Virtues: As long as it receives moderate to ample watering, native goat’s beard is an easy-to-grow shrubby perennial. It offers unusual flowers that appear for several weeks over late spring and early to midsummer. A great candidate for shady, damp areas; its height makes it a good background plant. Attracts bees, butterflies and moths. It hosts larvae of the dusky azure, a rare butterfly of the southern Appalachians, Ohio River Valley, central Illinois and northwest Arkansas. Deer resistant.
Common name: Goat’s beard, bride’s feathers
Botanical name: Aruncus dioicus
Flowers: Long spikes (to 12 inches) of tiny white flowers appear in profusion at the ends of stems in late spring and early summer, giving a feathery effect. They last for several weeks. This plant is dioicious—with distinct male and female plants. The male’s flowers are said to be slightly fuller and showier, but the female flower is also showy and plants are not sexed before sale anyway.
Foliage: Dark green, oval, toothed leaves are held in opposite pairs on thin stems.
Habit: Tall, narrow perennial growing to shrublike proportions of 4 to 6 feet all and half as wide.
Season: Early summer, for bloom.
Origin: Native to moist woods, woodland edges and meadows of roughly the eastern half of North America, from northern Canada south to Georgia west to Oklahoma. A subspecies can be found on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska south through California.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun or partial shade, in average to wet fertile soil. Full sun is recommended only in the North, and in full sun the soil should be consistently moist. It prefers more shade in the southern part of its growing range, where temperatures are warmer and the sun stronger. Long chains of seeds hang from female plants after bloom (if a male is also present). Deadhead spent flowers if self-seeding is not wanted. Can be slow to get established, but it is long-lived once settled in. Difficult to divide or move from one spot to another once established. Deer resistant. USDA Zones 3–8.
Looking for a perennial guide? Try How to Garden: Perennial Garden Plants