A member of the Aster family
It’s a Monster! This leaf was over 36″ across. That beautiful little 2-year-old is standing underneath it. She called it her umbrella. WOW! Leaves like this just don’t happen in the Pacific Northwest. It’s crazy (but fun) in our part of the world. 🙂
Some interesting facts: It was
used by Native Americans as a remedy for headache and inflammation, Some species contain the chemicals petasin and isopetasin which are believed to have potential benefits in treating headaches and can be an effective treatment for hay fever without the sedative effect of the antihistamines.
It’s a bold, textural, monster of a plant. It arrives in the early spring with a strange alien looking bloom spike, followed by leaves that increase in size, until they are too large to be ignored, making them interesting from the time they appear until the end of the season.
How it grows and blooms: In early spring there is a bloom spike, followed by leaves as the bloom dies out. They are robust plants with thick, creeping underground rhizomes and large leaves during the growing season. Some varieties will grow up to 5’ tall, spreading up to 4’ wide.
What it needs: Plant in full sun to shade. It is very tolerant of most soils, as long it is kept from moist to wet. All of these petacites have done well in for the last 5 or more years in our yard. Our winter temperatures have been down to 8*f, so they can take it pretty cold.
How to propagate: gently separate the clumps. Potting them up or planting them directly into the garden and keep them cool and moist until they take root. This is best done in the early spring of fall. You can put umbrellas over them to protect them from hot sun.
Place carefully: this is an aggressive spreader and difficult to eradicate once established. Spreading can be controlled by using bamboo barrier or sinking a heavy plastic or metal tub into the ground and planting within the tub.
How to use it in the landscape: Petacites are great in large containers, beds or borders. They will do beautifully at the edges of ponds, streams and wetland areas, since they will tolerate shallow standing water. Maybe we should add it to our vegetable gardens: Young leaf stems are used as a vegetable in Japan. ( I haven’t tried it yet )
Photo notes: All of these photos were taken in our yard, 2012 & 2013.
The umbrella leaf photo and the bloom spike are both photos of petasites japonicus var. giganteus.
The tri-colored leaf is a very early spring leaf from petasites japonicus var. varigatus.
The petasites japonicus var purpureus has stems and veins that are much more purple than the photo reflects.
The petasites palmatus ‘Golden Palms’ was stuck into the rotted center of a stump several years ago and now is growing all through the stump. It’s in a very shady spot and it very happy. The slugs seem to find it less interesting than some of the other varieties.
Any of these would be an exiting and unusual perennial addition to your garden!