Common Boneset Care and Use

Photo Credit: R. A. Nonenmacher, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the marshes of North America, common boneset has a long history of use as a medicine and a lovely, recognizable appearance. It is still occasionally cultivated and harvested for its medicinal qualities. Gardeners also find it appealing as a native plant that draws pollinators. It grows thick and hairy in wet areas like low woods, thickets stream banks meadows and prairies, and likes sandy to clay soils and does well in rain gardens.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Eupatorium perfoliatum

Botanical Family: Asteraceae

Also Called: Thoroughwort

See More Plants in this Botanical Family:

Colour:

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Sun / Shade:

Water: Don’t let soil dry

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This clump forming perennial herbaceous shrub prefers moist, low-lying regions. It is the perfect plant for herb, rain, and forest gardens. This species, also known as common boneset, feverwort, thoroughwort, and sweating plant, possesses qualities that go far beyond those that are just beautiful. It is a well-known representative of the diverse Asteraceae family, which also includes daisies and sunflowers.

Appearance

The downy white flowerheads of the Eupatorium perfoliatum are distinctive. These appear as thick, flat-topped clusters borne on up to 6-foot stalks (183 cm). The actual plant has a lot of hair. White fluff is thickly spread on the upper and lower leaf surfaces and the side and central stems. It’s opposing, highly serrated leaves have no petioles and wrap all the way around the stem. Usually joined at the base, the leaf pairs seem like continuous structures that the stem penetrates.

Common Boneset Care

Boneset plants are relatively simple to grow. The plants thrive in extremely damp soil and grow naturally in wetlands and along the banks of streams. They grow well in wooded gardens and prefer partial to full light. In actuality, it has many of the same rowing characteristics as a joe-pye weed. The plants can be cultivated from seeds, but it will take them two to three years before they start to bloom.

After being cold-stratified, seeds can be sown directly in the ground in the spring or fall. The seeds are tricked by cold stratification into believing that winter is gone and it is now time to flourish. When direct sowing outside in the fall, distribute lots of seeds. Since germination is unpredictable in an unregulated environment, you’ll need to utilize more seeds to ensure success. Transplanting the seedlings is not necessary if you start the seeds immediately in the garden. When the risk of frost has gone, transplant the seedlings for those who started the seeds indoors.

Sunlight

Although the boneset plant may thrive in both full sun and partial shade, full sun is best if you want it to flower profusely. Put container-grown plants in full to the partial sun on a sunny windowsill, patio, or other location. Bonesets thrive in wet environments, so a rain garden or forest garden where the soil will stay continuously moist is best for growing them.

Common Boneset Soil

Bonesets can grow in any soil, whether clayey or sandy, which is fantastic news. As boneset prefers the soil to be moist, planting in clayey soil has a slight advantage because it holds moisture better. Sandalwood soil requires more frequent watering because it doesn’t hold water for very long.

Temperature

In the winter, its above-ground foliage may wither, but its roots can withstand temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers environments with lots of wetness. Before you move the seedlings outside, the nighttime temperature should also regularly stay above 65 degrees F.

Watering Eupatorium perfoliatum

It is crucial to keep the soil continuously moist and prevent it from drying. When the soil seems dry to the touch, it is time to water it. Check the soil frequently. Do not overwater because the soil needs to be moist but not soggy for healthy growth.

Fertilizer

The best results for boneset are found in soil with moderate fertility. You shouldn’t need to fertilize it at all if you are growing it in garden soil that has been enhanced with compost. Give it just a quarter-strength application of fertilizer once, at the start of the growing phase in the early spring when the earth has thawed.

Pruning

Once dieback appears when the cold weather sets in, you can trim common boneset back by using sterilized pruning shears. Alternatively, wait until the first few days of spring to prune back to almost the soil line. In the summer, you can prune again to promote bushy growth and profusion of blossoms. Although deadheading will assist minimize seed and plant overgrowth, it won’t help this plant bloom again.

Medicincal Uses 

Since ancient times, the boneset flowers and leaves have been used as medicine and is said to have anti-inflammatory qualities. The plant’s top growth can be plucked, dried, and steeped to make tea. However, it should be cautioned that some researchers have indicated that it may be harmful to the liver.

In some areas of the United States, it is used to treat fevers, and Native Americans have utilized it to treat fevers by promoting sweating. This herbal remedy is well-liked in North America, where it is reputed to be unsurpassed in treating coughs, colds, influenza, bronchitis, and fevers related to these ailments. Additionally, it is used to treat worms, skin disorders, and rheumatic diseases. Encouragement of bacterial infection resistance is another purpose.

Pests and Problems

Boneset leaves are a favorite food source for grasshoppers, flea beetles, Lygus bugs, weevils, sawflies, and a number of moth caterpillars. The plant looks ragged due to insect activity but can rebound from infestations.

To decrease insect activity, try less drastic measures initially, including insecticidal soap and horticultural oil. Consider applying pyrethrin, a natural pesticide extract obtained from chrysanthemum flowers, if those do not work.

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