Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is a lovely shade-loving perennial plant that is ideal for woodland settings. Will naturalize in woodlands and bring them to life in late spring with a mass of bright yellow flowers floating in blue-green foliage.
Once established, these plants take little or no maintenance. It is a short-lived perennial hardy to zone six, but it will self-seed in suitable surroundings and may take over an area if not watched. It likes a good moist soil, which is most often found in woodlands, but it will also grow on semi-shaded walls and rock gardens—ideal for rocky wooded locations. Due to the alkaloid content, this plant is not eaten by deer or rabbits. All parts of the plant will exude a yellow/orange sap when broken. This can cause skin problems in some people. The plant is considered to be mildly poisonous.
It is reported that the leaves can be eaten if boiled well, and water changed several times.
Greater Celandine has a long history of use in herbal medicine. The leaves and the sap are used most often as a mild sedative detoxifying and antispasmodic, especially for relaxing the bronchial tubes, intestines, and muscles as well as whooping cough, asthma, jaundice, gallstones, and gallbladder pains. Caution should be taken when using this herb internally since it contains the many alkaloids that are considered toxic. The orange sap is used externally to treat warts, ringworm, and corns as well as films from the cornea of the eye. The roots are also used, and research has shown them to have possible anti-cancer properties.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Greater Celandine will grow in almost any soil except waterlogged, but it does like a reasonable amount of water. Ideal plant for part or full shade, but it will grow in full sun in lower zones (6 and 7) provided it has moisture. It prefers a fertile woodland soil and semi-shade with decent moisture. It is an excellent choice for growing on partially shaded walls or in rock gardens provided there is a pocket of soil to establish its roots. It is a short-lived perennial, but it will self-seed in suitable locations, sometimes aggressively and will take over thin woodland areas if left alone.
Growing from Seed
Germination can be slow and erratic, with some seeds taking up to twelve months to sprout. It can be sown in place in early spring or late fall. If choosing this approach, keep weeds in the area to a minimum to allow seeds time to germinate and plants to establish. Once the first ones are established, they often self-seed and proliferate, but this can take several years to achieve. Seeds and also be started in pots. Individual pots with several seeds per pot or cell flats are recommended, so seedlings can be removed as they grow without disturbing other seeds. Some will often germinate rapidly, but others may not, so patience is needed. Start indoors in later winter and remove plants as they become large enough to transplant. Place the rest of the growing medium outside in a semi-shaded area and continue to water throughout the year, picking out seedlings as they appear. It is best if the pots/flat are placed on a bench or shelf to reduce weed seed introduction to the growing medium. Trays can be left out over winter if all the seeds have still not germinated.
Greater Celandine plants are harvested during the spring when they begin to bloom. Herb can be used fresh or dried for later use. Roots are harvested in the fall when they are at their peak. These can also be dried for later use. It is highly recommended that gloves be worn when harvesting any of this plant from leaves, roots, or seeds. The latex is mildly toxic, and many people have an allergic reaction that can cause rashes and skin.