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Petasites Species, Japanese Butterbur, Sweet Coltsfoot

Petasites japonicus

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Petasites (pet-uh-SY-tees) (Info)
Species: japonicus (juh-PON-ih-kus) (Info)



Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


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)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Winter

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


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


Anniston, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Juneau, Alaska

Concow, California

San Diego, California

Marietta, Georgia

Sandpoint, Idaho

Hanna City, Illinois

Pekin, Illinois

Hobart, Indiana

Louisville, Kentucky (2 reports)

Taylorsville, Kentucky

Falmouth, Maine

Roslindale, Massachusetts

Thompsonville, Michigan

Westland, Michigan

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rochester, Minnesota (2 reports)

Wadena, Minnesota

Ballwin, Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

Piedmont, Missouri

Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Stockton, New Jersey

Cato, New York

Fairport, New York

Spencer, New York

West Kill, New York

Yonkers, New York

Chesterland, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Banks, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Salem, Oregon

Walterville, Oregon (2 reports)

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Memphis, Tennessee

Pocahontas, Tennessee

Leesburg, Virginia

Naselle, Washington

Olympia, Washington

Seattle, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 2, 2017, GardenKlutz from Rochester, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

I planted this to help preserve the soil moisture under a huge, 5-trunked paper birch that is a show-piece in my yard. I have grown it from a couple of plants about 10 years ago to an area about 20' by 30'. I have always loved its prehistoric lushness, but once when I thought it had gotten too thick, I Round-Up'ed it all, but it has gradually returned and I still enjoy it. It does preserved soil moisture and tells me promptly if it needs water, so I know my tree does, too. I bought a garden sculpture a couple of years ago that is a creature that looks just as prehistoric, so together they watch over my yard and are just an interesting sight. If I can, I'll post a photo.


On Mar 23, 2016, Russ348 from Banks, OR wrote:

Nice big foliage if you have lots of room. Leaf edges burn if exposed to direct sun for more than a few hours. The largest leaves have a tendency to form little tears, apparently from their own weight. I thought it was slug or insect damage, but not so. Nothing grows under its canopy except for a few horsetails. My Japanese sister-in-law remembers her grandmother cooking it with soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin. There are many recipes for the stems and leaves on Japanese cooking blogs. Considered a bitter green. Look for fuki and fuki no to.


On Oct 18, 2015, zillabug from Cato, NY wrote:

The only reason I gave this plant a positive rating is because we have grown it in an area with concrete borders, and it can not spread past them. This area receives afternoon shade, with very healthy soil that is always moist. The leaves grow very large (36-40") very fast, making it impossible for anything else to get established, which is exactly what we needed it to do. It spreads rapidly, with 6 plants filling in a 30' X 30' area in two growing seasons. An aggressive, impressive plant.


On Apr 17, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This plant is grown mainly for its dramatic, coarse foliage. The early spring flowers have novelty value but would be beneath mention if they bloomed when more plants do.

The big leaves rise late and smother all competitors. They flag dispiritedly in sun in the hot part of the day, even in near-bog conditions, but they perk right up when it cools off.

This species spreads quickly and aggressively by a running rootstock that's hard to contain---it will easily escape a big container through the drainage holes. At Naumkeag in Stockbridge, MA, it has taken over many acres. At the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, its spread is limited by water.

I wouldn't plant this even in a large garden, because it covers and monopolizes such large areas so quickly.... read more


On Apr 22, 2013, hal2010 from Toronto,
Canada wrote:

Beautiful foliage but highly invasive. It migrates. I planted it in my back garden but it's been chasing the sun and has moved approx 12 feet and it now damaging a driveway. It does remarkably well in our hot, dry Ontario summers.

Time to dig it all up!


On Jun 26, 2007, MNRose from Chisholm, MN wrote:

I planted this plant in zone 3 because I knew I would never get a gunnera to take off. I was hoping our -40 winters would keep it's spreading in check but, alas, find myself pulling it out of the ground where it is spreading nearly daily. Tip: Plant it in a BIG planter underground so it doesn't get away from you!


On Apr 19, 2006, abqturkey from Albuquerque, NM (Zone 7a) wrote:

I don't grow this plant, but was doing some research... looking for an herbal antihistamine. "Butterbur" was mentioned as a natural antihistamine, but on further reading, several sources mentioned that parts of the plant are toxic to the liver and can even result in liver failure.


On Sep 20, 2005, Shadyfolks from Chesterland, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

I have the variegated variety and it is striking. But beware were you plant this. I planted it next to the creek in sandy/rocky soil (Z5) and it was way too happy I moved it about 9-10 months after planting it and tried to take as much soil with it,(about 3-4x the original diameter) without disturbing the other plants. I did not replant the area just in case I needed to dig out any new growth. Well, today (3 months after removing the plant) I just dug out about 15 baby sprouts. I will wait now till spring to see what else comes up and will try Round-Up next.


On May 4, 2005, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

This plant is pretty invasive, and the leaves are far more attractive than the flowers. That said, it is spectacular in the right setting. I have it growing in a swampy area below my mountain home. The hillside surrounding it is filled with wild red raspberries, the thorns of which sometimes shred the humongous leaves on windy days. The flowers are among the first blooms in spring, and thus welcome, if a bit weedy looking. The plant grows maybe eight feet high and is highly visible from a distance, with some individual leaves being almost three feet long and half as wide. It gives a tropical, jungly appearance, but wilts a bit during dry spells. The surrounding area is filled in with wild plants--mostly inula (elecampane) and meadowsweet and some Joe Pye weed, all of which are suitable com... read more


On May 3, 2005, Larry1940 from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Winter hardy in Portland, Oregon, mine have survived in pots with temperatures down to 16 F. They can be invasive, I double potted one in the ground, and it still escaped.


On Feb 4, 2005, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

I have been warned that this stuff is invasive, but it doesn't seem to spread here on my Catskill mountain top garden. It is next to a spring in a soggy area facing south with sun from mid morning until late afternoon. Very healthy leaves, with a wingspan of a couple of feet and stems four or five feet long. Half a dozen flowers or so emerge in early spring, shortly after the pussy willows. My petasites are at a distance from the house and road, and very dramatic viewed from that distance. The deer show no interest. I frequently find birds and other animals taking shelter under the leaves in heavy summer storms, which I find quite charming. It is tough enough to hold its own against a very aggressive wild raspberry patch on one side, although the raspberry thorns sometimes pierce the petas... read more


On Feb 3, 2005, GardenGuyKin from Portland, OR (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant is easily grown in shady areas does well with only morning sun. Requires regular to abundant water does not tolerate long dry periods during summer months.

Can become a difficult hard to control plant due to it's running rhizomes and can easily over power an area. After it flowers in spring it has large rounded leaves that I have measured 3' across and stems 3 - 4'.


On Feb 18, 2004, petasities from Wadena, MN (Zone 3b) wrote:

I am not sure if I have japonicus or some sort of giganticus but the species is an absolute wonder. Stems top-out at 6' on the happiest plants ,with 32" leaves. This is in the tough climate of zone 3b. The plant bed extends its margin by about 3' per year, but does not become invasive because it doesn't propigate by seed, here. Don't be fooled by rumors of edibility, however / Peeled and chopped stems still smelled too awful to cook after 3 chages of water. Yet, I'm a huge fan.


On Jun 16, 2003, gonedutch from Fairport, NY wrote:

This plant is a master of metamorphosis when it changes from an unimposing small flower stalk to the large mound of cloved foliage. Like its namesake Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), Sweet Coltsfoot also blooms before it shows any foliage. While the initial flower stalk is light-green with pale-yellow flowers the foliage displays a deep forest green color.

This is an ideal complement plant for shady leaf gardens (mine is under a European Beech) that include Hostas, Virginia Creeper, Pachysandra, Creeping Euonymus, Lenten Rose, European Ginger, Elephant Ear, Mayapple, Ligularia and Rodgersia. Around the sunny edges it tolerates some sun and recovers from droopiness quickly after shade returns.


On Apr 10, 2003, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

Works well with Hosta (especially blues and golds) and Astilbe but only the largest species; it will overpower lesser plants.

Flags in the heat of the sun, but recovers nicely as shade returns. You can actually see the leaves plump up and recover.

As previously stated needs to be kept very moist, and will take sun if in a bog situation.


On Apr 26, 2002, talinum from Kearney, NE (Zone 5a) wrote:

The flowers appear before the foliage on this large-leafed perennial. The mounds of foliage have long petioles. Leaves can get 16" wide. It grows best in constant moisture. It is not suitable for small gardens and can be difficult to eradicate. Slugs can be a problem.

Native to Japan and China.