Growing and Saving the Seed Of Burdock

Latin name Arctium lappa is overlooked and misunderstood here in America. In Japan, burdock (also called gobo) has been enjoyed in soups and stir-fries, as well as stuffed and pickled for sushi. The root is harvested in the fall of the first year, when it is tender and flavorful, for culinary and medicinal purposes.



Native to Asia but became quickly naturalized in temperate climates worldwide because of the incredible tenacity of the seed pods. It is a nutritious and tasty root vegetable, potent medicine, and is cultivated as a vegetable in Japan and China, as well as in South America and parts of Europe.


  • Culinary
  • Used in traditional medicine




  • Sow seeds 1/2-1 inch deep.
  • Sow seedlings in moist, rich soil after the threat of frost is over.
  • Burdock likes full sun but is highly adaptable to soil and light conditions.
  • Ideal germination temperature is 65-85 F.


  • Most easily grown in Japanese-style burdock boxes. These are tall, narrow boxes with a panel that can be removed to easily harvest the root.
  • Requires very little care.
  • Harvest root in fall or winter when the soil can be worked.
  • If burdock boxes are not used, plant in loose soil. Otherwise, dig a hole next to the plant and pull the root over.
  • Space plants 18 inches apart.


  • In North America, Burdock borer moths can reduce the number of viable seed, which comes in the plant's second year. Sticky traps and pheromone traps can be used. For larvae currently damaging plants, beneficial nematodes mixed in an aqueous solution and injected into borer entrance holes can kill larvae. Introduce Trichogramma Wasp Egg Parasites into the growing area early in spring and once adult pests have been spotted.
  • Thoroughly spray possible egg-laying sites with horticultural or dormant oil sprays when adults are present and once the final frost has passed. The oils will smother the eggs and reduce borer populations the following season.
  • Burdock mottle virus and Burdock mosaic virus are both transmitted by aphids. Whenever aphids are seen, spray with organic insecticides. To control aphids at home use a dishwashing liquid, cedar oil, and an incredibly hot pepper sauce. You can also plant Sulfur Cinquefoil nearby to help with predatory sweat bee larvae.


  • Burdock produces thistle-like flowers which give way to sticky burrs. Beware, these burrs will stick to your hair and clothes.
  • Wear gloves and carefully pry burrs open to reveal seeds.