This amazing clump-forming foliage plant, a cultivar of Persicaria microcephala known as 'Red Dragon' (ht 60cm), is a member of a genus (previously called Polygonum) which is renowned for fantastic leaves and invasive tendencies. I have not had much problem with this one so far, but it does make quite a large clump that needs to be reined in every so often. In spring, the fresh burgundy leaves on reddish stems are marked with a dark centre surrounded by a silvery chevron. As summer progresses, the leaves may become greener but they still have some dark hues and markings. If cut back periodically during the warmer months, a fresh flush of bright foliage will appear. The flowers are insignificant.
It needs to be pruned back very hard in late winter to allow the new leaves to develop. Every few years, it benefits from being dug up and divided in autumn or winter, then replanted with the soil amended with compost, otherwise it becomes congested and languishes. It may need support from cradle stakes when in full growth. With regularly clipping it can be shaped into an effective sphere, as illustrated at left (photo taken at Red Cow Farm, Sutton Forest, NSW). It can grow in sun or part-shaded sites and tolerates most soils. The colour of the leaves complements nearby hot-coloured or blue flowers, and it combines well with silver foliage (such as Plectranthus argentatus) to echo its markings. It also makes a dramatic contrast to gold-leaved plants, such as Duranta 'Sheena's Gold'. It grows very readily from cuttings taken in spring or autumn, or rooted pieces taken from the base. The foliage is useful in flower arrangements.