How to Grow Goutweed

A fast-growing ground cover that can easily get out of control

Bishop's weed plant with small white flower umbels over leafy foliage

The Spruce / K. Dave

Several plant species are referred to as goutweed. The most popular is Aegopodium podagraria. This is a herbaceous perennial that works well as a shrubby, semi-wild ground cover option. It's fast-growing, hardy, and low-maintenance.

The leafy, spreading foliage normally doesn't grow much taller than 10 inches, but the flowering stalks that appear in early summer can shoot up much taller. Its small, white flower umbels aren't particularly ornamental, and some people simply cut the flowering stalks back to prevent the ground cover from looking untidy.

It readily self seeds and its rhizomatous roots mean that it can be an aggressive spreader and difficult to eradicate once established. If you're not careful, the leafy mounds could quickly take over your entire garden. Some regions classify it as an invasive species. If you do plan to plant goutweed, you might want to contain it to spots where other plants struggle to survive.

There's a variegated variety of the plant that is known for being less invasive, and this tends to be the most popular choice in gardens.

The plant's ability to grow in shady locations and a wide variety of soil types, make it a good option for cover under a group of trees. The spreading roots system can be helpful if you're looking for plants to help tackle steep-sided soil erosion.

Botanical Name Aegopodium podagraria
Common Name Goutweed, cow parsley, ground elder
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size Flowering stems can grow to be up to 1m tall
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade, full shade
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acid, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 4-9 (USDA)
Native Area Europe, Asia

Goutweed Care

A lover of damp and shady conditions, goutweed is adaptable and can handle most soil types, urban pollution, and different moisture levels. This can be a blessing and a curse. It'll grow where other plants won't, but it can also take over your garden space in no time if not kept in check.

Bishop's weed plant with small white flower umbels on thin stems over leafy foliage

The Spruce / K. Dave

Bishop's weed plant with small white flower umbels on single stem

The Spruce / K. Dave

Bishop's weed leafy foliage from above

The Spruce / K. Dave


Goutweed has a preference for partial shade conditions, but it can still do well in full shade and also full sun, providing it receives sufficient moisture. Intense, direct sun can result in leaf scorch.


This plant isn't fussy when it comes to soil types, providing it's well-drained. It can also grow well in a wide range of pH levels, but it does seem to enjoy slightly acidic soils most.


In its native environments, goutweed is often found in damp forested areas, and it has a preference for moist conditions. It can even survive in saturated ground, and some gardeners will use it around pond areas.

Temperature and Humidity

Goutweed is a relatively cold-hardy plant and can survive winters that get as cold as five degrees Fahrenheit. It does best in temperate regions.


Given how hardy this plant is, it doesn't need regular fertilization to thrive. In poor soils, however, some gardeners will add additional organic matter.


Deadheading the flowers before they go to seed can help with spreading. However, it's primarily the rhizomatous roots that make this plant so aggressive.

Many gardeners cut the flowering stalks back completely as they can look rather untidy if you're using goutweed as a ground cover option.

Propagating Goutweed

Dividing this plant or nurturing new growth from cuttings of the rhizomes is easy. It's best to plant the divisions directly into the garden in the spring.

How to Grow Goutweed From Seed

Goutweed is also easy to grow from seed. Again, it's best to do this in the spring. The seeds will benefit from being sown in a cold frame before the germinated seedlings are planted out in the summer.

Common Pests and Diseases

Known for being a hardy plant, goutweed is not badly impacted by either pests or diseases. If grown in a hot and humid region, however, the plant can suffer from leaf blight. Mowing the foliage back can be enough to rejuvenate it.