How to Plant and Grow Goatsbeard

Add height and airiness to your shade garden with this easy-care perennial.

Often mistaken for its lookalike astilbe, goatsbeard is a shade plant from an entirely different plant family. Goatsbeard belongs to the tiny genus Aruncus which comprises only two widely accepted species names. These herbaceous perennials are native to the northern hemisphere in North America, Europe, and Asia and relatively easy to grow without much attention. Their fernlike foliage and wispy white blooms lend airiness to gardens and look especially stunning en masse. Its flowers attract butterflies and bees. 

Goatsbeard is either male or female, with the wispy cream blooms of the male plants being showier. Most are not sold as male or female, so if you're looking for one or the other, shop for goatsbeard when it's in bloom.

Goatsbeard Overview

Genus Name Aruncus
Common Name Goatsbeard
Additional Common Names Buck's beard , Bride's feathers
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 1 to 6 feet
Width 1 to 4 feet
Flower Color White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Where to Plant Goatsbeard

Goatsbeard is a plant that should be placed in a location with partial shade or dappled light and the soil is moist and acidic to neutral. A woodland setting is ideal. Because they aren't particularly colorful, goatsbeard makes a good foil for other brightly colored plants in a shade garden. The non-dwarf types can get up to 6 feet tall, which makes them a good choice if you want to add height to a shade garden.

How and When to Plant Goatsbeard

Goatsbeard can be planted in the spring so it has the entire growing season to get established, or in the early fall, at least six weeks before the average first frost date so that it can get its roots established before the ground freezes.

Dig a hole that is at least twice as wide as the root system and has the same depth. Place the goatsbeard in the hole and backfill with the original soil. Gently tamp it down and water well. Goatsbeard does best when the soil is moist at all times but keeping the soil moist is especially important during the establishment period of the plant.

Plant standard-size goatsbeard 3 to 6 feet apart. Dwarf varieties can be planted closer, 12 to 16 inches apart.

Goatsbeard Care Tips


Goatsbeard plants like part shade and need shelter from the hot afternoon sun. They can only tolerate full sun in the northern range of their hardiness.

Soil and Water

Goatsbeard prefers woodland conditions, so the soil needs to be kept moist. If dry soil, the leaves will burn, becoming dry and crisp on the edges. Plenty of organic matter in the soil helps the plants thrive, so if your soil lacks this, amend it with peat moss and compost before planting. This also allows the soil to retain water and keep your goatsbeard happy. The soil pH should be acidic to alkaline, between 6.0 and 7.0.

Temperature and Humidity

Goatsbeard are plants of the northern hemisphere and as such are well adapted to cold, even subzero winters. They can tolerate hot, humid summers as long as they're in a location where they are sheltered from the burning sun.


The plant does not need a lot of fertilizer and is quite happy if planted in rich soil with plenty of organic matter. But if the soil is on the less fertile side, in the spring, scatter a complete slow-release granular fertilizer around the plant base, according to product label instructions.


While deadheading is not required, cutting the stems back after the bloom encourages bushier growth for the rest of the season. However, if you like the look of the spent flower stalks—and if you don’t mind that they can flop over and might look messy on some of the taller varieties—leave them on the plants. 

Potting and Repotting Goatsbeard

If you want to grow goatsbeard in containers, choose a dwarf variety, as the towering regular-size goatsbeard are prone to topple over. Select a container with large drainage holes that fits the root ball plus at least 2 inches to accommodate future growth. Fill it with a combination of well-draining potting mix and compost. Keep in mind that potted plants, unlike plants in the landscape, require more frequent watering and fertilization.

Once the roots of the goatsbeard fill the pot, or grow out of the drainage holes, report it in a large pot with a fresh potting mix/compost combination.

Pests and Problems 

Goatsbeard is not bothered by any major pests or diseases and is considered deer-resistant.

 How to Propagate Goatsbeard

If you leave the spent flowers on the plant and let them go into seed, goatsbeard might reseed itself. But if you do not want to count on that, you can divide them to make more plants. In the spring, dig out the entire clump. Cut it into sections so that each section has at least one growth point (a bumpy spot also called “eye”) on each section. Replant the sections at the same depth as the original plant.

Types of Goatsbeard


Goatsbeard Aruncus dioicus
Marty Baldwin

Aruncus dioicus bears tall plumes of feathery white blooms on plants that can reach 6 feet tall. Plants sometimes self-sow, but not enough to become weedy. Leave seed heads on plants for winter interest. Zones 3-7

Dwarf Goatsbeard

Dwarf Goatsbeard Aruncus aethusifolius plant
Blaine Moats

Aruncus aethusifolius is a diminutive Japanese form that grows just 8 to 12 inches tall and blooms two weeks earlier than goatsbeard. Its ivory flowers are perfect for edging a path in a shady border. Zones 4-8

'Kneifii' Goatsbeard

Kneifii goatsbeard Aruncus dioicus
Marty Baldwin

Aruncus dioicus 'Kneifii' is a great choice for small yards because it grows to only 3 feet tall and has 18-inch-long plumes of creamy white flowers. Zones 3-7

Goatsbeard Companion Plants


Green and White Hostas In Bloom
Julie Maris Semarco

Hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners—it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall. Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shaped leaves almost 2 feet long. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant.

Perennial Geranium

Purple Geranium Rozanne
Justin Hancock

One of the longest bloomers in the garden, the hardy geranium bears little flowers for months at a time. It produces jewel-tone, saucer-shaped flowers and mounds of handsome, lobed foliage. It needs full sun and is a tough and reliable plant, thriving in a wide assortment of soils. Many of the best are hybrids. Perennial geraniums may form large colonies.

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon fern
Celia Pearson

Tall and elegant, these ferns look great during the spring and summer, thanks to their green fronds, but also in fall and winter when their upright reproductive fronds stand in the snow. They are excellent in damp soils and look especially at home beside ponds and streams. They may colonize large areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does goatsbeard spread?

    The plant slowly spreads from its rhizomes, but it is by no means a fast spreader.

  • Do you cut back goatsbeard in the fall?

    That’s optional. You can cut the stems back just above the ground in the fall or leave them for winter interest and cut them back in the spring to make room for the new growth.

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