Japanese Butterbur Information: Growing Japanese Butterbur Plants

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

What is Japanese butterbur? Also known as Japanese sweet coltsfoot, Japanese butterbur plant (Petasites japonicus) is a gigantic perennial plant that grows in soggy soil, primarily around streams and ponds. The plant is native to China, Korea and Japan, where it thrives in woodland areas or beside moist streambanks. Still wondering exactly what is Japanese butterbur? Keep reading to find out more.

Japanese Butterbur Information

Japanese butterbur is a dramatic plant with sturdy, pencil-size rhizomes, yard-long stalks and round leaves that can measure as much as 48 inches across, depending on the variety. The stalks are edible and often known as “Fuki.” Spikes of small, sweet-smelling white flowers decorate the plant in late winter, just before the leaves make an appearance in early spring.

Growing Japanese Butterbur


Growing Japanese butterbur is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as the plant spreads vigorously and, once established, is extremely difficult to eradicate. If you decide to give it a try, plant Japanese butterbur where it can spread freely without bothering you or your neighbors, or be sure it’s in an area where you can maintain control by implementing some type of root barrier.

You can also control Japanese butterbur by planting it in a large container or tub (without drainage holes), then sink the container into the mud, a solution that works well around small ponds or boggy areas of your garden.

Japanese butterbur prefers partial or full shade. The plant tolerates nearly any type of soil, as long as the ground is consistently wet. Be careful about locating Japanese butterbur in windy areas, as wind may damage the huge leaves.

Caring for Japanese Butterbur

Caring for Japanese butterbur plants can be summed up in a sentence or two. Basically, just divide the plant in early spring, if needed. Be sure to keep the soil wet at all times.

That’s it! Now just sit back and enjoy this unusual, exotic plant.

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