Butterbur Petasites paradoxus

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
Alpine Butterbur


The plant known as butterbur is characterized by its broad, rounded leaves that are often green and lush. The leaves are one of the most distinctive features, with a heart-shaped base and a somewhat ragged edge, giving them a somewhat scalloped appearance. The underside of the leaves is often lighter compared to the upper surface, which can show a more vivid green. During its blooming period, butterbur produces tall flower stalks before its leaves fully emerge. The flowers themselves can appear in colors ranging from pink to purplish hues. They are generally small and arranged in dense clusters, known as inflorescences. Despite their size, the flowers are quite numerous and can create an impressive display. After flowering, the plant's leaves continue to grow, becoming quite prominent in the plant's natural setting. The stems are sturdy, and the overall growth of the plant is such that it can create an expansive ground cover. Butterbur’s leaves and blooms both contribute to a striking appearance, making it recognizable in various settings where it grows naturally.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Sweet Colt's-foot, Sweet Butterbur, Winter Heliotrope

    • Common names

      Petasites hybridus, Petasites officinalis, Petasites ovatus, Petasites tomentosus, Tussilago hybrida, Tussilago petasites.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The plant known commonly as butterbur can be toxic to humans due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids it contains. These substances can cause liver damage and may be carcinogenic with chronic exposure. Ingestion of parts of the butterbur plant could lead to symptoms such as gastrointestinal disturbances, liver dysfunction, and, in severe cases, liver failure. Care should be taken to avoid consuming this plant, especially over long periods.

    • To pets

      Similarly to humans, butterbur is toxic to pets due to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These compounds can damage the liver and possibly lead to liver failure if ingested in sufficient quantities. Symptoms of butterbur poisoning in pets might include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and signs of liver failure like jaundice. Chronic ingestion may increase the risk of liver cancer. It is important to prevent pets from consuming any part of the butterbur plant.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-3 feet (60-90 cm)

    • Spread

      3-4 feet (90-120 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Soil Stabilization: Petasites paradoxus, commonly known as Sweet Coltsfoot, has a robust root system that can help stabilize soil and prevent erosion.
    • Habitat for Wildlife: It provides a habitat and food source for various insects and small animals, fostering biodiversity.
    • Ornamental Use: With its large leaves and interesting flower spikes, Sweet Coltsfoot is sometimes used for ornamental purposes in gardens and landscaping projects.
    • Tolerant of Wet Conditions: Sweet Coltsfoot thrives in damp environments, making it suitable for use in garden areas that are prone to wetness or have poor drainage.
    • Shade Tolerance: It can grow in shady areas where other plants might struggle, allowing for vegetation cover in less sunny spots.
    • Natural Indicator: The presence of Sweet Coltsfoot can indicate certain soil conditions, such as high moisture levels, which can inform landscape management practices.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Butterbur leaves can be used as a natural wrapping material for food due to their large size, providing an eco-friendly alternative to plastic wraps.
    • Traditionally, butterbur was used as a livestock fodder, especially for pigs, during periods when other feed was scarce.
    • The plant's fibrous stems and leaves have been used in the past to make paper, offering a unique texture and quality to the finished product.
    • Due to its richness in fibers, butterbur can be used in some regions as a natural insulation material for small structures and hives.
    • Historically, the large leaves of butterbur have served as natural umbrellas or hats, offering a rudimentary form of rain protection.
    • Butterbur has been used to create green dyes when traditional dye materials are unavailable or as part of experimental art projects.
    • In gardens, butterbur can function as a ground cover to suppress weeds due to its fast-growing, spreading nature.
    • Butterbur leaves can be used as biodegradable plates for outdoor dining events, reducing the need for disposable tableware.
    • Some cultures have used dried butterbur leaves as bookmarks due to their size and durability.
    • The large, expansive leaves of butterbur make them an interesting addition to floral arrangements, adding a lush green backdrop.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The butterbur is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The butterbur is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Adaptation: Petasites paradoxus, commonly known as the butterbur, often thrives in moist, shaded environments, symbolizing the ability to adapt to various conditions and to overcome challenges.
    • Protection: With its large leaves that were historically used to wrap butter, the butterbur represents safety and the idea of shielding something precious from harm.
    • Healing: The butterbur has a history of medicinal use, particularly for headaches and migraines; thus, it stands for healing and relief from pain.
    • Persistence: As a plant that can aggressively colonize an area, butterbur symbolizes persistence and a strong will to survive and proliferate.

Every 2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every year
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    For the butterbur, which is the common name for Petasites paradoxus, ensure that the soil remains consistently moist. Watering should occur when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, typically once every week, depending on the climate and the season. Apply water slowly at the base of the plant, using about half a gallon of water each time for a medium-sized plant, to allow the water to penetrate the soil and reach the roots without causing runoff. During the growing season in spring and summer, you may need to water more frequently, especially if the weather is particularly hot or dry. In winter, reduce watering to every other week or less, as the plant requires less moisture during dormancy.

  • sunLight

    The butterbur favors dappled sunlight or partial shade conditions, thriving under the canopy of larger trees or in areas that receive filtered light. Avoid direct, intense sunlight, especially during the hot afternoon hours, as it can cause the leaves to scorch. An ideal spot would be one that provides morning sun and afternoon shade, or a place with bright, indirect light throughout the day.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Butterbur plants prefer cooler temperatures and can survive in a range of 35 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can endure brief periods of temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit but are best suited for climates where temperatures do not regularly exceed the upper tolerance. The ideal temperature for fostering robust growth in butterbur is between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning the butterbur is generally done to remove any spent flowers or damaged leaves and to maintain a tidy appearance. It's best to prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Prune sparingly, as the plant does not require heavy cutting back. Deadheading the spent flower stalks after blooming can help divert the plant's energy back to foliage production. Always use clean, sharp pruning tools to make precise cuts.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Butterbur prefers moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. A mix of garden soil, peat, and perlite or sand in equal proportions will create an ideal environment for growth.

  • plantRepotting

    Butterbur should be repotted every 2 to 3 years or when it outgrows its container to provide fresh nutrients and prevent overcrowding.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Butterbur thrives in high humidity conditions; maintaining a humidity level of 60% to 80% is ideal for this plant's growth.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Keep Butterbur in moist soil with good light and high humidity.

    • Outdoor

      Plant Butterbur in shade, moist soil, mulch well, and water regularly.

    • Hardiness zone

      Butterbur is suitable for USDA zones 4-9.

  • circleLife cycle

    Petasites paradoxus, commonly known as the butterbur, begins its life cycle as a seed, dispersed by wind or water. When conditions are favourable, usually in damp and shaded areas, the seed germinates in spring, developing into a small plantlet with rudimentary leaves. As the plant matures, it forms a rhizomatic root system, which is capable of surviving through winter and gives rise to new growth each year. The butterbur then enters a vegetative stage, where large, heart-shaped leaves emerge, providing photosynthesis and growth energy. Later, typically before the foliage fully develops, it produces distinctive flowers arranged in spikes or racemes; these can be purple, pink, or white depending on the subspecies. After pollination, seeds develop and are once again distributed, continuing the life cycle of the plant.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time


    • Propogation: The most popular method of propagating the Petasites paradoxus, commonly known as the Sweet Coltsfoot, involves division, which is best carried out in the spring or early autumn. Since Sweet Coltsfoot is a vigorous plant, dividing it every few years helps to maintain its vigor and prevent it from becoming too invasive. To propagate by division, carefully dig up an established clump and divide the root ball into smaller sections, each with several shoots. Each division should be replanted at the same depth it was originally growing, spaced about 12 to 15 inches (approximately 30 to 38 centimeters) apart to allow for spreading. Water the transplanted divisions thoroughly to help establish them in their new locations. This method is straightforward and yields new plants that are true to the parent, thus retaining its characteristics.