“One for sorrow, two for joy …” begins a rhyme about magpies. But the solitary magpie in my garden has been giving me joy for over ten yeas now – stachyurus ‘Magpie.’

Stachyurus are shrubs of woodland, flowering in early spring before the leaves emerge. The pale yellow blooms look like a cross between a hazel catkin and a wisteria raeceme, but hang rigidly rather than dangling in the wind.

Stachyurus 'Magpie' (close-up) with bee - 2015

‘Magpie’ started life as a praecox species, may be listed as chinensis, but now the botanists have removed any species from the name. Whatever it is called, it makes a shrub about six feet high and a little less across.

Stachyurus 'Magpie' - 2015

The leaves  are variegated, with broad white margins, and this causes a challenge to its cultivation. Because the amount of chlorophyll is limited, the plant is weak and slow growing in its youth, getting stronger as it gets older.


The advice I was given – and which worked – was to grow it in a pot for about three or four years, overwintering it under glass, until it was fighting to get out of the container. At that point, it was planted in a sheltered position against a fence.  The recommendation is for an aspect in part shade, but I gave it a south-facing spot but with the roots in the shade, since when it has gone from strength to strength.

Who needs two magpies for joy?


5 thoughts on “Magpie

  1. Interesting to hear that growing it on in a pot for a while, and coddle in winter is recommended. Wish I had read this post earlier… My tiny one (which is still in a pot) sat outside all winter. It’s still tiny, but alive, and just starting to push out new leaves. I will treat it better next winter.


  2. Hi there. Just seen this site. I have a my own small collection of Stachyurus, but try as I might, I have been unable to source “Magpie” anywhere. Would you (or indeed anyone else reading this) happen to have propagated your specimen of “Magpie” (probably by layering as they are generally slow-growing?), or be able to, such that I might be able to purchase one from you as a fellow Stachyurus enthusiast who also lives in the UK and who will soon also be a fellow retiree? Thank you for any help you might be able to give with this request.


    1. Darren, Thanks for your message. I think ‘Magpie’ has now been superseded by ‘Joy Forever’ which is more vigorous when young. Nurseries that may be worth contacting are Longstocl (from where I purchased mine nearly 20 years ago), Burncoose, or Village Plants Nursery in Stockport (a one-man business but he does like his stacyurus!). Good luck, Andrew


      1. Hi Andrew, many thanks for your reply. I’ll certainly follow up your suggestions, and I’ll let you know how I get on. Take care and best regards, Darren


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