Japanese Butterbur Information: Growing Japanese Butterbur Plants

The name “butterbur” comes from the fact that it grows in water. However, it’s not really a true buttermilk plant since its leaves are edible too. Buttermilk plants have long been used in Japan for making various foods such as kimchi (fermented cabbage), miso soup, and so forth. Butterbur is actually native to China and Korea, where it was first cultivated over 2,000 years ago.

Butterbur is a large shrub or small tree with a spreading habit. Its leaves are dark green and oval shaped; they turn yellowish brown when exposed to air. They are very sturdy and hardy, surviving harsh winters in cold climates.

However, although butterbur is a tough plant, it does not survive long periods of drought. Therefore, it needs regular watering to keep its leaves healthy and green. Butterbur prefers moist soil and thrives best in full sun. When growing in poor soils, however, butterbur may suffer from leaf scorch if left unattended for too long. Butterbur prefers rich soil with good drainage conditions because these provide plenty of moisture for the plant.

The butterbur plant can reach a height of 4-6 feet and grows in clumps. It has clusters of yellow flowers which bloom in the spring. Its fruits are small and oblong shaped. After blooming, butterbur’s flowers develop into round green fruits that turn black when they are mature. These fruits contain seeds which can easily be propagated to grow more butterbur plants.

How to Grow Japanese Butterbur

Butterbur can be propagated either from seeds or by division. The easiest way to grow butterbur is from its seeds because they are easy to handle, especially if you want to grow several plants. You can also grow butterbur from division; this is useful if you have an adult plant that has grown too large for its current pot, or if you simply want to create more adult plants from cuttings.

If you are using seeds, pick the ones that have been exposed to air for about a week. Do not use the seeds that are still green since these are not yet ripe and will not germinate. Soak the butterbur seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing them. This helps promote their germination. Plant the seeds in a well-drained soil mix (e.g.

2 parts peat moss, 2 parts vermiculite, 1 part perlite). You can plant the seeds about 1/4 deep in the container and cover lightly with more soil mix. Keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout. The seeds should sprout within 2-3 weeks. When seedlings reach 6 inches, transplant them to a larger container.

You can also grow butterbur from cuttings. Take 5-6 inch stem cuttings from an adult plant in the spring. Dip the cut end of each cutting in a rooting hormone and then plant the cuttings into small containers filled with moist potting soil. Place the containers in a propagating case and keep the soil barely moist and at a temperature of around 70 degrees. Cuttings should start to root in 2-3 weeks.

Transplant them into larger containers once they develop several sets of leaves.

Japanese Butterbur Information: Growing Japanese Butterbur Plants - Image

Besides looking attractive, a butterbur plants adds interest to the garden. It is deer resistant and can be planted as part of an informal wildflower garden. Butterbur can also grow in large containers.

The leaves of butterbur can be prepared and eaten. The leaves contain a chemical called petasin, which acts as a smooth muscle relaxant. This property makes butterbur leaves useful in treating problems like asthma, whooping cough, and other respiratory conditions. Several studies have also shown that butterbur may help prevent and treat migraine headaches. How to use butterbur: make an infusion by pouring 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons dried or 2-4 teaspoons fresh leaves.

Steep for 10-15 minutes, strain, and drink 1-3 cups per day. Do not take butterbur if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a history of thyroid disease, or are taking prescription drugs.

We do not ship Butterbur due to the fact that it is a Food and cannot be shipped across State lines.

Harvesting Time!

‘Tis the season for fresh herbs and we are excited to announce our fresh supply of Lemon Balm (Melissa Officianalis), Oregano (Origanum Vulgare), Sage (Salvia Officinalis) and Thyme (Thymus).

You’ve probably grown these herbs in your garden or even in a windowsill pot. They are some of the most commonly grown herbs by gardeners and chefs alike.

But have you ever wondered how the herb you buy in the store or grow in your garden is different from those you find at the farmer’s market or local specialty food store?

It’s true, some herbs can be bought and sold by the bunch. Some are sold by the ounce and others are sold by the bottle. Here at Henry Field’s we have the best of all these worlds. We sell many herbs by the bunch so you can pick your desired amount, by the ounce if you are buying for a recipe or need a precise measurement and in bottles if you want to take your garden fresh herbs with you.

Lets’s take Basil for example.

What do you see when you walk through the grocery store?

Large bundles of stems with a few leaves on them and a price tag that makes you do a double take. What a rip off! You think to yourself.

Go to the farmer’s market and you find the same thing except these bunches are slightly cheaper than those at the grocery store. These must be from South America or somewhere abroad you think.

At the local specialty food store you see bundles of fresh basil but they are even more expensive than the ones at the farmer’s market. At least these ones actually smell like Basil.

Now walk into Henry Field’s and walk down the herbal aisle. You’ll find several basils from which to choose. Our own field grown herb, organically grown and locally grown herbs that are available year round. We even have several varieties of organically grown Thai and Holy basil.

Japanese Butterbur Information: Growing Japanese Butterbur Plants | igrowplants.net

Now you can see how the different growing methods change what you see in the store. The grocery store has the worst example of all. They take a plant that is grown in one of two ways. In the case of basil they are greenhouse grown or field grown. Greenhouse basil is grown in a dark warehouse for the entirety of it’s life.

It is basically a big pot of soil with grow lights on it. There is no access to direct sunlight and the environment is very humid which creates the perfect condition for mold and pests. There is little to no nutritional value in greenhouse basil.

The field grown basil is slightly better. The plants are started in a greenhouse and then transplanted into the field. While growing in the field they are sprayed with a poisonous chemical that prevents the basil from being able to convert the sun’s energy like it should. This keeps the plant smaller and cheaper to grow.

Now lets look at the Henry Field’s grower. Our field basil is actually started and grown in our greenhouses. It gets plenty of light and as a result the plant is much healthier and the leaves are larger. The plant is then transplanted into the field where it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. The nutrients from the soil, direct sunlight and water all combine to produce a very healthy plant that is not only good for you but tastes great too!

While our plant is larger and healthier, it still has a relatively short shelf life. To combat this we pick the leaves early in the morning and immediately take them to our store for sale. This way the plant gets the chance to be enjoyed before it starts to wilt.

At Henry Field’s you can have your cake (or in this case Basil) and eat it too!

If you have any questions or comments about this post, please let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Justin Dory

Organic Product Manager

Sources & references used in this article:

Plant regeneration from mesophyll protoplasts of Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonicus Fr. Schmidt) by K YABE, T NISHIO, K TAKAYANAGI – Japanese Journal of Breeding, 1986 – jstage.jst.go.jp

Anti type I allergic property of Japanese butterbur extract and its mast cell degranulation inhibitory ingredients by H Shimoda, J Tanaka, E Yamada… – Journal of Agricultural …, 2006 – ACS Publications

The medical plant butterbur (Petasites): analytical and physiological (re) view by AA Aydın, V Zerbes, H Parlar, T Letzel – Journal of pharmaceutical and …, 2013 – Elsevier

Isolation and Measurement of Quercetin Glucosides in Flower Buds of Japanese Butterbur (Petasites japonicus subsp. gigantea Kitam.) by H Matsuura, M Amano, J Kawabata… – Bioscience …, 2002 – Taylor & Francis

Breeding of Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonicus) by using flowerhead culture by Y Iwamoto – Plant biotechnology, 2009 – jstage.jst.go.jp

Radical scavenging activity and inhibition of macrophage NO production by fukinolic acid, a main phenolic constituent in Japanese butterbur (Petasites japonicus) by S Watanabe, K Hashimoto, H Tazaki… – Food science and …, 2007 – jstage.jst.go.jp

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