How to care for Galium odoratum

How to care for Galium odoratum

Species: Galium odoratum

Common name: Sweet woodruff, woodruff, wild baby’s breath, bedstraw, sweet-scented bedstraw

Plant Overview

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a creeping, mat-forming perennial that is commonly used as a ground cover in shady areas. It bears pretty clusters of white, star-shaped flowers in the spring and has very fragrant, lance-shaped, dark green leaves. Sweet woodruff is exceptionally easy to grow and readily adapts to a wide range for soil and moisture conditions. It is a deer-resistant plant and is considered one of the few rabbit-proof flowers.

How to care for Galium odoratum


Plant typePerennial herb
Mature size6 to 12 inches tall with a spread of 9 to 18 inches
Sun exposurePart shade to full shade
Soil typeMedium to wet and well-drained
Soil PH4.8 to 8.3 (tolerates a wide range)
Bloom timeApril and May
Hardiness zones4 to 8, USA
Native areaEurope, Northern Africa, Northern Asia

How to grow

Sweet woodruff grows prolifically when planted in average, well-drained soil with medium to wet moisture. It quickly spreads by creeping roots and self-seeding and can end up becoming too aggressive in some gardens if the conditions are ideal. Controlling the plant might require periodic mowing with a lawnmower set at a high blade height.

The plant can suffer in conditions that are too hot and dry, requiring water to resurrect it. However, withholding water also can be a means of taming its spread. It is generally a suitable ground cover for dry shade, and even full-blown drought rarely kills the plant. Furthermore, sweet woodruff typically has no serious issues with diseases or pests.


Sweet woodruff grows well in full shade to partial shade, particularly when it is planted under trees. Full sun, especially when it’s at its brightest in the middle of summer, can scorch the leaves.


The plant tolerates a wide range of conditions, though it prefers consistent moisture, good drainage, and a slightly acidic pH. It does best in rich, loamy soil, but it also will grow in clay and sandy soil.

Temperature and humidity

This plant thrives in the various climate conditions found throughout its hardiness range, and it has even been known to push its boundaries to chillier northern climates slightly out of its range. But in very hot temperatures, sweet woodruff might go temporarily dormant, though it readily returns once conditions moderate.


Sweet woodruff generally requires no feeding. But a new plant might benefit from an all-purpose fertilizer to help it get started, especially if soil conditions are poor


This plant is easily propagated simply by digging up sections with the roots attached and replanting these clumps in new locations. Aim to choose sections that have had at least a couple years to become established. The best time to do this is in the spring or fall.

Sweet woodruff also can be propagated from seed, but this is rarely done because root division is so easy. If you wish to use seeds, wait to gather them until they fully ripen in July or August. Then, either sow them directly into the ground in early spring or start them indoors up to 10 weeks before your area’s last frost.