Aruncus dioicus’ commonly known as Goat's Beard or Bride's Feathers is one of the most handsome of plants for the perennial bed. Its leaves are large and it has an abundance of flowers and in the autumn it turns an impressive, autumnal yellow colour.
Grown for its finely cut foliage and stature, the elegant dark green, oval, lacy leaves form a dense and bushy clump. In June and July it bears elegant, branching plumes of ivory-white flowers
Aruncus dioicus prefers a position that remains reliably moist over summer in partial shade, though a moist sunny site will work very well in cooler climates. It is somewhat inclined to sulk in hot summer areas, so plant in shade in a moist, peaty soil, or even at the waterside.
The plants grow to shrub like proportions of 90 to 120cm (36 to 48in) tall and half as wide. It is an excellent specimen plant in the shade garden and creates a bold display when used as a focal point in woodland settings. The flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and moths.
Emerging in spring with a bronze flush the foliage will turn buttery yellow in autumn before it dies back. This is a slowly spreading perennial, which will gradually form dense clumps, so it makes a very effective groundcover for moist, shady beds.
From spring through mid-summer spectacular 50cm (20in) long, arching plumes of tiny, creamy white to greenish white flowers float above the plant. The effect is that of a magnificent white Astilbe. Its wands of creamy white flowers are wonderful when used as cut flowers, fresh or dried.
The Royal Horticultural Society has awarded Aruncus dioicus their prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in recognition of its outstanding excellence.
Aruncus prefers partial shade and consistent moisture, though a moist sunny site will work very well in cooler climates. Goat's Beard will survive periods of drought, but the foliage will brown around the edges at the first sign of deprivation. It grows best in in moist, fertile soil in full or partial shade. It can be grown in clay or heavy soil and suits permanently moist soils, such as in a bog garden.
Aruncus germinate best if they experience a cold period. If you are planting in autumn to winter you can use the natural method, simply planting in a seed tray and placing the tray outdoors until the spring. Otherwise, at warmer times of the year it will be necessary to artificially simulate winter temperatures by using the method of stratification.
They can be sown at any time, although spring sowing will obviously give them a full season of growth. Many seeds wait for spring before emerging regardless of when they are sown. Seeds can also be sown directly outdoors after danger of frost is past in late spring or early summer and when the soil is warm. Barely cover the seeds with soil and keep moist.
Indoors and out, germination is erratic. Prick out seedlings as they form two true leaves. Keep seedlings out of direct sunlight to grow on before planting outdoors in spring or in autumn. Plant at a distance of at least 60cm (24in) apart, in any well-drained soil in sun or dappled shade.
The Natural Method: Autumn / Winter
Fill 7cm (3in) pots or trays with a good soil-based compost. Sow the seeds onto the surface and cover the seeds lightly with fine grit or compost. Place the tray or pots in a cold frame, an unheated greenhouse or under a shaded hedge. Keep the soil damp but not wet and do not exclude light. Patience may be needed as germination can be very slow taking anything from 40 to 80 days, although germination can be quicker if temperatures are around 15 to 20°C (16 to 68°F).
When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into 7cm (3in) pots and grow them on in cooler conditions until large enough to move outdoors. Keep the seedlings in light, but not full sun and plant out in autumn.
Stratification: Spring / Summer
If you require seedlings quicker, you may wish to try stratifying the seeds – this method simply exposes the seedlings to temperature changes, as they would do if germinating naturally.
Fill 7cm (3in) pots or trays with a good soil-based compost. Sow the seeds onto the surface and cover the seeds lightly with fine grit or compost. Place in a propagator or seal inside a polythene bag and keep at a daytime temperature of 13 to 15°C (55 to 60°F) for 2 to 3 weeks. After this time, move the tray to a refrigerator to cool (not a freezer) this will expose the seeds to temperatures of around 4°C (39°F) which will simulate the cold of winter. Leave them in the fridge for 3 to 6 weeks, after which remove the tray and place somewhere with normal daytime temperatures. Keep the compost moist at all times.
This method usually works for some of the seedlings but some seeds may wait for spring before emerging regardless of when or how they are sown. Prick out any seedlings that have germinated into pots to grow on, then place the tray back into the cold frame so that any seeds that remain may germinate naturally.
This plant is dioicious, with distinct male and female plants. If there is only one gender in the growing area, seeds will not form. Plants with male flowers produce plumes that are slightly fuller, with many stamens per flower, and more feathery and upright than plants with female flowers, whose plumes are more pendent and have three pistils per flower.
Long chains of seed capsules dry and stay on female plants after bloom (if a male is also present).
Collect seeds in autumn to sow to create new plants or deadhead spent flowers if self-seeding is not wanted. After flowers fade, the tall mounds of compound leaves provide a great background for later blooming plants.
Cut back the flowered stems back hard to just above ground-level in autumn and apply a generous mulch of well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant.
Aruncus dioicus can be slow to get established, but it is long-lived once settled in.
The flower heads are good for using as a cut flower. The flowers may also be dried by hanging upside down in a warm, dark room.
Perennial borders. Shade or woodland gardens. Pond edges.
Aruncus dioicusis is native to the USA. It can be found in both coastal and interior regions, along the west coast from Alaska to California, from Pennsylvania and Iowa, south to North Carolina, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
It occurs naturally along lower wooded slopes, at the base of bluffs and in moist woodlands
It is in the Rosaceae, the Rose Family.
The genus name Aruncus is from the Greek aryngos meaning ‘goat’s beard’ or in Latin barba capri.
The species name dioicus (dioica) means dioecious, having male and female flowers on separate plants. The word derives from the Greek word dioecy meaning ‘two households’
It is commonly called Goat's Beard, White Goat's Beard or Bride's Feathers. There is another species with the same Common name, Goat’s-beard (Tragopogon pratensis). It is unrelated to Aruncus and comes from the Dandelion family.
There are many other common names used for this plant in various parts of the world. Brides Feathers, Spaghetti Flower, Buck's-beard, Goats Beard, Goatsbeard Spiraea.
Pronounced ah-RUN-kus dy-oh-EYE-kus, Aruncus dioicus has quite a number of synonyms. It is also known as Aruncus asiaticus, Aruncus barba-caprae, Aruncus capribarba, Aruncus silvester, Aruncus silvestris, Aruncus sylvester, Aruncus sylvestris, Aruncus vulgaris, Spiraea Aruncus and Spiraea paniculata.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50 mg Average Seed Count 350 Seeds Family Rosaceae Genus Aruncus Species dioicus Common Name White Goat's Beard, Bride's Feathers Hardiness Hardy Perennial Natural Flower Time July to August Height 90 to 120cm (36 to 48in) Spread 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Position Part shade prefered Germination 10 to 40 days Notes Often treated as Annual.