Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea
I first fell in love with this tongue twister in Beth Chatto’s marvellous garden.
And it was love at first sight, because Mrs. Chatto used it to such splendid effect as a foliage contrast, in all sorts of colour schemes.
So while Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea may be a mouthful of a name, Japanese Parsley is such a useful, down to earth plant.
(See “Growing” section below for plant details, how & where to grow”).
Plum, burgundy & chocolate foliage is a perfect contrast
Marvellous maple shaped leaves are dark plum-burgundy-chocolate colours on nearly black stems.
Then the stem tips bloom in dainty sprays of the tiniest, pink flowers in spring and summer.
You could describe it as wicked witch black but bewitching.
Hardy easy grower
Because Japanese Parsley is a hardy, easy grower, it is happy in either Sun or Shade, though it naturally prefers shade.
Thankfully it is heat resistant, tolerant of dry periods once established, plus shade tolerant, as well as frost hardy.
So in hotter districts it can be really useful as a great contrast plant in even quite heavily shaded areas, as well as in sunnier spots.
And it is a stunner planted in the herb / vegetable garden, or in a decorative herb pot.
Useful in the kitchen too
Japanese Parsley is not only decorative in the garden, but a popular culinary herb in its native Asia and Japan.
So it is commonly used in Asian cuisine to give a flavour reminiscent of Angelica or Parsley, and highly regarded as a medicinal tonic. The roots can be sauteed in oil and the leaves steamed like Spinach.
Whereas in Japan the new leaf tips are a very popular ingredient in fresh salads.
However do be aware it should not be eaten in large quantities like a vegetable, but rather used as a garnish and for great colour contrast in salads.
As some people may have a dermatitas type skin reaction to large quantities.
Growing: Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea
– Height with flowers: Chocolate-plum-burgundy stems rise to approx 45cm. Then over spring, summer and autumn they are tipped with sprays of tiny pink flowers.
– Width: Each plant will make a clump with a diameter of approx. 30cm. However they look great clumped together – there are always plenty of volunteer seedlings.
– Position: Not a bit fussy, so it will grow happily in Sun or Shade, including quite Deep Shade, especially in hot districts
– Soil: Japanese Parsley really does not care much. It is happy in anything from sandy to clay soil, though it does enjoy some mulch or compost in sandy soil. It is untroubled by either acid or alkaline (lime) soil.
– Water: Japanese Parsley is not a thirsty plant. So average, normal garden watering is ample. It can tolerate heat well, and can withstand periods of dry once established, particularly if it has some shade.
– Frost: Japanese Parsley is extremely frost hardy, because it can withstand severe frost to well below -20C.
– Growth: An evergreen clump of burgundy-plum-chocolate foliage, but it is an easy self seeder. So it is best to let it self seed and just keep the seedlings where you want them, so the plants are always tender and fresh.
– Beneficial for wildlife: Although the flowers are tiny, they make up in quantity, so bees and other useful pollinators find them very useful.
Easy low care
– Care: Easy low care plant, as the only work that may be needed is to trim off the spent flowering stems at the end of summer, and to possibly weed out of any volunteer seedlings that appear where you don’t want them.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: The nibbling pests have ignored it in favour of the lettuces in our veggie garden.
– Origin: Native to both deciduous and evergreen forests in eastern Asia and Japan.
– Beware: Please be aware some people with sensitive skin or high levels of allergic reaction, may experience some skin irritation from either handling, or eating larger quantities of Cryptotaenia japonica.