Piper sanctum

Grown by: Mary TeSelle, San Rafael

Family: Piperaceae
This large-leaved plant will definitely give a tropical look to our bay area gardens. In frost free areas it is evergreen with leaves the size of dinner plates if it is happy. The leaves are reportedly used as husks for tamales in Mexico.
It prefers part shade and moisture and loves rich soils. It will spread underground fairly quickly if it likes the spot to form a 15 foot high dense forest so be careful where you place it.
In case of heavy frost it dies to the ground but returns come spring. The inflorescense looks like a long, curved marshmallow pencil.

Photo by Steve Morse