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Article: Sweet, Sweet Woodruff: Appropriate choices.

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Forum: Article: Sweet, Sweet WoodruffReplies: 8, Views: 52
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Greene, ME

April 4, 2011
4:00 AM

Post #8470510

Woodruff is a charmer.
We hear much about aggressive plants taking over gardens. I think we sometimes make inappropriate choices, trying for a quick fix in small areas or areas that are not suitable to the plant. Woodruff is a spreader, and some people expect this, and other "aggressive" plants to fill the intended area and suddenly stop and behave.
One would never plant an oak tree in a plant pot, enjoy its early shade, and then object because the tree had grown "out of bounds."
For those of us (OK, I admit we are in the minority) whose gardening limitations are NOT small plots of ground, this is a stalwart plant. My gardening is acres of natural woodlands and ponds. I could not possibly garden with polite, well-behaved plants that maintain a two-square-footprint. I'd go broke. Or crazy.
Woodruff is an energetic, lovely plant, easily kept in bounds. That my "bounds" are appropriate for its active spreading, just like the oak, is why it is an appropriate choice for those who plant it where its spreading serves its purpose.
Some may choose to plant a shrub, tree or perennial in a location where, for its entire life, the owner must prune or contain it to cut back its natural size.
I let woodruff enjoy its natural growth, interplant it with other complementarily active plants. Its growth is limited naturally with indigenous rock out-croppings, the ponds and streams, and unnaturally with the roads that humankind has imposed on the planet.
Let's remember, gardening, by definition, is unnatural. We can impose our interests and designs gently, but the imposition should be appropriate to the location. The oak planted in a pot, pruned to an arbitrary size to fit in a small space is unnatural. Woodruff, in the proper location, can be lovely and still be respectful of our planet.


Gurnee, IL
(Zone 5b)

April 4, 2011
5:41 AM

Post #8470669

Well said, gardener Lew! I adore this plant even though I have a small garden. I've never found it difficult to keep under control, and I like the way it grows under shrubs and among other plants. Sweet woodruff is such an obliging plant, and remains handsome all season long.
Parker, CO

April 4, 2011
8:26 AM

Post #8470967

I use sweet woodruff in a partial shade garden and along the north side of my home. It is a wonderful groundcover, however it can crowd out slower growing plants. The dense tangle of rhizomes can be difficult to pull as the stems often break off at ground level. It's not as tenacious and invasive as some other groundcovers, but it still warrants a word of caution in a garden with other prized plants such as Pulmonarias and ferns.
Dallas, OR
(Zone 8a)

April 4, 2011
11:14 AM

Post #8471349

I am fortunate to have my sweet woodruff in any island bed, under shade trees, where it is free to roam.

Thank you for this article. I love the fragrance when they bloom; now I'll have to try drying the leaves!

It's hard to believe this wonderful groundcover is related to the icky sticky plant! :)
Fredericksburg, VA

April 4, 2011
2:42 PM

Post #8471810

I'm glad to hear all of this wonderful information about sweet woodruff. I began gardening in earnest when I retired about 7 years ago. I bought some sweet woodruff at my farmers market at that time and planted it next to my front walk in partial shade. It did great the first year but after that, it would start out good then turn black and die back. It came back the following years, but less and less. I live in Fredericksburg, VA, where the summers are horribly humid so I'm assuming it was a type of mildew that got it. I do love it and may try again in a more shady, moist place. Does anyone in this post grow sweet woodruff in a humid area? Thanks. Denise


Gurnee, IL
(Zone 5b)

April 4, 2011
3:22 PM

Post #8471894

Bookwormer, thanks for sharing your experiences with sweet woodruff. Kjd, now that you mention it, my sweet woodruff did almost eat a fern before I rescued it, so you're right, you need to pay attention. Granna, it sounds like the high humidity may have encouraged fungal disease. But I hope when you try it again with full shade it will take off for you. A well-drained soil and avoiding overhead watering should help it too.
Xenia, OH
(Zone 5b)

April 7, 2011
5:51 PM

Post #8479280

Question about Sweet Woodruff... I am looking for a shady ground cover... as most of my 1 acre property is wooded and sloped in many angles. I am currently battling english ivy every where. Growing up trees and strangling them, etc... it is every where! I would like a different ground cover that is not so aggressive. I doubt I will ever get it all out... and frankly I am hesitant now because I know there is a lot of poison ivy mixed in with the english ivy everywhere also... but I figure I will do small areas at a time over the next 5-10 years. *sighs*

My question... Does Sweet Woodruff climb?

I also read it grows under bushes... which is great... but does it harm those bushes or take over them?

Any help would be appreciated?


Gurnee, IL
(Zone 5b)

April 8, 2011
5:19 AM

Post #8480069

Hi Kathryn, it sound like you have a naturalized shady property, so I think you would like sweet woodruff as a ground cover. It doesn't climb at all. The roots form a mat as it spreads. Sweet woodruff never gets very tall and its roots are shallow, so I can't imagine it being a problem for a shrub. Good luck with the English ivy, and be careful around that poison ivy!
Needham, MA
(Zone 6a)

April 15, 2013
4:54 AM

Post #9484386


You have your work cut out for you. 5 years ago, we moved to a 1/3 acre plot with the neighbors adjoining 3/4 acre planted in white pines, english ivy, pachysandra and YES, poison ivy was mixed in. Their brick multi-level colonial looked great with the english ivy but it was a constant battle coming into my newly planted perennial gardens, climbing trees on/near the border and YES, I did get POISON IVY rashes every year. So enter Sweet William, blackberries and Liriope. Nothing worked well for me until the neighbors sold to a young couple who cut down the pines to expand and make a backyard. Not the prettiest site now but in doing so all the shade and the ivy etc are now gone with an occasional remnant popping up which I pull. Sweet William still survives nicely and is spreading to cover the entire area under my 14 hornbeams and othe trees planted along the border between the two houses. In spring Sweet William comes up quickly before the hornbeams leaf out and eventually it will form a dense mat where I won't have to weed. A bulldozer and flame torch would really help you to cut your project down from 10 years but at least you control the source of the ivy. Good luck. Persistance will pay off.

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