be a perfect addition to a pond or stream environment and mass plantings can provide excellent ground cover. Persicaria will spread, so when planting give it some room to grow. On the High Line, it has been paired with Visions in Pink astible, Heuchera villosa 'Brownies' and Aruncus 'Horatio' (goatsbeard). In hot climates, mountain fleece will do better in part shade. It has no major pest or disease problems.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT

In the Washington Grasslands between 13th St. & 14th St.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

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