March 2003
Plant of the Month

(Genista Lydia)
zone: 4
by Brad Wedge

Genista Lydia (je-NIS-ta LE-di-a) is a unique plant that is part of the Fabacaea family. It is commonly classified as USDA zone 6-7, but will grow and thrive in Zone 4 with the right conditions. The best location is in full sun with well-drained soil close to the foundation or on a south facing well-drained slope. We have followed only a limited number of plants in the landscape in our area, but they are all thriving except for the one planted in my yard (too shady and wet an area). Even in our propagation stool block, and the above ground pots in our Garden Center the plants do fine (of course we do cover them for winter).
Genista Lydia is a deciduous shrublet growing about 8” - 15” tall and spreading 24”-36” wide. It forms a rounded but somewhat flattened form. The branches are short, arching and slender. The leaves and branches are angular and are bright green in the spring, turning to a gray-green during the rest of the year, and staying green through the winter. It has alternate simple leaves that remind me of Scotch-broom, that are spaced 10-15mm apart. It can easily be cut back hard, and will quickly regrow. Usually it does not require any pruning.
The crowning touch to this plant is its pea-type bright yellow flowers (about 1 cm long) in late May to early June. It is not overly long blooming (about a week or two weeks), but the flowers cover the plant so you cannot see the foliage. In bloom, it is a striking difference from the plant when it is not in bloom. It has a dry pod-like fruit that is inconspicuous.
Genista Lydia is native to the Balkans and Western Asia. It has the look of dry Xerox type plants. It grows slowly to moderately, tolerating drought and very dry soil. It prefers a pH of 6.8-7.7, and has no serious pest problems.
It can be propagated by seeds, layering, or by softwood cuttings. It roots easily, but is slow to develop, and, and does not look great in a pot; hence it is hard to sell in the Garden Center.
I like to use it as a ground cover, a foundation plant when I need a textural difference, or for a striking unusual look. The picture shows it in a setting of a Spanish style house with a Fern Leaf Buckthorn (which is now illegal to sell in Minnesota) to reflect the house style.
Its only problem other than being tender is that it is hard to remove dead leaves from other trees out of its foliage.

Brad Wedge
Wedge Nursery
MNLA Nursery Committee member

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