These perennial herbaceous plants, native to Asia (from the Himalayas to Japan and the Philippines), are generally found in shady conditions on the edge of forests. Of the 16-20 species, only two (and their hybrids) used to be commonly grown as garden ornamentals, primarily for their orchid-like blossoms which open in fall after most other plants have finished blooming.
These grow from creeping rhizomes, forming a clump of foliage that slowly expands over time. It is a highly variable plant that can reach a height of 12”-36”, emerging late in the spring. It produces arching, unbranched stems with alternate leaves all along the stems in a ladder-like arrangement. The 3-6 inch long, light green leaves are oval to oblong with parallel veins and clasping leaf bases. The stems often arch in the same direction, creating a graceful, flowing appearance.
The flowers open in late summer to early fall, lasting for about three weeks or until a hard frost (both the leaves and flowers are damaged below 28ºF).