Elecampane is an herbaceous perennial that is hardy to USDA zones 3 to 8.
Native to Europe and Asia, elecampane is a gorgeous member of the Asteraceae family. It produces bright, yellow, daisy-like flowers that are approx. three inches wide. There are multiple flowers on each stem, resembling that of a sunflower. The leaves of elecampane are large, basal, and slightly toothed, with undersides that are white and hairy. The roots grow in branching clusters that can be quiet large, going two to three feet deep. Elecampane is a giant among most medicinal herbs, towering at five to seven feet at maturity in its second year.
Elecampane grows best in full sun to partial shade, in loamy, well-drained soil. It thrives in fertile soil and can respond well to top-dressing with bands of compost. To increase root harvest it is worth the time to break up any soil compaction by either double-digging beds, creating raised beds, or using cultivation tools to loosen subsoil structure.
Elecampane is a light dependent germinator. Sow seeds in early spring on the surface or cover with a thin layer of planting medium. Keep well watered. Elecampane can be direct seeded in the field or grows in cell trays for easy transplanting.
Elecampane is lovely and large and needs at least two years t mature before harvesting. Consider planting elecampane next to other tall perennials such as blue vervain or echincacea. Not only will they visually complement each other, but they also grow in similar soil conditions. Plant spacing is eighteen inches within the row and twenty-eight inches between rows.
The yellow flowers of elecampane are a good example of the doctrine of signatures. The bright gold color points to its traditional use to fight infection and clear dense, sticky mucous from the bronchial system. Elecampane is warming and is indicated for wet, persistent infections. Often paired with Pleurisy, Butterfly weed, root and ginger, it is made into cough syrups, teas, and tinctures
Elecampane is harvested after the fall of the second or third year. Waiting until the second year allows the roots to develop more fully and reach maximum size. Preferably, roots are harvested when the plant is dormant in the fall. Mature roots are fleshy and large, branching out from a thick centralized stalk, and can grow up to two feet deep. As a results, it may be helpful to mechanically loosen the soil near elecampane before digging the roots.
Post Harvest Drying Conditions
Soil can often be compacted near the central root crown where the roots begin to branch off. Therefore, be sure to quarter the roots before washing and preparing for the drying room. Elecampane roots are relatively soft and can be cut with a field knife. Elecampane roots dry under optimum conditions, at temperature between 100 to 110 degrees in three to four days. Mill roots into small pieces only after full drying is complete.
Pests and Diseases
Elecampane has minimal pest and disease pressures.