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Sweet woodruff

Sweet woodruff in flower.

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.

Botanical name:

Galium odoratum

All common names:

Sweet woodruff, bedstraw, sweet-scented bedstraw, woodruff

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • late spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Creeping

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

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.

Plant Care

Consistency in watering is necessary for this plant.  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.

Disease, pests, and problems

No common serious problems.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to deer and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe and Asia.

Leaf description

The small leaves are arranged in whorls or 6 to 8 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.



Location of Galium odoratum (Sweet woodruff) at the Arboretum