Creamy Aruncus Plumes

Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard) plumeAruncus dioicus (goatsbeard) is lighting up the shade right now. This perennial is about 2 metres (6 feet) tall. Unlike some of the subtle shade plants, goatsbeard grabs the attention, especially when its towering white flowers bloom.

The tall plumes are a cream colour that are very noticeable in the shadows.  The long narrow blooms sway in the breeze, and give the plant a more delicate look at the top, than the solid foliage below.

The foliage is like a coarser version of an astilbe. It grows quickly in the spring, and forms a substantial clump. It can be 1.2 metres (4 feet) across. This perennial looks more like a shrub when it matures, growing rapidly from new sprouts every spring.

Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard)Goatsbeard is a great perennial for the back of a shady border, or in a corner. This healthy plant receives about an hour a day of direct light. It tolerates medium shade very well, but it is not as happy about deeper shade.

Another of my A. dioicus was planted in a darker corner under a willow. Whether from the deeper shade, or the competition with willow roots, it never bloomed, and only grew a half metre (a few feet). The branches were close together, like the stunted trees you find growing in alpine areas, a little krumholtz.  I’ve moved it to a medium shade location last year,  but it hasn’t caught up in height with my other goatsbeard, nor has it bloomed. I hope I haven’t permanently stunted it, from an impoverished start.

Aruncus dioicus blooms in the summer, when many of the shade perennials have quieted down. Mine blooms for about 2 to 3 weeks in July. I like this perennial because it adds height in the shade. There are fewer tall shade plants from which to chose. Another tall shade perennial,  Actaea simplex (bugbane), formerly Cimicifuga, will be blooming late in the summer. What tall shade perennials do you grow?

I’ve written more about this perennial and the dwarf goatsbeard on another post.

25 thoughts on “Creamy Aruncus Plumes”

  1. Thanks to this post I could identify mine correctly now. I bought one earlier this year without a label and confused it with another plant. Great that it’s a tall plant! I didn’t know this.

  2. I have always admired this plant and have wanted to try it. However, I was afraid it would be difficult to control after I read: once you get it, you can never get rid of it. Maybe I will try it after all, now that I have read your post. When we moved here there was a row of
    Sorbaria sorbifolia (called False Spirea and False Astilbe). When it bloomed I thought it was Goat’s Beard, but it bloomed in the spring. Later I identified it. I planted a few Actaea simplex (bugbane), formerly Cimicifuga, plants, but they didn’t make it. I think there was too much competition in the shade garden where I placed it.

  3. I love this plant. I have one in my woodland garden bed, but it has too much invading it’s space this year, hostas and a lirope. I will need to either move it or move the other plants around it. It is blooming though, and it is lovely.

  4. Bek, the basic A. dioicus gets about 2 metres (6 feet) tall, but there is a variety ‘zweiweltenkind'(child of two worlds) which is about half that height.

    Barbee, when I moved the one goatsbeard, no traces of it popped back up in the old location, but then that was not a favourable spot. I’m not sure if it is a problem in warmer areas. I have heard that well established plants are difficult to move successfully, because their root system is big like their above ground part. My stunted one came out easily with a shovel.
    The Actaea simplex is a nice plant. I like the foliage a little better than Aruncus.

    Racquel, it is a plant that needs a bit of room. I have some lily of the valley at its feet. They don’t mind the shady overhang, and they’re too short to threaten it.

  5. I have always admired this plant, but have never tried it because I have dry shade. How would you think it would handle dry shade?

    It is a good looking plant, like a white goldenrod.

    Hypericum frondosum does well in shade for me and it can get to be about 3 to 4 foot tall, Zigzag golden rod doesn’t mind shade, but it is really only about 2 foot tall and we have a grass, Bottle Brush that likes shade.


  6. Gail, I do give it some extra water. I’m not sure how dry it can go. Otherwise it doesn’t need any coddling. It never seems to have any problems. I usually cut the plumes down after they’ve browned, unlike the astilbe which still look decorative to me after they’ve faded.

  7. Bei uns in Deutschland heißt diese Pflanze “Wald-Geissbart”, und wir haben auch 2 schöne, dicke Kleckse davon im Garten. Hier sind sie allerdings bereits verblüht und zurückgeschnitten. Aber es ist, als ginge im Garten das Licht an, wenn sie blüht, nicht wahr? ;-)
    Liebe Grüße

  8. Ulinne, it’s interesting that the common names in both German and English involve a beard. They do brighten the shadows in the garden. I like white blooms and silver foliage in the shade because I can see them well from a distance, or through my window.

  9. Nice picture and a nice plant. We have native Aruncus here that get 10 feet tall and wide and they are a real joy when they bloom. I have several Dwarf Aruncus in my shade beds. They stay neatly compact at around 1 foot. Ill try to post some pictures at my site. They are quite tolerant of dry conditions as far a I can tell Gail. I love the Cimisifuga and refuse to go with the name change lol. Another of my favorites is Thalictrum. I find that Aconitum does very well in fairly heavy shade and my asian lillies come back every year in my shade beds. Last but not least is Ligularia which doesn’t get real tall but can have stalks up to 4 feet or so.

  10. TH, if mine grows 10 feet wide, I’ll have to do a little trimming to get through my gate.
    I prefer the name Cimicifuga too. For one thing, it’s much more fun to say.
    I used to grow Aconitum at my last garden, but they would get the same leaf tier larva as delphiniums do, so I gave up. I tried cutting them back, but they would not grow as well. I really admire their flowers and height.

  11. There is a Cimicifuga growing next to our entrance door. I like the reflection of the light it has when blooming. In the shadow I also love the Filipendulas, they have a fine fragrance.But most of all I prefer the tall Thalictrums in the shadow.Their tiny, fine pink/white flowers are so beautiful!

  12. Barbara, I’ve seen pictures of Thalictrum, but I haven’t tried it out yet. It sounds very nice. I didn’t realize that Filipendula had a fragrance. It’s another one I’ll have to check into more.

  13. It would be nice to see your zones, where all of you live which would help all of us in deciding if these plants would work in our locations!!

    1. Mary, I garden in zone 3, where winters can go down to -40º C (-40º F). The goat’s beard are very hardy, and have no problems with the cold. We get reliable snow cover here, which adds extra insulation over the winter, too.

  14. Last year I planted a goats beard found it to be the ideal plant for my garden. I have searched for additional information with regards to pruning as I am not sure if the plumes should be cut back to the stem in the Autumn and or spring. I suspect this is the case though I am wary of damaging the plant. I would appreciate any information on care of the plant TQ.

    1. Bill Roberts, you can remove the plumes in the fall with no problems, and cut the plant back to within a few cm (inches) of the ground. However, I often leave the plumes on over winter, since they are decorative, especially in late fall. They add some interest in the garden which would otherwise look bare. Since I’ve never had any problems with disease or insects on goatsbeard, I don’t worry about the foliage harbouring any problems over the winter, like you would with some perennials. I then cut them back in spring, before the new red shoots start to unfurl.

      Some gardeners like a cleaner look over the winter, and you can cut them back in fall, if you like. I’d also cut them back in fall, if I noticed any problems on the leaves, or noticeable insect damage.

  15. Question: I believe I have the dwarf goatsbeard. I want to put it in a garden that is under a clump of tall cedar trees. Can the goatsbeard handle the cedar needles & roots?

    1. Kim, I have some planted directly under spruce and pine trees and they do fine there, but I haven’t tried cedar. I don’t think it would be a problem, as they seem to handle the root competition and shade well. I also have some directly under a willow tree that are flourishing, too.

  16. My neighbor told me, as several others told her, that Goat’s Beard is an invasive plant. Is this true?
    I bought two at an auction and put them in a place that has part shade.
    If it is invasive, I would rather move them now before they set in too well and put them by my back fence near the wooded area. I am in NE OH, USA.
    Thank you

    1. Kimberly, I’ve had no problem with them spreading. I just have the ones I planted. Over time, they do get deep roots, but they don’t spread from them.

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