Lespedeza thunbergii
Common Name: bush clover
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Japan, China
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Rose purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Performs well in infertile, sandy soils in full sun. Good drainage is essential. Tolerates drought. Avoid over fertilization. Blooms on new growth, so prune as needed in late winter to early spring. Although the roots are winter hardy to USDA Zone 4, the top growth may die to the ground in hard winters. Some gardeners simply prune plants to the ground in late winter each year. Plants will naturalize in the garden by reseeding and by prostrate stems rooting at the nodes.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lespedeza thunbergii, commonly called bush clover, is a deciduous shrub with an arching, fountain-like habit. When cut to the ground in late winter to early spring, it responds by producing rapid growth to 3- 6’ tall and as wide during the following growing season. It features alternate, trifoliate, bluish-green leaves and drooping racemes (to 6” long) of rosy-purple, pea-like flowers which are grouped into loose, pendulous flower panicles (to 2’ long). Blooms appear in late summer to early fall.

Specific epithet honors Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), Swedish naturalist, who collected this plant in Japan in 1775-76.


No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Often spectacular late summer bloom for sunny areas of the landscape. Shrub borders. Slopes/hills. Cottage gardens. Mix with perennials.