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Gunnera Support Group?

January 12, 1970

Against the odds (heat and humidity in Mid-Atlantic area), I am attempting to grow this holy grail of freaky-big plants. They are less than a foot tall (I've only had them for 2 weeks), and in big pots for now.

I'd like to try one at the edge of a downsloping woodland to keep it cool, but that puts them at risk of being deer food.

In addition to any and all help in growing these creatures, how would you all rate them for deer resistance? One would think they'd be unappealing due to the texture of the leaves, but then again, rose branches seem unappealing, too!

Thanks for any and all help, folks!

Comments (89)

  • steilberg

    piretta2 have you found any gunnera? i'm looking for fall

  • sojay

    If I start Gunnera from seed, can I start now (sept) and leave the pots indoors like a house plant till spring?

  • sonoayr

    Hi folks, my name is Ian and I live in sw missouri and have finally aquired a beautifull g. manicata thanks to Laura at Greengate Nursery out west. I am rather gun shy about overwintering my 'lady' here in zone 6. I have decided to bring her indoors for her first wintering as she is not too tall yet, (aprox 16") She has several healthy looking leaves and what apears to be a second crown. Can anyone out there avdise me pro or con on keeping such a plant indoors thru the winter in sw mo? Many thanks, Ian

  • steilberg

    sonoayr it looks like the people with success arn't interested in an old thread try starting a new one
    with an attention getting (subject of posting) comment
    i have started one that has survived the drought but
    i don't have the experiance that we need to try indoors

  • nenna

    Hi, I thought I'd give my 2 cents' worth regarding my Gunnera. My 2 year old plant came through the winter OK here in Portland, OR, where we can get very cold, strong winds. DO NOT use the leaves as winter mulch as some books recommend; they turn mushy in the rain. Fir boughs worked great once I got the mushy stuff off. My plant did great in full sun in a man-made "bog" (I buried a 6' plastic kiddie pool, and filled it with soil) which I keep moist throughout the summer. I cast some of the leaves, which looked great (warning: lift with your knees when lifting those huge castings; I did my back in by not doing that).

  • Idalia

    I've been wanting a gunnera manicata for some time. I was wondering if they can be grown in pot of pea gravel pebbles, with the growing medium submerged in my pond. i would feed it aquatic fertilizer tablets more often than a pot with soil. i would hope that the roots being in water with plenty of nutrients would make for a healthy plant, as many of the plants that people in the pond forum plant sometimes. i hope to get some feedback on this idea. has anyone tried growing a gunnera in water?

  • bob_r

    jhtucker asked whether I had posted an updated image of my gunnera. Just did it. Cheers, Bob

    Here is a link that might be useful: new gunnera image in my journal

  • linrob

    We live in zone 8 in Oregon. We have a gunnera that has survived well in a bog garden for three years. In the fall we trim all the leaves off. We make a 3' high circle of chicken wire to make a corral around the fleshy crown. We fill this wire corral with raked leaves from our yard. We then place the old gunnera leaves like a roof over the top. In the spring the gunnera will start poking it shoots up through this leaf mulch and after the threat of frost is gone we remove this protection.

  • sojay

    How did your gunneras do this winter? Did any survive in atlantic z 7?

  • sheryl_ontario

    Will a gunnera grow successfully in the pond? Bare root or potted in soil?

  • dirtylady

    FROM THE HORSES MOUTH....a tour guy/employee from Heronswood is interested in my older daughter...this is what he had to say about the 30+ plants he takes care of: You can plant them in shade or sun, but they won't reach the maximum size in the sun. Best location is bright shade the idea is to make them reach for the light. They will grow taller and have more leaf surface in the shade. They are from South and central America. Growing on hillsides above wet areas. Growing them on a mound but allowing the roots free access to the water source (they need a lot)is what they like best. Overwintering: You MUST put the plant to bed before it gets too cold out! This is were most mistakes are made! If the plant get too cold it will drop it's own leaves...That's BAD! It will then die or you will have problems with it for the whole next year! Timing is everything.
    Bed time: Cut all the stalks off and cover the crown with a mound of non toxic saw dust. Then cut the leaves off the stalks and cover the mound, this will provide the right humidity and rain protection during the winter, and I imagine when it's ready to go again it will lift the leaves to let you know! If he's still around this fall I'll have him help me and I'll post again.

  • Gloria388

    My husband and I moved into a home on an acre out in the country..... just outside Victoria,B.C.Canada. To our surprise last Spring was this giant Gunnera growing in our front lawn! Looked up on Gunners's and we cut back the leaves and covered with mulch for the winter. Early Spring it was uncovered and now stands at 12 feet high, branching out over 8 feet wide, with leaves spreading 4 to 5 feet in width!
    Love this plant! Can anyone tell me how and where to collect seeds off of this giant?

  • glenik

    Hello Gloria388: I cannot give you the complete run down, but I can tell you where I'm at.... I've heard that you need to save the cone to dry 1 year, which I have done. The little bit of info I have is that the seeds themselves are the size of the ball in a ball point pen. After you locate the seeds, you then have to split the casing on this small seed, then and only then will it sprout for you.
    I have torn apart the whole cone since dry and dont see any seeds..... Could someone shed some light on this subject for the two of us, I would really like to be able to germinate these mamoths.
    Any help would be great folks.

    Happy gardening

  • Bluebutterfly

    Hi, I live in Graham WA and have a Gunnera plant I bought last year. I would like to know if I can plant it now or in the fall or do I have to wait until next spring? Thanks much.

  • glenik

    Bluebutterfly: Personally I would wait until the spring. Your most likely going to have to chop it down for the winter. I usually take mine down in late Sept, that way there is no chance of frost to the crown, which could harm it. If put in next spring, it will have the whole season to settle in before the winter covering. You could however , chop it this fall and bury it in I suppose, but I would not chance it in the heat of the summer.
    Hope that helps,


  • glenik

    Has anyone had to transplant a large Gunnera? I will be moving in the mid june and will be taking this plant wiith me when I go. I figure I will cut the larger leaves and stock off before removal, and be very careful with the smaller shoots while transporting to the new location. I'm curious if anyone out there has tackled this before? I'm sure it will be a tad difficult... It will be going from an ideal sun/shade location, to a sunny location so I hope June tends to be a relatively cool one to help ease things along.

  • glenik

    Has anyone had to transplant a large Gunnera? I will be moving in the mid june and will be taking this plant wiith me when I go. I figure I will cut the larger leaves and stock off before removal, and be very careful with the smaller shoots while transporting to the new location. I'm curious if anyone out there has tackled this before? I'm sure it will be a tad difficult... It will be going from an ideal sun/shade location, to a sunny location so I hope June tends to be a relatively cool one to help ease things along.

  • jeffbc

    Dig deep, Lift with your legs;-). They are very resilient, just don't let it dry out when you move it. Wrap it in wet burlap. You can divide off the smaller shoots and root them in pots.

    Here is a link that might be useful: My gunnera

  • gilhouse

    Somebody please help!
    I planted a gunnera manicata about a month ago, and several of the leaves are starting to turn crispy, dry and white! It looks serious.

    I have planted it in a spot where it gets direct sun for a few hours per day, then shade the rest of the day. I water it almost every day for about 20 minutes per session.

    Any ideas?



  • MissGirl

    Quit watering it so much! While they grow at water's edge in their native habitat, they do not grow in the water. They require well-drained soil. You may be drowning it.

  • mayanflora

    I bought an excellent specimen of Gunnera and I am ready to plant it in the ground. I would like some advice before I proceed. I live in Los Angeles.

    P.S. For those interested in a weird or very exotic tropical tree, I have some specimens of ice cream bean tree, otherwise known as Inga Edulis. I would like to trade for other exotics. Write back if interested.

  • joycevallee

    Follow the directions from JeffreyOR, Dirtylady and others and you will be fine. I wouldn't even bother with the seeds as this plant creates a lot of babies which you can basically just peel off and plant. MAKE SURE TO CUT OFF THE LEAVES IN THE FALL and put it to bed as described above. It can get really sun-burned so keep it away from strong sun during the day. Mine is in shade in the am and only gets late afternoon sun. I cut off a lot of leaves during the season as well because I make castings.

    The trick is lots of water and organic matter. They grow really fast. The mo's (animal's that is) really like them for the shade during the dog days of summer and cats like them for their hiding places. Kids would probably like them for the same reason. They could sit under them and play with their toy cars, read a book or just have some quiet time.

    This is one of the oldest plants along with the Ginko tree known to mankind. Perhaps it was dinosaur food. Maybe that's why it grew so big and so fast.

    Here's a picture of the first castiing I did of a leaf this spring. It is about 20" wide.

    Dena, I absolutely love the work you do.


  • Bluebutterfly

    I am getting to plant my gunnera. Question: If it is planted in a bog garden that is around 18" deep and lined with plastic, is that deep enough for the gunnera to grow to its maximum height and width? Or would it be better to plant it near the bog garden so that its roots can spread down or is that not a problem? Thanks.

  • cac0

    Thought I would revive this thread.

    I I'm having a tinctoria vs. manicata race this season. Started with two very small specimens planted in the early spring. Manicata is allready about twice as massive, if somewhat shorter than the more erect tinctoria. Both are growing considerably faster than a very large manicata that I planted a few years ago. I planted both of theses new Gunneras in a heavily ammended with steer manure, well-draining 4' by 4' pit which is mounded up a couple feet in the middle. I dug a moat around the outside of these pits in my somewhat clay soil. These pits are filled with water on a daily basis. Both seem to love this technique. So, if you don't have a pond on your property, you might try this.

    Must say the tinctoria is more attractive. Which of these two species do you all prefer?

  • lilllly

    I'm curious if (any of) you have tried Gunnera as an aquatic plant, placing it directly into the water as you would a water lily or lotus? Think of the great shade it would offer the fish! I sure would like to try this.

  • jamie_rrt

    has any one had much luck growing gunnera on long island? i just planted 3 today. wish me luck

  • WindsorBruce

    Looking for Gunnera in Southern Ontario...
    Any ideas where to find them??

    Bruce in Windsor!

  • qattales

    these plants are hardier than i thought i made a bed for mine in an old claw foot tub. i used 2 parts peat to one part potting soil. it was doing well had nice leaves..then the black lab..the big chunky black lab..jumped in and had a dig fest. found my bulb a few days later, leaves gone and roots mostly torn off.. i was disgusted so i just stuck the bulb in pot with some soil and stuck it in a big tub with water for my water loving plants..this was late fall. well to my surprise i came out and new leaves are there and new roots. it has three new leaves and is doing well. it over wintered in the tub and made it. now i just have to lab proof it.

  • Deb__H

    To help on the "deer food situation" try this. Put stakes just outside "deer reach" of your plant. Then string fishing line about 2 feet from the ground. My dad did this next to his mums last year and the deer gave up. They evidently can't see the fishing line and get very annoyed at whatever that is that touches their leg when they get close. My dad has lost everything in the past to deer, but his mums were fine last year.

    Deb in PA

  • mudwitch

    I ordered my gunnera from Spring Hill,haven't recieved it yet,I want to get the bed ready. I have a water filter that back washes every evening through a pipe that emptys into the yard. the plan is to channel the water into the gunnera bed to ensure a regular water source. The question is,how deep does the bed need to be, and what about winter, will the water in winter have an adverse effect on the planting?

  • LaMainVerte

    Hi, I'm living in the Paris Region (France) and I have 2 very big gunneras in my garden, near to a fish pond. I have had them for 8 yrs now and they've grown really huge. The leaves in Summer are 2 meters wide and grow at 3 meters over the ground ! but, caution ! you must absolutely protect the plants from cold weather in winter. What I do : around mid-November, just when temperatures reach zero (freezing), I cut the leaves, I cut the stems carefully at their base, then i put a lot of straw around andover the rest of the plant, I put the leaves flat on the straw, and finally I cover all of this with a sort of unwoven plastic that protects from cold and snow, but lets the air go thru.
    We had temp as low as minus 15 and they are still OK. In March, when weather starts to be sunny again, the stems and new leaves push under the protection and then I uncover the plants; I only remove the straw when there is no more risk of freeze.

    Also, don't put gunneras into water or pond ! they only need normal watering, don't drown them ! they like to grow near a fishpond, and it makes nice shed to your fishes.

    Good luck,

  • delosfox

    Does best in partial shade. I used to grow a Manicata but lost it to rot, and I prefer the more upright and frilled smaller version, Gunnera chilensis because it doesn't flop around and therefore the leaves are easier to protect from rot, slugs, and juice-sucking insects. These plants are tough to kill since they fix all of their own nitrogen out of the soil using bacterial colonies in the stems. Mine is wind protected, under a heavily pruned magnolia tree in a peaty, acid soil with lots of leaf mold and organic matter--it loves magnolia leaves since they are quite acid. Alkaline lawn fertilizers are counterproductive as they will actually stunt the plant's growth and the excess nitrogen is wasted--I'll cover feeding in a moment. I used this soil to fill a 4' by 6' planting hole and lined it with impermeable pond lining material. When planting it is vital that the root crown is ABOVE the soil level and not allowed to sit in standing water or wet soil, as it will ROT. It can get wet but must be allowed to dry off.

    The beast needs constant moisture and fertilizing. Miracle-Gro is a waste of money, and manure--while traditional--wasn't for me. I found that the best way is to use the Laguna 16-9-12 once-a-year fertilizer pond spikes recommended for aquatic plants like water lilies. They're ventilated plastic tubes with fertilizer crystals that feed for up to a year. I place three around the plant during the growing season and take them out before the first frost. More might be better as the plant grows; since they're time released it shouldn't pose a hazard. Less than $15 buys you three spikes that will last you two growing seasons--nothing to do but refill the bog and enjoy. Sometimes the spikes are hard to remove because the greedy roots try to cement them in place. Not a bad sign!

    Before the first frost (Halloween for me) I cut the leaves and stems off cleanly and place them upside down over the root crown. A snap-together 1.5' section of large metal ducting or open-topped barrel section is placed around the crown and filled with leaves for winter insulation that will breathe but not blow away. Replace leaves as needed to keep your plant protected. This cylinder also helps keep squirrels out, who like to gnaw on the developing leaf stalks for a quick Spring food source. You may want to leave it on (minus leaf mold) until the new leaves are big and tall enough to fend for themselves.

    After the last frost, uncover your beauty, add the spikes and water, and watch it grow! In the past two years my plant has doubled in size with no end in sight. I suppose I should water it more often. I will experiment this year with copper tape around the stems to control slug damage, since this is their favorite food by far. Overhead and underside spraying of the leaves helps to dislodge spit bugs and other insects that suck the juices and cause brown spots. Tobacco water or mild soaps can be quite effective, too. Have fun with this one and don't be afraid! They're a lot of fun and you'll want more than one. I sure do.

  • giant_plant_lover

    I just bought a gunnera with 1 tiny leaf and a bud 3 weeks ago. It grows REALLY fast but the leaves have black dried tips and then the leaf slowly dies. There is new growth coming still but each new leaf has those black tips. Has anyone seen this?

    I have it in a pot indoors. Am I giving it too much or not enough water? The greenhouse I got it from had it drenched. My soil is potting soil. Maybe this doesn't drain it well enough?

    Please help. I don't want to lose this thing.

  • bushcat

    Can anyone tell me if I should divide or how to divide a gunnera? We have a huge one with a main stump that is about 3 feet tall and 5 or 6 offshoots. Last summer we couldn't keep it watered enough and it started to brown. I was told by a neighbour to divide it or it will start to decline. Should I keep the oldest shoot and remove the rest or should I keep one of the newer shoots? Do I have to treat the cut parts in any way?

  • NFRonseaview

    Giant Plant Lover -

    Sounds like a familiar problem! I received one last year in a trade (bareroot). I have babied it along ever since, and it is suffering. It sprouts leaves, which get the same spots as yours, curl up and die. I let it dry out fairly well, and it seemed to be doing better - odd, I thought....I then moved it in to my greenhouse thinking it would really take off, when actually it had the opposite effect...all the leaves shriveled up and died and now it really looks terrible. I am going to take it out of it's pot (I also used regular potting soil) and try another soil mixture. I'm at a loss at this point - if you've had any helpful hints, I'd sure love to hear them!

    Thanks, and good luck!


  • rattler

    I'm on the Essex coast in the U.K. and inherited a Gunnera with the house I've just bought. It doesn't look as if the plant was covered in the winter, certainly it wasn't when we got here recently and although there is sign of some new growth from some of the stumps others are either shrunken, solid & brown - very "woody" or are quite "mushy" and equally unhealthy. Can I remove these apparently dead stumps and if so, how? I'd like to try to keep it but if possible and maybe nurse it back to health if I can.



  • WindsorBruce

    Looking for Gunnera in Ontario....
    Anyone see them please let me know.

    I got seeds but I have not been successful ( even so they will take a long time to grow)

  • elenawa

    I had a Gunnera in a big pot inside my GH for 3 years now. Every summer we move it outside, under a tree. It develops big leaves. This year a big cone is emerging. How long should I wait to cut it or how can I collect the seeds?

    Once I tried to grow Gunneras from seeds (bought from a catalog) and NO ONE germinated! HELP! How is the germination process?

    Thank you, you can email me at:


    Elena (Sumner, WA)

  • WindsorBruce

    Success -- I found one at.... of course - Humber Nursery north of Toronto...

    Putting it in the ground today - nice size - a bit pricey at 25.00 but it looks pretty heathy!

    Now I need to get out the peatmoss....


  • rhizophora

    I have just bought my first gunnera manicata and have noticed a flower spike with orange berry like growths on it with an approx. 5mm diameter. I opened one to find a very small reddish seedlike structure inside the flesh. Just to make sure, is that a gunnera seed?

  • toomstone

    I live in southwestern Ontario and planted a gunnera last spring (2006) in my bog garden. It did fairly well over the course of the season, but then in early Fall some animal started chewing off the leaves, one by one, at the leaf stem - I'd go outside in the morning and find a leaf just lying beside the plant, chewed off. Eventually all the leaves were chewed off.

    After the first frost I overwintered the plant by inverting a bucket of leaves over the crown. It seems to have done the trick, as I'm noticing new leaves forming around the crown. However, something is obviously attacking the crown and leaving little bits of crown around the plant, similar to the leaf attacks. I'm afraid whatever animal that discovered my gunnera last Fall is going to demolish it again this year, starting with the crown and continuing with the leaves if the plant survives this current onslaught.

    Has anyone had a similar problem? The animal isn't eating the leaves, it just seems to want to prune the plant down. I live intown and know I don't get deer here. In general, aside from insect/slug damage, I don't get any noticeable animal damage in the garden, with the exception of the gunnera. It surprises me because it's such a prickly plant.

    Any suggestions would be most appreciated!

  • gardnpondr

    I was wondering if I could sink a small kids wading pool in the ground and put the soil back into the pool I dug out and plant the gunnera in the pool and keep the soil wet, would it make it here in South Mississippi? I could give it shade and water which it seems to love! I was going to do like a bog garden for it. I saw in the fine gardening magazine a bog garden so to speak and they used a short piece of PVC pile for like a dip stick thing to check to see when they needed to add water to the soil in the container. They put a wooden dowel rod in the piece of PVC pipe and buried the pipe in the soil as they filled the container back up with the soil. That way I could check the dip stick to see how low the level of the water was. I bought seed off Ebay last year and got them planted the other day. I put the cell packs into gallon ziplocks to keep them moist.

  • wayner2000

    Hi, this is a plant I have wanted for a long time however I have never seen it in any of the nurseries. I found a place in Colborn, Ontario which sells it and am planning on going in the later part of spring. I can't wait to give this beauty a try. Wayne

  • butterflylion

    Does anyone grow this in Georgia? I have a spot that is moist beside a creek where I hope it will do well.

  • bodiCA

    New leaves of 11? year old Gunneras, March 2008.


  • airgoddess_bellsouth_net

    Anyone have Gunnera sprouts or seeds they would be willing to share? Will trade for seedlings or plants I have.

  • amsoniared

    Trying to revive this thread! Especially since I just received my first Gunnera plant!
    Now, I know they are not supposed to survive the winter in my zone,however, I do the cement leaf castings, and I figure that even if I get a few "baby" leaves this season, it will be worth it! I need an opinion though-I do not have any damp areas in my yard, I was thinking of taking an old plastic pond liner, burying it in the ground, and drilling holes in it about a third of the way from the bottom, so it will hold some water, filling with soil and planting in that. How do you think that will do?

  • Caeolyninbow_Yahoo_com

    I live in N.W. Washington state and have a Gunners planted in a pot, sitting in a pond with about one inch of water covering its base. This is a spot with full sun and very warm this time of year. My problem is the leaves don't last more than a week before turning yellow and falling off. Luckily it keeps growing more, even though they are small.
    Thank you for any suggestions. He needs help!

  • back2eden

    Here's a rundown of best way to overwinter gunnera, got this from a local nursery (the best, Hughes Water Gardens in Tualatin, Oregon - outside Portland). Make a chicken wire circle screen around the plant, allow about a foot out from the plant crowns and if possible a foot above the plant (once the leaves have been cut off). Cut off the leaves, many folks use the leaves to cover the crowns from water but I use my leaves (leaf-casting). Once the leaves and stems are cut down and the wire fence is in place, dump your tree leaves into the circle and over the tops of the plants. I use maple leaves as I don't have to worry about creating a nursery for black walnuts, horse chestnuts, etc. (I have tons of garbage trees around). I load up the leaves and tuck them lightly in around the plant crowns. I continue tossing leaves on top until I have at least 6-12" on top of the crowns. I usually put some sort of wire mesh across the top just to make sure the leaves don't blow out. When I put the leaves on I don't use wet, mushy ones that are already heating up as a compost but allows some air in the batch. In the Spring, I can pull off a some of the top layer and the leaves of the plant will simply start pushing through all the maple leaves. When I know that frost is past, I pull back the maple leaves to allow the gunnera leaves to come through. I usually leave most of the maple leaves in the "pit" as they will continue to compost down. I've never had any problems with any kinds of bugs on this plant, at worst I get horse chestnuts falling and tearing the leaves (limited places to grow him) and too much hot afternoon sun. to handle both of those problem, I erect a tent around the plant with a type of shade tarp that shelters the plant through summer. As for ideal growing conditions, I sunk a huge plastic tub ito the ground (with a single small hole) and used half potting soil and half manuere on it. This way I can water the gunnera and he can sit in water and my trees don't suck it all up. they do love the water and while they have some resistance to cold (Ireland has a problem with these being invasive), it's just not an evergreen. I hope that info helps some folks. If well cared for, each year the plant will come back with slightly larger leaves so consider him an investment in your garden. great plants and thanks to Hughes for the writeup, mine have been doing great now going on 4 years! BTW, some plants I have bought before were really lame and didn't survive no matter what I did so the stock you purchase does make a difference. Don't get frustrated if you lose one and you did everything right.

  • ironicrock

    HELP, I have a HUGE Gunnera it has about 15 root balls and it now getting so big I cannot keep up the watering so I need to split it down and get rid of some of the root, thereby reducing the size of my plant. How and WHEN do I do this, I live in Mission, BC, up the side of a mountain and get lots of snow, so I have already gotten my plant ready for winter as it was dying due to the lack of water. Any answers would be great!

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