Goat's beard (Aruncus dioicus) is a medium-sized perennial valued for its showy plumes, dark green foliage, and tolerance for a variety of growing conditions.
Goat's beard has a clump-forming growth habit with toothed, oval leaves. It produces feathery plumes of numerous tiny cream flowers in the late spring to early summer, which arch on spikes over the foliage. The species is dioecious, meaning it has distinct male and female plants. The male plants bear flower clusters that are more erect than those on female plants, and many gardeners find them more attractive. Female plants produce tiny brown seed pods that are toxic to people and animals. However, nurseries often don't label goat's beard plants as male or female, so you might have to wait until they're in bloom to know for sure. Goat's beard can be planted in the spring or fall and it has a moderate growth rate that can top out at 6 feet tall.
|Common Names||Goat's beard, goatsbeard, buck's beard, bride's feathers|
|Botanical Name||Aruncus dioicus|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||4–6 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Moist, loamy|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Hardiness Zones||4–7 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Asia, Europe, North America|
|Toxicity||Toxic (seeds only) to people and animals|
Goat's Beard Care
It belongs to the rose family, which also includes such landscape plants as rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis), Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica), and flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa).
The key maintenance task for goat's beard is watering whenever the soil starts to dry out, as the foliage can go downhill quickly in dry conditions.
If you wish to prevent its spreading via seeds, deadhead the plant (remove the spent flowers).
Goat's beard can grow in full sun in the cooler parts of its growing zones, as long as it has enough moisture. In warmer locations, it should be grown in partial shade. And it especially should be protected from strong afternoon sun. Too much sun can result in leaf burn.
This plant loves loamy, organically rich soil. It can tolerate a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil pH. When planting, amend the soil with compost and peat moss. Besides increasing soil richness, this also will help the soil to retain more water.
Goat's beard prefers consistently moist but not soggy soil. Even a brief drought can damage the plant and potentially kill it. If the soil feels dry when you stick your finger in about 1 or 2 inches down, it's time to water.
Temperature and Humidity
This perennial likes temperate conditions. And it will struggle in hot, humid weather. During heat spells, be extra diligent about providing it with adequate moisture.
Because goat's beard likes fertile soil, mix compost into the soil each spring as new growth begins. This is often all you need for healthy growth. If you have poor soil, you can apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring.
Types of Goat's Beard
There are several cultivars of Aruncus dioicus, and many of them have been bred to be more compact than the main species of the plant. Some examples include:
- Aruncus dioicus 'Glasnevin': 'Glasnevin' is a compact cultivar that was developed in Ireland. It is slightly shorter than the main species plant, and it has even deeper green leaves.
- Aruncus dioicus 'Kneifii': Kneifii goat's beard only reaches around 3 feet high, making it a good option for small gardens. But it still produces substantial plumes of creamy white flowers.
- Aruncus dioicus 'Zweiweltenkind': 'Zweiweltenkind' (also known as 'Child of Two Worlds') is another compact goat's beard variety. It only reaches around 3 to 4 feet high, but it is a sturdy plant that can tolerate strong winds.
Propagating Goat's Beard
Goat's beard will self-seed in the wild, and trying to germinate seeds is erratic and iffy at best. The most effective way to propagate goat's beard is by division. Divide mature plants in the early spring or fall when it's cool for the best results. Dividing the plants will rejuvenate older clumps of goat's beard, as well. Follow these simple steps:
- Lift out of the ground a large clump of goat's beard with its rhizomes.
- With a sterile and sharp garden tool, untangle and cut the heavy roots to create smaller clumps. Make sure each new clump has at least one "eye" or node that can go back into the ground.
- Place divided plants back in the ground about 2 to 3 feet apart so they have room to grow.
Potting and Repotting Goat's Beard
Goat's beard can look lovely in a container. Place the pot in a shady spot to brighten it up. Choose a container that can hold a 6-foot-high plant unless you choose dwarf varieties. Consider a container that will retain moisture, even plastic will do, but the pot should have drainage holes. Container plants typically require more water and that applies to goat's beard in pots, as well, since they prefer moisture.
Within its hardiness zones, goat's beard doesn't require any additional winter protection. The spent flower stalks on goat's beard can remain on the plant over winter for visual interest. Cut the stems down close to the ground in the late winter or early spring before new growth starts.
Goat's beard is a fairly low-maintenance plant and rarely has serious issues with pests or diseases. In fact, while it tends to attract butterflies and birds to the garden, it is resistant both to deer and rabbits. However, be on the lookout for sawflies and caterpillars, which can be controlled with insecticidal soap or using soapy water to wipe off the plants.
Common Problems With Goat's Beard
Goat's beard will be one of the most easy-going plants in your garden. But be on the lookout for the rare problem of crispy brown leaf edges. If you notice browning, your goat's beard may be getting too much sun, resulting in leaf scorch, or the soil is not moist enough. Amend dry soil with organic matter to retain moisture.
Does goat's beard spread?
This perennial slowly spreads from underground rhizomes to create a small stand or patch of plants. However, it is not considered a prolific spreader.
Cam goat's beard grow in full shade?
Goat's beard tolerates full shade and moist soil without much fuss.
Do you cut back goat's beard in the fall?
It's best to cut back the stems of goat's beard down to just above the ground in autumn. Then, apply a compost mulch to protect the plants from harsh weather.
What is the difference between goat's beard and astilbe?
Astilbe (Astilbe spp.) is often called "false goat's beard" because it resembles goat's beard, but the two plants belong to different families. In addition, goat's beard flowers only offer cream blooms while astilbe's flowers come in various colors, including pink, red, purple, and white.
Goatsbeard, Aruncus dioicus. University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension.