The finely cut, fernlike foliage of dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) is topped with 6-inch clusters of pink-tinted white flowers from early to midsummer. Its compound green leaves might remind you of goatsbeard (Aruncus spp.), which is in the same family.
Dropwort tolerates drier soil than other species of Filipendula, such as queen-of-the-prairie (F. rubra) or meadowsweet (F. ulmaria).
These relatives of dropwort thrive in boggy soil, while dropwort prefers drier, more alkaline soil. Look for cultivars with pretty pink or double white flowers.
Common name: Dropwort
Botanical name: Filipendula vulgaris (F. hexapetala)
Plant type: Perennial
Height: 24 inches tall
Zones: 3 to 8, depending on cultivar
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Grows best in alkaline soil
• Moisture: Dry to medium wet
• Mulch: Apply a 2-inch layer of organic mulch around plants to deter weeds, retain moisture, and keep roots cool.
• Fertilizer: Not necessary
• Pruning: Cut back plants after freezing temperatures in fall or before plants begin to grow in spring.
• ‘Flore Pleno' (pictured), also listed as ‘Multiplex', has double creamy white flowers and dark green, fernlike leaves. Grows 12 to 18 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
• x ‘Kakome' is a dwarf hybrid that grows just 12 inches tall. Zones 3 to 8.
• ‘Rosea' has pink flowers. Grows 24 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
• In cooler climates, dropwort does best in full sun; in warmer climates, afternoon shade is helpful.
• Divide every two to four years to prevent dropwort from crowding out other plants.
• Good as a border at the edge of a shade garden or full-sun garden.
• Combines well with obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), red valerian (Centranthus ruber), and daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.).
Pests and diseases
Powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spot occasionally occur.
• Sow seeds in the fall in a cold frame or in spring when temperatures are about 50ºF to 55ºF.
• Divide in spring or fall.
All in the family
• The rose family (Rosaceae) encompasses about 3,000 species of plants, including herbs, trees, shrubs, and climbing plants. Some of our favorite nuts and fruits come from trees in this family, including almonds, cherries, apples, and pears. Other plants in the family include hybrid roses, goatsbeard (Aruncus spp.), avens (Geum spp.), potentillas, and spireas.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder