Content Detail

Sweet woodruff is a delicate-looking ground cover with tiny white flowers in spring. When crushed, the foliage has the smell of newly mown hay.

  • Family (English) Madder
  • Family (botanic) Rubiaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Creeping
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and method of spreading: 

Sweet woodruff grows about 6 to 10 inches high and is a trailing-rooting ground cover. Trailing-rooting ground covers have trailing stems that spread out from a central root system. These stems spread out horizontally over the ground and can root where they come in contact with the soil. New shoots will be formed at the point where rooting occurs.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to Europe and Asia.

Leaf description: 

The small leaves are arranged in whorls of six to eight and give the appearance of the spokes of a wagon wheel. Leaves smell of newly mown hay when crushed or cut.

Flower description: 

The tiny white flowers are held in loose clusters on upright stems. Flowering occurs in mid to late spring. The flowers are mildly fragrant.

Fruit description: 

Fruit are small and dry; not ornamentally important.

Plant care:

Consistency in watering is necessary for sweet woodruff. If water is not available during dry times, the plant may dieback to the ground. It grows best in rich loamy soils but will tolerate sand and clay. This ground cover grows well under trees.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

No common serious problems. Resistant to deer and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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