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How to Grow Goatsbeard, a Native Plant

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Are you looking for a plant for that wet spot in your yard? Or maybe you are thinking of designing a rain garden. Consider adding goatsbeard, a native plant that likes moist soil.

What is Goatsbeard?

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) is a member of the rose family. It is native to the temperate zones of Europe, Asia and North America. It looks like a large astilbe, but they are not related. Goatsbeard is dioecious, which means that there are separate male and female plants. You need both for fertile seeds. Unfortunately, most nurseries do not identify their plants as male or female.

These plants are hardy in zones 3 – 8. They are a clump forming perennial but they are not invasive as are so many clump forming plants. They grow 4 – 6 feet tall and 2 – 4 feet wide. The leaves are large and compound. Compound means that they are made up of leaflets. Leaflets are small leaves that are attached on a branch of a leaf, rather than the branch of the plant. In the case of goatsbeard, each leaf has 20 or more leaflets. Each leaflet is oval in shape.

The flowers are cream colored plumes, similar to astilbe. Although astilbe flowers come in various colors, goatsbeard only has one color. The flowers appear in early to mid-summer. The male flowers are larger and showier than the female flowers which are smaller and more of a greenish white. You can deadhead (remove dead or dying flowers) from your plants to make them look neater. However, deadheading will not result in your plants blooming a second time.

The foliage is compound, made up of leaflets.

The foliage is compound, made up of leaflets.

How to Grow Goatsbeard

Since goatsbeard grows into a large plant, if you plan to grow more than one, you should plant them 2 – 4 feet apart to accommodate their width. Goatsbeard likes to grow in light shade. If you only have full sun, just make sure to keep it well watered. It likes to be wet. That makes it a natural for a rain garden, around a pond or planted along a stream. The soil should be rich and well-drained. The plants like moist soil, not soggy soil. Soggy soil will cause them to rot.

You don’t have to worry about watering your plant if you have planted it in a wet soil situation. If not, or if the plant is in full sun, water well when the soil looks dry. Since these are native plants, there is no need to fertilize them. They are already adapted to grow in North America.

The male flowers are larger and white.

The male flowers are larger and white.

How to Divide Goatsbeard

Goatsbeard is difficult to divide. For best results, divide your plants in the spring or the fall. I prefer dividing perennials in the fall because it gives them a chance to settle in and grow new roots before winter. When divided in the spring, blooming may be delayed while the plants are growing the new roots on each division.

Dig up your plant. Using a sharp knife, cut the clump making sure that each division has at least one “eye” and roots. Just like potatoes, the eye is where the plant will grow from so you will need at least one eye per division. Be prepared. The roots are large and woody, so they are difficult to cut apart.

Replant your divisions 2 – 4 feet apart.

The female flowers are smaller and greenish white.

The female flowers are smaller and greenish white.

How to Grow Goatsbeard From Seed

Goatsbeard can be grown from seed, but the seed has to be fresh. Seeds that you buy in the store were collected last year and dried to preserve them. The seeds of some plants, goatsbeard included, will not germinate if they dry out or they are too old.

To collect fresh seed from goatsbeard, you need a male plant and a female plant. If you have a male plant, you won’t get any seeds because only the female plant produces seeds. If you have a female plant, you won’t get seeds if you don’t have a male plant to pollinate the flowers of the female plant. You need both a male and a female plant to pollinate the flowers and produce viable seeds.

Fresh seed can be direct sown in your garden as soon as you collect it. Surface sow the seeds. They need sunlight to germinate. Keep the soil moist. Germination should occur in 2 – 3 weeks. Thin your seedlings to at least 2 feet apart.

© 2020 Caren White


Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on August 26, 2020:

Grateful I found this article ! Growing Plants has been tough in our house .thanks for the tips . Enjoy the rest of the day! God bless .