Boneset: Grow & Care for Eupatorium Perfoliatum

Written by Iris

Jul 30 2021

Boneset: Grow & Care for Eupatorium Perfoliatum
Boneset is a plant native to north American wetlands with a long medicinal history and an attractive unique appearance. Although it is still sometimes cultivated and foraged for its therapeutic properties, it may also be attractive to American gardeners as a native plant that attracts pollinators.

How to Choose and Prepare a Planting Site

Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) plant will do well in spots with partial shade to full sun, but if you want it to flower profusely, place it in full sun. When grown in containers, put it on a sunny windowsill, patio, or any other place it receives partial to full sun. A rain garden or a woodland-garden setting where the soil will remain consistently moist is ideal for growing boneset as it likes to stay in wet conditions.

How to Grow Boneset (Eupatorium Perfoliatum)

Steps for Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) Propagation with Seeds

Seeds ripen about a month after flowering and should be collected when the heads dry, split and the fluffy seed begins to float away. If collected earlier, dry the seed heads for 1 - 2 weeks in open paper bags. If seeds are sown directly, sow in the fall and sow thickly as germination rates are typically low. For container production, a cold-moist pretreatment at 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 weeks to 3 months will increase germination percentages. After pretreatment, sow seeds in a fine germination mix containing milled sphagnum moss. Transplant to potting mix after seeds have germinated. Seeds germinate at 70 -85 degrees Fahrenheit and in the presence of light. Use a greenhouse with alternating temperatures (day temperatures 70 - 85 degrees Fahrenheit, night temperatures 65 - 68 degrees Fahrenheit). Seeds will last up to 3 years if stored in a cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and dry (30% relative humidity) environment.
Seed Saving: Late in the season, these fuzzy flowers will begin to turn dull brown. Snip off entire heads and spread them out in a protected location to prevent the light seed from blowing away. When the heads have completely dried, shake them to remove the seed. The fluff attached to the seeds does not affect germination. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place.

Steps for Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) Propagation with Stem Cuttings

The production mainly uses rhizomes to propagate.
Propagation of rhizomes When digging rhizomes, choose white, strong and tender rhizomes, cut them into 10-15 cm long sections, and dig holes according to the row spacing of 35 to 45 cm and the plant spacing of 15 to 20 cm. Plant 2 to 3 small sections in each hole with a thickness of 5 cm. After a little suppression, water thoroughly. Seedlings emerge in early spring the following year for winter plants, and 10-12 days after planting for spring plants.

How to Care for Boneset (Eupatorium Perfoliatum)


Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) tolerates partial shade. But it will flower better if you give it full sun.


Tolerant of a range of soil conditions, boneset can be grown in either a sandy soil or a clayey soil. However, since the plant prefers its soil to be constantly moist, be sure to give it extra water if you are growing it in a sandy soil. Sandy soils are like sieves: They do not hold water well.


Do not ever allow the soil of Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) to dry out completely. This is the most important principle in caring for the plant.


Fertilizing Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) is unnecessary as it grows well on average to poor soils and doesn't necessarily need nutrients to grow. Still, if you want to enhance the soil's quality, amending it with aged compost at the time of planting will suffice.


The branches of Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) that affect the shape should be pruned or shrunk as soon as possible, so that the plant can maintain a clear layer and good shape, and can promote more short branches and more new buds to form a perfect shape early.

Pests and Diseases

No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage may scorch if soils are allowed to dry out.

Varieties of Boneset (Eupatorium Perfoliatum)

Closely related to Boneset (EupatoriumPerfoliatum) are two other species of Eupatorium:
Purple Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Spotted Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
Both, like boneset, are native to North America and like to grow in wet ground. But both possess greater ornamental value than boneset, for two reasons:
They are taller plants (up to 7 feet tall) and therefore show up better in the landscape.
They have pink flower heads, rather than the dull white of boneset.
But not all gardeners grow boneset for ornamental reasons. Gardeners interested in traditional herbal remedies may grow boneset for its medicinal properties. It has been used to treat fever, flu, and the common cold, among other ailments. In fact, the botanical name of "Eupatorium" derives from the name of a king of a country in the ancient world (Pontus) who is supposed to have discovered the medicinal properties of boneset: Mithridates VI Eupator (132 to 63 B.C).

Boneset (Eupatorium Perfoliatum) FAQ

What is the herb boneset used for?

Boneset is used to reduce fever, increase urine output, cause vomiting, and treat constipation. Boneset is also used to treat influenza, swine flu, acute bronchitis, nasal inflammation, joint pain (rheumatism), fluid retention, dengue fever, and pneumonia; as a stimulant; and to cause sweating.

Is boneset poisonous?

Fresh boneset contains tremerol, a toxic chemical which can cause rapid breathing and vomiting. Higher doses can cause coma and death. Dried boneset does not contain tremerol. Boneset may cause liver toxicity, so alcoholics and people with liver disease should consult an herbalist before using this herb.

Why is it called a boneset?

The name boneset was derived from the plant's use in the treatment of breakbone fever, a term describing the high fever that often accompanies influenza. Boneset was official in the US Pharmacopeia from 1820 to 1900.