Content Detail

Virginia waterleaf is a medium-sized late spring to early summer perennial that thrives in partially shady environments with moist soils. With unusual foliage and clusters of white flowers that can have a slight pink or purple tint, this is a colonizing species that can thrive in shade gardens, pollinator gardens, or even shady borders. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Waterleaf
  • Family (botanic) Hydrophyllaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Blue, Purple
  • Shape or form Mounded, Round
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Virginia waterleaf is usually between 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. This perennial self-seeds and spreads via offsets from underground stem structures (rhizomes).

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Virginia waterleaf is native to the Eastern and Midwestern United States. C-value: 5.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Virginia waterleaf attracts butterflies, bees including specialist species (Andrena geranii), weevils, and beetles. 

Leaf description:

Virginia waterleaf has leaves that are often mottled with scattered white spots that look a bit like water stains, but they can also be solid green in color. Each leaf occurs on a long stalk and is divided into three to seven deep lobes in a featherlike pattern (pinnately lobed) with coarsely toothed edges (margins).

Flower description:

The flowers of Virginia waterleaf occur in rounded clusters (cymes) on long, leafless stalks that rise above the foliage. One or two cymes can occur per stalk, there can be more than one stalk per plant, and the stalks can be hairless (glabrous) or have short hairs (pubescent). Each cluster typically has between eight and 20 flowers. Each flower has long, narrow, leaflike sepals that surround the base of the petals. The sepals have fringelike hair around the edges (ciliate). The petals are actually five lobes that are fused at the base and only slightly separate when the flower opens, creating a tubular or bell shape. Long appendages protrude from between the petals, some that are hairy with pale yellow tips that turn brown with time (stamens) and one with a divided tip (style). The flowers can be pinkish, light purple, or white in color.

Fruit description:

Virginia waterleaf fruit is a dry, spherical (globoid) seed capsule that splits open at maturity to release seeds. Each flower produces one fruit around July to August. 

Plant Care:

Virginia waterleaf may spread extensively in ideal conditions. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Virginia waterleaf is not susceptible to major pest or disease issues.


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