Goat's beard (Aruncus dioicus) is a medium-size perennial valued for its showy plumes, dark green foliage, and tolerance for a variety of growing conditions. 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).
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. 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.
|Botanical Name||Aruncus dioicus|
|Common Names||Goat's beard, goatsbeard, buck's beard, bride's feathers|
|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 to people, animals|
Goat's Beard Care
Goat's beard is a fairly low-maintenance plant. It 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. 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. The spent flower stalks can remain on the plant over winter for visual interest, but the stems should be cut close to the ground in the late winter or early spring before new growth starts.
This perennial grows from underground rhizomes. Mature plants can be divided in the early spring or fall if you wish to propagate your goat's beard. It can also multiply via seed. If you wish to prevent such spreading, 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 a 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 brief drought can damage the plant and potentially kill it. If the soil feels dry when you stick your finger in about an inch or two 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.
Is Goat's Beard Toxic?
People actually use parts of the goat's beard plant medicinally, as well as for food. However, the seeds of the female plant are toxic both to people and many animals when ingested.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Some symptoms of toxicity in both people and animals include upset stomach, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect poisoning, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
Goat's Beard Varieties
There are several cultivars of Aruncus dioicus, and many of them have been bred to be more compact than the main species 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 the 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.