Goat's Beard vs Astilbe

(Zone 4b)

I have a couple of Astilbe in my garden ("Ellie" and "Visions in Red") and correspondingly I have no Aruncus. It is great that both plants grow and flower in similar tricky conditions i.e. shade but it seems to me from pictures that I see on-line that Goat`s Beard does not offer much more than probably size over a white flowering Astilbe.

For those of you that have experience with both how do you compare and contrast these plants?

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

I have never thought of goatsbeard, (Aruncus dioicus, this is the tall native goatsbeard,) and Astilbe as similar until you mentioned it .
I always thought of Astible as a smaller plant (2 ft.) with straight up plumes and goatsbeard as a really big plant ( 4-6 ft.) that could really look like a shrub that had long white loose spikes of flowers that hung down more like a bridal veil spirea.
Also the goatsbeard has separate male and female plants and the male flowers have a fluffier,softer look.
I think the plant I have is a female.
Mine is placed in medium shade in a native plant rain garden behind some sun lovers.
It doesn't look out of place with the tall (10 ft.) native red twig dogwood Cornus stolonifera to the left and behind an Amsonia.

This message was edited Mar 14, 2013 12:30 AM

This message was edited Mar 14, 2013 12:34 AM

Thumbnail by sempervirens
(Zone 4b)

That is an outstanding picture showing some wonderful plants...thank you.

It is my understanding that there are some "Goat's Beard" that are less large than the huge dioicus.

For example aethusifolius and the more recent introduction "Misty Lace" are more Astilbe like in terms of size.

'sempervirens' can you tell me the duration of the flowering of your dioicus?

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Thanks rouge for the compliment on the plants.
There seem to be at least 3 smaller cultivars of A. dioiocus available besides a number of variations native to different areas.
Mine is the straight species native to NJ purchased at a native plant sale. I try to go with straight species if possible since I lean toward a native plant garden.
If I remember correctly it is in bloom for around a month, but it also retains the blooms and they turn brownish but remain decorative if subtle for the whole season.
It starts to bloom some time in mid May with a little overlap with the Amsonia and Penstemon digitalis to early June.
The A. aethusifolius is a non native Korean import and does look more astilbe like.
I really like the big A.dioicus, it has a great presence and looks wonderful at the back of the border. It always amazes me when it appears in the spring and grows to such a size so quickly.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Here's a fuller photo in early June of it blooming with the penstemon and a number of the milkweed budding.

Thumbnail by sempervirens
(Zone 4b)

Lovely photo. I really like the fullness of your garden...so much too look at.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

We've had the Aruncus aethusifolius for 17 years. It makes a nice little clump with finely cut foliage though the flowers are not spectacular. It's at the lower front, slightly left of center, in this photo.

To the right you can spot one (of far too many) astilbes we've had for about the same time. It requires much more dividing than the miniature goat's beard, which has never been divided. There's also a lot more deadheading with the larger astilbes.

The astilbe are more showy but it's hard to beat the miniature goat's beard for a plant that's content in one spot for a very long time.

In the first photo the plants are all in full sun (with a lot of compost and regular watering) and thrive but in a year like last year, with four major heat waves in June and July, they do tend to finish blooming sooner.

The second photo shows some Pumila (low lavender) and another one in partial shade.

Purple Lance is the subject in the third photo and it does very well in morning sun only.

Visions in Red does well in shade or sun (with regular watering).

The last photo was taken at 6:37 AM and gives a totally different look than the cotton candy pink of sun later in the day.

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Decatur, GA(Zone 7b)

Wow, pirl, those are very beautiful plants. Just last year I planted a Misty Lace and an Aruncus dioicus to see how they perform for me here. I have astilbe which comes back every year but doesn't do so well, I think for lace of adequate moisture.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks. If you can make a trench around the astilbe you can add coffee grounds and mix them in lightly with the soil. They retain water and the astilbe will enjoy that.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Until you posted your photos Pirl I forgot I also had the smaller Aruncus aethusifolius in the back shade garden.
It is sweet and short and seems to last a long time in the garden without any care but it makes so little impression I did forget about it.
But I do tend to like bigger bolder natives. Personal preference.
It is a good plant for dry mid shade.

Thumbnail by sempervirens
(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Beautiful photo! True, it doesn't make a big impression but it is easy and it is reliable.

Love that fencing! I could use some to hide the neighbor's canoe and kayak. May I ask where you bought it and how long does it last? I've heard some people say they can only get three years out of their (similar) "fences".

(Zone 4b)

Quote from sempervirens :
It is a good plant for dry mid shade.

There is something to be said for that as a dry shade garden is so problematic.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

pirl, Thanks for the positive comment on the photo.
It's my most Asian influenced garden so the Korean goatsbeard fits right in with the Japanese Maple.
The fencing is willow from Gardeners Supply. It has been in place for about 3 years and still looks ok but I was very careful not to let it touch the ground.
It is tied with Japanese black waxed twine to a chain link fence to hide a dog run.
I have tried using taller split bamboo fencing, purchased from one of the big box stores, also attached to a chain link fence but I added taller bamboo poles to keep it rigid , with less luck. After three years sections of it must be removed.

rouge, yes things that grow in dry shade are important, I like the leaves of epimedium, almost as much as trout lily (some are native for me) and the epimedium grows well in dry shade. The leaves of the type I have are edged in pink and are small but elongated making a group of them look like a school of fish.
The Trout lily does this even better but takes longer to form a group. Years longer.
Carex pensylvanica is a small native grass that grows really well in dry shade.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Oh by the way pirl,the fencing is not entirely opaque as you can see the design of the link fencing behind this photo of the split bamboo fencing and outlines of objects behind.
Willow is the same for moderate see thru in bright light.

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

The JM, the chimes, the Aruncus and the whole setting is very peaceful so you achieved your goal very well.

Thank you, so much, for the information on the fencing. I am hoping it would be distracting enough for my eyes to block the canoe and kayak. If the neighbors think those watercraft are so lovely to look at I think they should move them so they could see them when they look outside and not give me the grand view. I can elevate it and attach the willow to our existing post and rail fencing.

For dry shade I, too, like the epimediums, asarum europeaum, and Melittis melissophylum (pictured here in a garden with a lot of compost but that has no irrigation and only gets rain).

Thumbnail by pirl
(Zone 4b)

Quote from pirl :
Melittis melissophylum (pictured here in a garden with a lot of compost but that has no irrigation and only gets rain).

Very pretty.And a shade plant which seems not to need supplemental watering. I am intriuged.

Can you tell us a bit more about this plant?

- when and for how long does it bloom?

- size?

- hardiness?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)


Zones 6 to 9

May - June (first flower open was May 18th but I didn't keep track of how long it bloomed, sorry!)

Forms a nice, neat, tidy clump.

I think the link said 20" but it seemed a bit shorter to me - maybe 15". This will be year three for it in the garden and I'm hoping for more stems and flowers.

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Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I managed to kill my melittis - but ordered another to try again this spring.
Not sure if it's a humidity thing or just another negligent planticide on my conscience.
We'll see how the new one fares.

I wanted to show a picture of the aruncus I ran across in Iceland last year - talk about a bold statement!
Some of the plants grew so enormous up there - lupine, delphiniums, meconopsis.
I can't grow any of the latter 3 around here. Sigh...

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

You're the one who loved the Melittis and that's why I bought it, Scott. Thank you so much!

Love your photo of the Aruncus.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Wow that hedge of aruncus Weerobin is spectacular. Although the goatsbeard seems to have a wide native range it does seem that
other countries have move respect and know how to showcase native USA plants.
Maybe simply that "Familiarity breeds contempt?"

A very common overlooked native ground cover (tolerates dry shade and is not aggressive) for me is barren strawberry, Waldenstenia fragarioides.

Thumbnail by sempervirens
Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

The barren strawberry(small yellow flowers) looks especially attractive next to native blue wood phlox (phlox divaricata and white flowered native sedum ternatum.
Also pictured are Tiarella, bluets (Houstonia caerulea) wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and violets.
What I tried to do in this section was to have an early spring display, similar to the standard non native daffs underplanted with grape hyacinth and other small early bulbs, using plants (mostly) native to my area.The Fothergilla shrub (Southeast US native) with the fragrant white bottle brush flowers and the hostas are not.

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Decatur, GA(Zone 7b)

Those plants could not be more happy. Very nice.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Thanks back40bean.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

All these posts make me very happy -- just thinking about new plants to try!

(Zone 4b)

I am thinking that a smaller Goatsbeard like the newer "Misty Lace" is too much like a while flowered Astilbe.

Has any DG member grown the larger "Horatio" Aruncus? It sounds interesting.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I wish there was a cheap source for the large Aruncus (or that it could easily be grown from seed) -- I'm still salivating over Weerobin's photo of the Aruncus hedge....

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Hap, I think you'd have to have volcanic soil and Icelandic climate to duplicate it.
Last time I was in MD, I didn't get that 'icelandic' vibe... nor here either, of course.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

LOL -- too true about our climate. But I didn't realize that about Aruncus. I planted an Aruncus many years ago that did great, but it has been gradually declining. I wonder if it is a victim of global warming -- our winters are not nearly as cold as when we first moved here. But of course, there is that matter of volcanic soil -- though sometimes I thought of my kids as peripatetic volcanoes.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

I have a couple different astilbes, and Misty Lace Aruncus, and for me,. the Aruncus really outshines my astibe. I never get a great deal of blooms on my astilbe, and god forbid I let it get a little dry....it gets all crispy and is gone for the rest of the season. My aruncus gets no real direct sun, is in what I think is a pretty dry spot, and yet it blooms profusely year after year and the foliage never gets crisp. I will say that Misty Lace was larger than I expected it to be...maybe a bit too large for my small garden, but I love it.

Here is a pic from last year with Misty Lace in full bloom. AFter it blooms I cut the flowers off so I can see my hostas on the other side. Like I said, the foliage stays nice all season. Oh, I also planted some "dwarf" aruncus in this bed last year, near the fountain. I'll have to see how small that one stays.

Thumbnail by Noreaster
(Zone 4b)

Great picture "Noreaster"....thank you!

How many plants is that "Misty Lace"? It looks spectacular. How many seasons had it been in your garden?

(I recently planted 2 Aruncus "Horatio").

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

It's a group of three....and I can't quite remember how long ago I planted it- maybe four years ago? The foliage is probably a good two feet high and wide, and then the flowers extend another foot over that, I'm guessing.

I have to look up Horatio....not familiar with that.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

What a beautiful shade garden!
If the dwarf aruncus you're referring to is aruncus aethusifolius, it stays very small, just a few inches.
Delicate dissected foliage - you'd need to plant it along the path to see it.
I planted a new aruncus called 'whirlwind' last year.
It has incredibly dissected leaves, but is still a runt - I'm not sure what to make of it yet.
By the way, you obviously have more sophisticated deer in Maine?
Missouri deer would never allow hosta to reach that size!

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the photos! The Misty Lace is lovely.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Weerobin, fortunately the deer do not hop our fence. However, we have a fence along the back property line that is lower and the neighbor behind us cleared out all his trees back there in the last few years. So now he has a wide open back yard leading up to our fence and I'm constantly worrying that deer will meander through his now pastoral yard and decide to hop that fence into our yard. They would have a feast on my hostas and I would probably have a total meltdown.

Interesting that the dwarf Aruncus is so much smaller than the others....I feel like we need one sized between aethusifolius and Misty Lace. Now I have to look up Whirlwind!

(Zone 4b)

Quote from Noreaster :
Interesting that the dwarf Aruncus is so much smaller than the others....I feel like we need one sized between aethusifolius and Misty Lace.

With "Horatio" being a cross between Aruncus aesthusifolius and Aruncus dioicus I am thinking it might be the size you are wanting?

(The height I see on-line is 30 to 40 inches).

Coon Rapids, MN(Zone 4b)

I'm surprised to see Aruncus described as a good plant for dry shade. All the literature I've read indicates that goatsbeard does not do well in dry soil, so I've never tried it.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

I don't know....I do water my beds because of the hosta but I don't think I'm a heavy waterer or else my astilbe wouldn't be so unhappy. My Aruncus is also on a slope and under the canopy of a bull pine so I suspect it's on the dry side there.

Misty Lace looks even bigger this year...I had hoped it would sort of stop expanding to give the hosta some room. I think I will need to divide it to keep the size down.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Here's an unintendedly funny example of how little the dwarf aruncus is.
Here it is blooming it's heart out (lower left of picture) next to a ligularia.
Maybe my siting wasn't optimal...

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Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Here are some pictures of Misty Lace from today- blooming more profusely than ever. I think I have to remove one of the three clumps that is now too crowded between hostas Liberty and Queen of the Seas. That should still leave me with a good sized stand of it. I will give it to my father in law who admired it last year.

The little dwarf aruncus is gearing up to bloom as well. That is quite a contrast, Weerobin!

Thumbnail by Noreaster Thumbnail by Noreaster
Williamstown, NJ(Zone 6b)

I notice that you have these rings around your Hosta. Is that to prevent the voles from eating them?

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