Saururus chinensis
Common Name: lizard's tail 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Saururaceae
Native Range: Eastern Asia
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: White to yellowish white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Water Plant, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful, Fragrant
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Heavy Shade, Wet Soil


For water gardens, plant in containers in shallow water up to 6” deep. For natural ponds, set plants or rhizomes in sandy or muddy pond margins under shallow water or in moist, boggy soils. Best in full sun to part shade, but will flower in full shade. Prefers wet soils and grows well in shallow water. Unrestrained rhizomes will spread to form colonies. Seed may be started in containers.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Saururus chinensis, commonly called lizard’s tail, is a deciduous, marginal aquatic perennial with creeping rhizomes that typically grows to 24-36" tall in the wild. In cultivation in water gardens, it often grows shorter to 12-18" tall. It is native to wetlands including riverbanks, meadows, marshes, ditches, swampy forested areas, fields and roadsides in China, Japan, Korea, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and The Philippines.

Papery, distinctively ribbed, densely glandular, ovate to ovate-lanceolate, green leaves (3-7” long and 2-4" wide) have acute to acuminate apices and cordate bases. Some leaves on the upper parts of this plant feature attractive splotches of white. Minute, spicily fragrant, ivory-white to yellowish-white flowers (no petals or sepals with anthers held below the stigmas) bloom in early to mid-summer (late June to August) in slender, tapered, spike-like, axillary or terminal racemes (each to 5" long) that often nod at the tips. Each flower spike purportedly resembles the tail of a lizard, hence the common name. Tiny, subglobose fruits are tuberculate. The flowers, leaves and roots of this plant are aromatic.

Rhizomes and flowers in China have a large number of different medicinal uses including diuretic, laxative, fungal infections, malaria, boils and abscesses, and expulsion of worms from the intestines.

Genus name comes from the Greek words sauros meaning a lizard and oura meaning a tail from the dense spicate inflorescence.

Specific epithet means China in reference to native habitat.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Water or bog gardens. Pond edges. Tubs. Ornamental pools.