By Heather Rhoades
An often forgotten herb, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) can be a valuable addition to the garden, particularly shade gardens. Sweet woodruff herb was originally grown for the fresh smell the leaves give off and was used as a kind of air freshener. It also has some medicinal uses, though as always you should check with a doctor before using any medical herb. It is also an edible plant that is said to taste somewhat of vanilla.
Today, sweet woodruff is most commonly used as a ground cover in shady areas. Sweet woodruff ground cover, with its star shaped whorls of leaves and lacy white flowers, can add interesting texture and spark to a deeply shaded part of the garden. Sweet woodruff care is easy and taking the time to plant sweet woodruff is well worth the effort.
How to Grow Sweet Woodruff Herb
Sweet woodruff herb should be planted in a shady area. They like moist but well draining soil that is rich in organic material from things like decomposing leaves and branches, but will also grow in dry soils. It grows in zones 4-8.
Sweet woodruff spreads by runners. In moist soil, it can spread very quickly and can become invasive in the right conditions. It is often recommended that you plant sweet woodruff ground cover in an area that you would not mind seeing naturalized by sweet woodruff. You can also keep sweet woodruff under control by spade edging around the bed yearly. Spade edging is done by driving a spade into the soil on the edge of the flower bed that you are growing sweet woodruff in. This will severe the runners. Remove any sweet woodruff plants that are outside the bed.
After the plants are established, growing sweet woodruff is very simple. It does not need to be fertilized and should only be watered in times of drought. Sweet woodruff care is just that easy.
Sweet Woodruff Propagation
Sweet woodruff is most often propagated by division. You can dig up clumps from an established patch and transplant them.
Sweet woodruff can also be propagated by seed. Sweet woodruff seeds can be planted directly into the soil in the spring or can be started indoors up to 10 weeks before your area’s last frost date.
To direct sow sweet woodruff, in early spring simply spread the seeds over the area that you wish to grow them and lightly cover the area with sifted soil or peat moss. Then water the area.
To start sweet woodruff indoors, spread the seeds evenly in the growing container and lightly cover the top with peat moss. Water the container and then place it into your refrigerator for 2 weeks. After you have chilled the sweet woodruff seeds, place them in a cool, lighted area (50 F.), such as a basement or an unheated, attached garage to germinate. Once they have germinated, you can move the sweet woodruff seedlings to a warmer location.