Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), a sometimes invasive ground-hugging perennial, arrived in the United States from Europe and Southwestern Asia during the 19th century. It's now a common sight in Eastern U.S. wetlands and forests and along stream and pond margins. Thanks to a spreading habit and appealing foliage, creeping Jenny has also found acceptance as an ornamental garden plant.
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The trailing stems of penny-sized, round leaves so suitable for hanging baskets led to creeping Jenny's species name "nummularia," which is Latin for "resembling a coin." After the plant arrived in the United States, its common English name of "twopence" fell from favour, replaced with the more American "moneywort." The facts surrounding the name "creeping Jenny" are lost to history. Retired University of Arkansas horticultural professor Gerald Klingaman speculates it originated with the plant's use in a whooping cough treatment, noted in 17th century herbals. At that time, the disease was known as "chinne" cough. The name may have survived the plant's medicinal use, evolving to the present-day "Jenny."
Typically standing two to four inches high, creeping Jenny has 1- to 3-foot-long stems of round, yellow, chartreuse or medium-green leaves. Its tolerance for moderate traffic makes creeping Jenny a good ground cover choice. But its vigorously spreading habit makes it ideal for use in hanging baskets as a trailing plant. Its five-lobed flowers are small and yellow and they bloom in late spring to early summer.
Creeping Jenny is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8 and grows in sun to partial shade. The plant flowers most abundantly and displays the most vibrant foliage colour in full sun. Where summers are hot, it benefits from strong afternoon sun. The plant's growth rate depends on the soil in which it's planted. Organically rich, consistently moist loam produces the best hanging basket plants. In rich soil, stems can grow as much as 12 inches in a month.
The creeping Jenny cultivar "Aurea" spreads from 1 to 1-1/2 feet. Aurea's ruffled, 3/4-inch leaves are yellow when it is planted in full sun or chartreuse when it is grown in partial shade. Its bright yellow flowers bloom in early summer. The "Goldilocks" cultivar has golden yellow leaves paired with bright yellow flowers that bloom in late spring and into midsummer. Its stems trail as much as 3 feet, making this cultivar a dramatic hanging basket addition.
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