People know about know bedstraw, cornwort or woodruff as an artificial aroma in sherbet powder, but there is a lot of power in the small plant. We introduce you to the aromatic wild plant in more detail.

Growth type
  • Perennial plant
  • rhizome
Growth height (from)
from 20 cm to 30 cm
Growth width (from)
from 15 cm to 60 cm
Growth characteristics
  • flat growing
  • foothills
Flower color
  • white
Flowering time (month)
  • April to June
Flower shape
  • corymbus grapes
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • narrow elliptical
  • semi-shade to shady
Soil type
  • loamy
Soil Moisture
  • fresh to moderately humid
ph value
  • alkaline
Lime compatibility
  • lime-loving
Nutrient requirements
  • moderately nutritious to nutrient-rich
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • Bark decoration
  • medicinal plant
  • non-toxic
Winter Hardness
  • hardy
  • ground cover
  • Group planting
  • Planters
  • Underplanting
  • Wilderness
Garden style
  • natural garden
  • Park area
  • Pot garden
  • Forest Garden
Bee Friendly
bee friendly plant

It has many names and has long been popular as a herb and medicinal plant in cooking and medicine: the fragrant bedstraw (Galium odoratum). Many people only know the woodruff from sherbat powder and jelly, or as an ingredient in the famous May wine. But the spicy herb was used in a large number of products in olden times. For a long time the woodruff had a prominent position in medicinal plants in folk medicine. The shrub is characterized by its wide distribution, easy processing and a wide range of applications. Because of its strong side effects, especially if the dosage is incorrect, woodruff has only recently been used in small doses.


The woodruff, widespread in the temperate climate, is one of the cleaver’s herbs (Galium) from the red family (Rubiaceae). It grows mainly in the cool forest regions of Europe and Asia, preferably in beech forests, where it covers large open areas and is about 5.90 to 23.62 inches wide and 7.87 to 11.81 inches high. It grows compactly and forms loose, floor-covering carpets. The root excretions displace the weeds around the planting area.


The leaves of the woodruff are narrow, elliptical and stand in whorls around the stems. They sprout early and have a fresh green color that they keep for a long time. The leaves are fragrant, and when dry they feel like paper.

Woodruff leaves
The Woodruff's leaves are arranged in whorls and give off an aromatic scent

Woodruff blooms between April and June in small, white, star-shaped flower umbels, depending on the location. The plant is mainly pollinated by bees and some leaf and bedstraw species.


The Woodruff's fruits ripen in midsummer from June to September. The 0.07 to 0.11 inches small round partial fruits are provided with long bristles, which attaches to fur, clothing and plumage as Velcro fruits. In this way, the seeds of the woodruff are spread over long distances.

Location and Soil

Woodruff is - as the name suggests - a forest plant. It loves lime-rich, humus-rich, loose soil and partially shaded to fully shaded places under trees. If you want to grow woodruff in the garden or on the balcony, you should also choose the location in the shade and water the plant generously. The substrate should be loose, well drained and rich in nutrients. Woodruff is fully winter-hardy.


If you want to raise woodruff via seeds, you have to sow the cold germinatorin winter. Sow in shallow bowls with potting soil or herb soil and place the container outdoors, protected from rain and snow. The soil must be kept evenly moist until germination. In spring you can prick out the plants in small pots and later plant them on the spot. No-till sowing is less time-consuming, but only works if the soil is weed-free.

Planting and Care

Young woodruff plants that you have sown itself or that you have grown in the herb nursery can be planted out in spring. In the right location, the plant reproduces itself through its fine rhizomes and forms large carpets over the years. Especially in the garden this can lead to an unwanted spread of the frost-hardy plant, so you should always keep an eye on the woodruff! The woodruff should be watered regularly on hot days. Woodruff is harvested right before or during flowering in early summer. Cut off the stems above the ground, rinse the plant briefly, pat dry and use either fresh or dried. The plant grows slowly in fall. Then a protective layer of leaves can be piled over it during the winter months.

Use in the garden and kitchen

In the garden, the half-height woodruff shrub is mainly used in the herb garden and for planting borders. Woodruff is also an ideal groundcover for shady, humus-rich garden areas under trees and bushes. Once planted, the shrub spreads by itself with its thin, underground rhizomes. It should not be missing in natural gardens, because it is an important forage plant for the caterpillars of various moths.

Woodruff flower carpet
From May, the woodruff forms white, delicately scented flower carpets in partially shaded to fully shaded garden areas

The typical woodruff fragrance builds through chemical processes only when the plants are dried. The large amount of coumarin (about one percent of the dry matter) is responsible for the smell, which can lead to dizziness, headaches and even liver damage if overdosed on it. In low doses, however, woodruff has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, vasodilating and calming effects and is therefore used in folk medicine and homeopathy. Only whole leaves must be used - do not cut woodruff into small pieces! Woodruff tea is used hot or cold in moderation, especially against headaches and migraines. When used externally, fresh woodruff leaves help in wound healing. The rennet in it is used as an acidulant for cheese production. If you just want to enjoy the typical woodruff scent, you can make your own fragrant filling for scented pillows from dried woodruff together with sage or lavender that also keeps moths away.


If you want to propagate woodruff specifically, you can divide older plants in spring or fall. To do this, you cut off several plants and their roots with a hand shovel.

Diseases and Pests

The forest plant is extremely robust and has practically no natural enemies. If the growth is poor, the location and soil quality should be checked.

Woodruff taste
May wine
Woodruff punch, also called May wine, is made from slightly dried leaves of the woodruff, wine, champagne and some sugar

Popular dishes and drinks with woodruff root are May wine, Berliner Weisse, lemonade, soda, ice cream and jelly. Most of the industrially used woodruff flavors are based on chemically produced 6-methylcoumarin. However, due to the controversial effect, the maximum levels in food are now strictly regulated. The flavoring of sweets and lemonade for children with coumarin is now banned in Germany. Pregnant women should completely avoid woodruff. By the way: The well-known bright green color of woodruff products does not come from the plant, but from artificially added dye. Freshly prepared woodruff syrup is colorless.