Tuesday, March 24, 2009


As promised, a post on Petasites. These large perennials are commonly called Butterburrs. They are related to our early spring wildflower, Coltsfoot and some have leaves that resemble it. These are hardy in zones 5-9 (can't imagine how early they bloom in zone 9 if they can bloom in late February here) and like partial shade, especially in the afternoon and a moist place. They spread by underground runners to make a colony over the years.
This first one is Petasites palmatus 'Golden Palms'. We had a bit of trouble finding this one a few years ago when we discovered it. It doesn't seem to be available too many places. This one is growing in total shade. The spot is bright, not depressingly dark, but it gets no direct sun. It is also a bit wet there in the spring as it is planted near a seep. It seems to thrive in these conditions. The leaves are quite golden when they first come out in the spring, but turn more chartreuse as time goes on.
This next one is the first one we got and is Petasites japonicum (some say japonicus) 'Variegatum'. We have this one growing in both part shade/part sun and in shadier spots. It is taller in the shade and wilts horribly in the sunnier spot (It was under a pear tree, but the tree died and now it has only morning shade). This one is pretty popular. Don't plant it in a space where it need to stay in a tiny spot. It likes to spread out. In too much shade it will occasionally revert to an all green form. A bit of sun, though better in the morning than afternoon, will give you more and better variegation.
I hope you can see the wonderful burgundy colored undersides of these leaves on Petasites japonicum 'Purpurea'. The tops of the leaves are a darker green than on Variegatum, maybe because of the dark undersides, and the leaves have more of a serrated edge. These seem to take a bit more sun and we even have a patch of them growing in a full sun, dry spot. They are considerably smaller than those in dampness and shade, but do well anyway.

These are the big guys, Petasites japonicum 'Gigantea'. The leaves on this can be 3 feet across with no trouble. It is also taller, probably at least 3 feet tall, sometimes more and have a much thicker petiole on the leaves. More moisture gives you the biggest plants, though I don't think it wants to have really wet feet all of the time. Definitely a fun plant for kids since they can sit under it.

This last grows in dappled shade and is Petasites japonicum 'Hybridus'. Not a very original name I don't think. The leaves are more kidney shaped and have a heavier texture than Gigantea. They are almost, but not quite, as big, though they are easily as tall. This one is doing well at the edge of the bog and definitely gets pretty wet feet for a good bit of the season most years. It is dry in the summer, but that doesn't seem to bother it.

If you aren't already growing any of the Petasites and have a garden with space and a damp spot, I would definitely recommend them as they are pretty carefree perennials. They aren't eaten (at least so far) by rabbits or deer and I've never seen them get any insect or other pests. I know there are more species out there and I'll be adding some of them as I find them.
In the continuing turtle saga - yesterday we walked to Lake Amanda after we finished weeding out the vegatable garden to plant the onion sets. I saw a turtle tail sticking out from under some foliage. It wasn't the same turtle, but a smaller one. Now I know there are two turtles in there, probably Mr. and Mrs. Turtle. Not a good thing. They won't be doing much until the weather warms up, but I definitely don't need two snapping turtles in my pond where I need to get in to take care of the plants. They eat plants and also fish, frogs, tadpoles - pretty much anything that I want to have living in mu pond. I'll keep you updated on the progess in convincing them to live elsewhere.


vuejardin said...

Thanks for the tips, I always like care-free plants :-)

Barbee' said...

Good luck with the turtles. I'll be interested in what happens, because I have had that problem in the past.

Hoot Owl Hollow Nursery said...

Barbee - how did you get rid of your turtles? We'd love some turtle soup, but since it is a lined pond, we can't shoot at them for fear we will have an eternally leaking pond like one of the others that a deer fell into once and put a small hole in. I'd be happy to relocate them, (don't know who would want them - hmmm, who is it I dislike the most???) but I don't have a clue how to catch them to do that. We have a Haveahart trap, but they would never fit into it.

Barbee' said...

Jane, I fear I have no real help for you. The older turtle spent a night in a small flower bed then moved on of its own accord. The one in the little pool was a juvenile which was scooped up in a bucket by a farm-boy helper and taken to a nearby pond as he left work here one day. I did a post about the turtles on my website. I had relocated the little one (told the story in that post). But it came back! So, Helper took it farther away. If you want to see the post, or, if you want to see the photo of the big one click on this and scroll down for the photo. I wish I had thought to put something there to show scale so readers could see how large it was. I couldn't begin to think about eating the poor ole thing.

Hoot Owl Hollow Nursery said...

Barbee - thanks for the link. I really enjoyed reading about your turtles. Your turtle egg wasn't in the pond. They leave the pond to lay their eggs, usually on a sunny slope, buried in soft dirt. After the babies hatch, they make their way downhill to water.