Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Virginia Waterleaf, Eastern Waterleaf, Shawnee Salad, Indian Salad, John's Cabbage
Hydrophyllum virginianum

Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Hydrophyllum (hy-droh-FIL- um) (Info)
Species: virginianum (vir-jin-ee-AN-um) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

4 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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1 positive
1 neutral
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral MTVineman On Jun 4, 2010, MTVineman from Helena, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

Wow, lot's of negativity regarding this native American plant. I inadvertently brought a batch of it back with me from Minnesota in a clump of Arisaema triphyllum and some weird vine I have never ever seen that I had dug at my friend Jerry's farm in Pope County. It is so far behaving itself here in Helena but it's also only been in the ground a few months. Man, do the bee's ever appreciate this plant! They go nuts over it. So, I'll take that as a positive. Until it becomes a pest/begins to spread etc. I am not making any judgments on it. It's a beautiful plant to me and I guess that's all that counts. If it does indeed become a pest and I have accidentally introduced a non Montana native, I'll make another comment, but until then, I'll stick with what I said above. Hope I didn't do a boo-boo by bringing it here to the mountains and river/stream valleys of Montana. Doh! - BMc

Negative ilbruche On Apr 15, 2010, ilbruche from Eldorado Springs, CO wrote:

This has overrun my backyard. In early spring it seems nice because it makes everything nice and green. After it flowers it dies off and looks nasty. Easiest to pull up once full grown, but it's a chore.

My backyard is terraced and filled with lots of boulders so it's next to impossible to eradicate. It overgrows my hyacinths and everything else.

Negative Eleven On Jun 5, 2009, Eleven from Royal Oak, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

When identifying this native plant on DG, I was warned that it was invasive and difficult to remove. Since the plants had evidently seeded across both sides of my garden, I started removing them. As already noted, they develop an extensive root system. But the plant stems are relatively fragile and break easily... leaving the root system intact and ready to create new plants.

So far, I've had reasonable success in identifying the flowering plants, loosening the soil with a trowel, and digging my hands into the soil to remove the root mass. This is doesn't work for young plants, because they're harder to spot hiding amongst everything else and their root systems are smaller.

This plant is best left to natural woodland areas and out of the garden. As a positive, I'll add that its flowers attract bumble bees. Of course, that's probably how it makes so many seeds!

Negative LEO88 On Jun 7, 2008, LEO88 from Big Rapids, MI (Zone 4b) wrote:

Hydrophyllum is in my top-5 most HATED plants in my garden...I would love to eradicate this plant entirely from my garden. It self-seeds everywhere...including my gravel driveway, & the aggressive rhizomes will overtake & smother other plants that are nearby. It took me an hour to dig up & slowly remove the waterleaf root was strangling a Peony plant. Certainly not a showy plant, anyway...DON'T GET IT STARTED..!!

Negative Malus2006 On Nov 20, 2006, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

For a native species, this can be an aggressive weed. IT selfseed at a higher rate and can lie in dormant for a few years. I have to wait until the flowers are done to rip the aboveground section before they go to seed. During the summer, the foliage is ugly as bugs chew the heck out of it. My motto is never plant groundcover that selfseed as they can leap paths and establish themselves near taller plants. The roots are hard to pull out, as it sends down multi "tap" roots that goes deep. And that's in sandy soil! Never include this species among small woodland wildflower gardens unless you uses it in a forest setting that have few plants.

Positive Terry On Jun 14, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

The plant's common name "waterleaf" is from the whitish mottling on the foliage; it resembles water stains. Leaves can be cooked and eaten; roots used to make an astringent tea or chewed raw for mouth sores.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Eldorado Springs, Colorado
Des Plaines, Illinois
Waterman, Illinois
Hobart, Indiana
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Melbourne, Kentucky
Big Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
Afton, Minnesota
Isle, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Helena, Montana
Boone, North Carolina
Dundee, Ohio
Fairborn, Ohio
Ellsworth, Wisconsin

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