Goatsbeard is a fantastic native perennial that creates a bold display in a woodland garden or shade border.
When planted in drifts or massed, it is especially effective in a pond area or a moon garden.
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Goatsbeard Native Perennial for Shade Garden
A member of the Saxifragacae family, Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) is closely related to Spiraea. Its appearance is somewhat similar to that of an Astilbe. This plant is native to deciduous woodlands in the North Temperate Zone. An herbaceous perennial, it is found mostly in rich woods, especially in mountainous regions. Sometimes called Bride’s Feathers, it grows to a height of five feet, and is hardy in zones three to eight.
Aruncus aethusifolius (Dwarf Goatsbeard) matures to a height of about sixteen inches, and is similar in spread. The delicate, deeply-cut leaves are fern-like. If grown in full sun, its leaves turn a rich rustic red.
White Flowers Rise Above Dense Foliage
The shrub-like erect Goatsbeard presents a dense, well-shaped mound of foliage in the landscape. The dark green, intricately-cut leaves have many toothed leaflets.
White frothy flowers rise above the foliage in early to mid summer. Each arching stem that rises above the foliage is densely covered with many small florets in clusters. The blossoms are at their peak for about twenty days. They then turn tan or light brown. Wands of the flowers are popular in fresh-cut bouquets or dried flower arrangements.
There are separate male and female plants. The flowers of male plants are somewhat showier than those of the female. Those identifications are not provided when Goatsbeard is sold. Tiny brown seed capsules are produced by the female plants. The seeds are poisonous. When the flowers have faded, the foliage continues to provide an impressive background in the garden.
Soil, Maintenance, and Propagation
Soil that is amended with generous amounts of compost or other organic material before planting is necessary to replicate its natural habitat. Goatsbeard perennial grows best in partial shade, but will do well in full sun. It requires medium wet to wet, well-drained soil.
To provide plenty of room for a mature Aruncus dioicus plant, allow three to four feet of space. An established Goatsbeard does not take well to being transplanted. It tends to grow slowly during the first few seasons, but with proper care, it will flourish.
This low maintenance perennial needs very little care except for watering when the soil is dry. It has no significant disease problems, and is reported to be rabbit and deer resistant.
In the fall, cut back the plant to just above ground level. Apply a compost or well-rotted manure mulch. In woodland settings, the leaves from trees are beneficial.
Propagate by dividing the heavy rhizomes in spring or fall. Lift the clump, cut into desired sizes, each with at least one eye. The Goatsbeard self seeds in natural or wild settings.
‘Misty Lace’ Goatsbeard is a patented hybrid of Aruncus dioicus and Aruncus aethusifolius. It grows to a height of eighteen inches.This compact perennial also has white flowers borne as feathery, elongated clusters along the stems. Asexual, Misty Lace does not set seeds. It has great tolerance of temperature extremes.