Two years ago I went mad and bought three tetrapanax to plant on a north-facing slope that gets a little sun, to create a ‘jungle’ along with some gunnera. I know that both these plants can get a bad press because gunnera has escaped gardens in some areas of the west of Ireland and tetrapanax can be invasive (though I have never experienced this). Tetrapanax is a shrub from Taiwan that can reach 4m or more (in mild climates) and gets its name from the pith in the stem that can be used to make paper. But in gardens we love it for its bold (boy is that an understatement) foliage. The leaves are deeply divided and can reach almost 1m across. It is not a million miles away from a fatsia and is also evergreen and, when plants are mature, they produce similar but more sparse clouds of small flowers.
In cold winters the leaves may be killed but usually the stems remain but if they are damaged a mature plant will send up shoots from the base, often some distance away from the main stem. These plants were tiny when I bough them and they were kept in pots in a greenhouse the first winter but were planted out in May 2014 and now, 17 months later they are almost 2m high and looking great.
Obviously this is not a plant for tiny gardens and there is another minor problem in that the scurfy covering of the leaves and stems can cause coughing if you are pruning or grooming it and inhale the dust – just be careful, in normal circumstances this need not be a problem.
There is a form called ‘Rex’ that has even bigger leaves.
If you need a plant for a tropical effect but no greenhouse to overwinter tender plants then this is the one for you.
9/10 (possibly invasive)