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Burdock | A Useful Plant for Home Gardeners


Burdock | A Useful Plant for Home Gardeners

Burdocks (Arctium) are herbaceous, biennial plants that originate from Asia and Europe and are members of the Asteraceae family. Burdocks are typically considered to be invasive weeds due to their ability to grow in the most unhospitable of areas such as ditches, pastures, roadsides, parking lots, woodlands and boggy areas (high moisture accumulation), a long, thick, ever-growing fibrous tap root and self-seeding habits (one seedhead can produce thousands of fertile seeds). The purple flowerheads are a favorite of bees and butterflies. Once the seedhead dries, they can quickly become a nuisance because of the bur like spikes which attach themselves to virtually anything they come in contact with including wildlife.

The two most well-known varieties are Arctium Lappa which is also known as greater burdock and Arctium minor lesser burdock or common burdock. Both varieties are hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 to 8. The plants can reach heights of up to 6 to 10 feet. Arctium can grow in most soil types but will have to be well draining and moist. They grow best in partly sunny conditions but can tolerate full shade in woodland conditions. The tops of the plant are frost tender and will die back but the roots will remain viable.

Burdock has both edible and medicinal qualities* and if grown for these reasons may require specific growth patterns. To produce prized straight and elongated roots, well-draining soil, part sun and closer plant spacing is needed. The plants can be grown by seed but should be started indoors to ensure optimum growing conditions (scarification, light, presoaking). However, they can’t be started too early because you do not want the young plants to produce a taproot before placing them out in spring. They will flower and produce roots by late summer or early fall. Burdock generally do not suffer from many pests or diseases. The most common are slugs, powdery mildew and root rot.

*Please consult with your doctor before utilizing burdock internally or externally.


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