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Sweet Woodruff Herb Plants


Picture of sweet woodruff growing under a tree.

Picture of sweet woodruff growing under a tree.

David Beaulieu

Taxonomy of Sweet Woodruff:

Plant taxonomy classifies sweet woodruff plants as Galium odoratum. The specific epithet, odoratum, is descriptive of sweet woodruff's aromatic quality.

Plant Type:

Sweet woodruff plants are herbs used as ground covers.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Sweet Woodruff:

Sweet woodruff herbs are perennials for planting zones 4-8.


These ground covers bear clusters of small, white star-shaped blooms and reach 8"-12" in height (with a slightly greater width). Foliage takes the form of whorls of lance-shaped, dark green leaves.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Sweet Woodruff:

Sweet woodruff prefers shade and a well-drained, slightly acidic, soil. Sweet woodruff plants will grow more vigorously with regular watering, but this will also result in their spread (perhaps to areas where they are not welcome). If you wish to keep sweet woodruff herb plants contained within a certain space, cut back on watering.

Uses in Landscaping and Beyond:

Use sweet woodruff plants as a ground cover for shady areas in the landscape, as this plant will spread out to form a mat and choke out weeds. However, sweet woodruff's use doesn't end when the growing season ends. In former times, sweet woodruff herbs were commonly harvested and used for medicinal and culinary purposes. E.g., the fresh leaves were used medicinally to heal wounds. Nowadays, we more often value this herb as a fragrant plant. It lends a fragrance to linens, sachets and potpourris.

Caveat in Growing Sweet Woodruff:

Sweet woodruff herbs can be invasive. However, they won't spread if grown in dry soil (see above under "Sun and Soil Requirements"). Since many plants perform poorly in dry shade, this sturdy customer offers a solution for spots on the landscape plagued by such conditions.


The intensity of the fragrance of sweet woodruff's foliage increases when dried, and its aromatic quality lasts for years. It is, consequently, a favorite in potpourris and wreaths. The fragrance of sweet woodruff herbs has been variously described as resembling new-mown hay or vanilla.

For optimal fragrance, harvest the leaves of sweet woodruff right after the plants bloom. The harvested branches can be tied in bunches and hung in a warm, dark place to dry.

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