Lespedeza thunbergii subsp. thunbergii 'Little Volcano'
Common Name: little volcano bush clover
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Fabaceae
Zone: 6 to 10
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Rosy-purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best flowering is in full sun. Performs well in infertile, sandy soils. Good drainage is essential. Tolerates drought once established. 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 6, the top growth will 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.

‘Little Volcano’ does not produce seed, and accordingly does not have the invasive tendencies of some members of this genus.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lespedeza thunbergii, commonly called bush clover, is a deciduous, semi-woody shrub with an arching, fountain-like habit. When cut to the ground in late winter to early spring, it responds by producing rapid annual growth to 3- 6’ tall and as wide during the following growing season. It features alternate, trifoliate, bluish-green leaves (leaflets to 1-2” long) 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.

Genus name honors Vincente Manuel de Cespedes, Spanish Governor of West Florida from 1784 to 1790.

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

‘Little Volcano’ typically grows to 3-6’ tall with a spread to 6-10’ wide. It originated in the garden of Dr. Shibamichi in the subtropical Ryukyu Islands (Japan) located in the East China Sea. This shrub is most noted for producing a profuse late summer to early fall bloom of pea-like flowers (occasionally with some bloom in spring) on arching, cascading branches. Small trifoliate dark green leaves turn gold in fall after bloom.

Some nurseries sell ‘Little Volcano’ as a cultivar of Lespedeza liukiuensis, a synonym of Lespedeza thunbergii subsp. thunbergii.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Excellent fall-blooming specimen for sunny areas of the landscape. Shrub borders. Slopes/hills. Cottage gardens. Spill over retaining wall. Mix with perennials.