Plant Spotlight: Galium odoratum

What It Is

Sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum,  is a spreading groundcover native throughout Europe. As its name suggests, it is a sweet-smelling plant found primarily in woodlands. The scent grows stronger when dried, which has made sweet woodruff a popular potpourri for centuries. Its leaves were traditionally used as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, and it is still used as a flavoring in some European products.

Sweet woodruff's foliage will lighten in part to full sun.

Sweet woodruff's foliage will lighten in part to full sun.

Why to Grow It

Sweet woodruff is a fragrant, delicate groundcover for shady areas, and it requires very little maintenance. Although sweet woodruff will spread indefinitely under the right conditions, it is generally not considered invasive in the Inland Northwest. It responds well to control measures, unlike some popular groundcover options. In addition to being an attractive addition to the landscape, sweet woodruff can be harvested and dried to bring its fragrance indoors.

Where to Put It

Galium odoratum thrives in damp shade, to the point that it will easily naturalize in those conditions. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your setting and needs. Its growth is more restrained in dry shade, and it can even tolerate full sun, though it may go dormant in the summer without some shade. Deep shade will also intensify the dark green color of sweet woodruff’s leaves.