Mayapple – info, planting, care and tips

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) - by Derek Ramsey

The mayapple is one of the most striking leaf ornamental perennials for the semi-shade. Here you can learn how to plant and care for the wild mandrake correctly.

Profile of comfrey:

Scientific name: Podophyllum peltatum

Plant family: barberry family (Berberidaceae)

Other names: American mandrake, wild mandrake, ground lemon

Sowing time: autumn

Planting time: spring or autumn

Flowering period: May

Location: partially shady to shady,

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: groundcover, group planting, underplanting, area greening, natural garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-32 °C / -25 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of comfrey

Plant order, origin and occurrence of comfrey

The home of the mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is in eastern North America, where it can be found mainly in shady forests. It owes its name to its fruits, which develop after flowering in May. Because of its distinctive leaves it is also called American mandrake, wild mandrake or ground lemon. Botanically, the leaf ornamental shrub is a member of the barberry family (Berberidaceae).

Characteristics of comfrey


With the help of its richly branched rhizome, the mayapple quickly forms dense stands. The deciduous perennial grows to a height of about 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 in).

Caution: The plant is highly poisonous except for the ripe berries, even though the root is used in homeopathy as a remedy.


On the upright stems, leaves form pairs of palmate lobed and roughly serrated leaves. Their diameter can reach up to 30 centimeters (12 in). The perennial also has an attractive shoot: when the leaves unfold, they resemble mushrooms.


In May the nodding flowers with petals up to 3 cm (1.2 in) long open at the base of the upper stem leaf. The flowers are usually white, occasionally cream or pink and have a slight scent.


The edible berries of mayapple usually appear yellowish. They grow up to 5 centimeters (2 in) and ripen in midsummer. The Indians in North America used the fruits for stomach and digestive problems.

Mayapple – cultivation and care


As a forest plant, the mayapple prefers a cool location in the shade or partially shady, for example under a light canopy of leaves from woody plants.


In order for Podophyllum peltatum to feel well all around, a well-drained, humus-rich, fresh to moist and rather lime-free soil is important. The pH value should be in the weakly acidic to acidic range.

Planting mayapple

A good time to plant the perennial is in spring or autumn. You can expect about six mayapples per square meter, and the planting distance should be 30 to 40 centimeters (12 to 16 in).


Hardly any care is needed in a place that suits the plant. Make sure that the soil never dries out – a mulch layer keeps the moisture in the soil. In case of long lasting dryness the mayapple needs additional watering.


If the mayapple spreads too much or if it should be propagated, it can be divided without problems, best in early spring or late summer.


Podophyllum peltatum is propagated by division in early spring or late summer. Sowing is also possible directly after seed ripening. However, the seeds germinate only in the following spring.

Diseases and pests

Mayapples are characterized by a high robustness against plant diseases and pests. However, seedlings that stand too close together can be attacked by leaf spot disease.


Winter protection is not necessary, since the wild mandrake is sufficiently frost hardy down to – 32 °C / -25 °F.

Use in the garden

The mayapple is wonderfully suitable for the forest and nature garden, for example as underplanting of shrubs or tall perennials. The decorative plant is predestined for the shade garden. If the mayapple feels well, it can soon cover the whole ground. Suitable companions are ferns.

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