How to Plant & Grow Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)


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meadowsweet filipendula ulmaria with white flowers
Meadowsweet produces clusters of small, yet beautiful and sweet-smelling white flowers. Photo by gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0

Filipendula ulmaria is commonly known by several names, including meadowsweet, mead wort, queen of the meadow, lady of the meadow, and bridewort. This beautiful flowering perennial herb is in the family Rosaceae. Its Latin name, ulmaria, means “elm-like,” likely referring to the shape of its leaves.

Meadowsweet has a long history of medicinal, culinary, and ornamental use, such as being used to make mead (hence the name “mead wort”) and being used to decorate churches for weddings (hence the name “bridewort”). Meadowsweet is native to large portions of Europe and Western Asia, but has also become widely naturalized in North America, but be sure to check regulations for your area first as it may be invasive and illegal! This plant produces large clusters of delicate, sweet-smelling white flowers.

Meadowsweet can be a problematic plant at times: although it can be a beautiful addition to some gardens, it can be invasive outside of its native ranges. Even in its native ranges, this can be a dominant plant, earning it the name “queen of the meadow” or “queen of the prairie” in some areas. There are several other plants also commonly known as meadowsweet, which can cause confusion at times. This is why it’s important to check the Latin name before purchasing.

Facts, Benefits & Uses of Meadowsweet

uses and benefits of meadowsweet
Traditionally, meadowsweet was used to make digestive tonics and mead.

Meadowsweet produces large clusters of small cream-colored flowers. This species can be a beautiful addition to a wetland or pond garden, ideally in its native ranges in Europe and Asia. Meadowsweet was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant and has gained somewhat of a reputation there as an invasive species. This species is quite hardy, and can sometimes outcompete native vegetation, taking over important habitat.

Meadowsweet has been used throughout history as a medicinal plant. In fact, it contains large amounts of salicylic acid, the same component found in willow bark and aspirin. To this day, some people use meadowsweet as an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid, although these uses have not been well studied. Celtic druids considered this plant to be sacred.

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Meadowsweet Fact Sheet:
PLANT TYPE
Herbaceous Perennial
HARDINESS ZONES
USDA 3 – 9
LIGHT REQUIREMENTS
Full sun to partial shade
BLOOM COLOR
White, cream
BLOOM PERIOD
June – September (Summer)
MAXIMUM GROWTH
Height .6-1.2 m (≈2-4 ft.)
PLANTING DEPTH
Place seeds ¼ inch below soil surface
WATER QUALITY
pH 5.5 – 7.5

Meadowsweet Growth, Hardiness & Climate

A field of meadowsweet that has become invasive
Outside of its native range, meadowsweet is invasive and can quickly overtake native plants.

Meadowsweet grows fairly quickly and is fairly low maintenance in general. However, it is drought intolerant, and must have consistent access to plenty of water. In nature, meadowsweet can often be found growing in damp meadows, as well as along the margins of ponds and streams.  

Overall, meadowsweet grows easily without intervention. This plant does best in a wetland environment, or on the margins of a pond. Meadowsweet is a perennial and can survive winters in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. Blooming typically occurs from June through September, and this plant’s white clusters of blooms are a beautiful ornamental addition to gardens. Meadowsweet flowers can also be great options as cut flowers indoors. In fact, meadowsweet flowers were once commonly used to spread over floors, with Queen Elizabeth I often being said to have favored it over other plants.


How to Plant Meadowsweet In Ponds

how to plant meadowsweet in ponds
Meadowsweet prefers to moist, rich soils on the edges of ponds. Photo by Meneerke bloem, CC BY-SA 3.0

In general, meadowsweet seeds are dependent on cold stratification in order to grow, meaning that they require a period of cold weather in order to emerge from dormancy. Gently press seeds just under the surface of the soil in autumn. There is no need to water the seeds yet, as they will not germinate until spring arrives. However, be sure to keep the soil moist once your seeds sprout.

If growing meadowsweet from an already established plant, simply bury the roots up to the crown of the stem in rich soil. This plant does best in moist, well-drained soils.


How to Care For Meadowsweet

filipendula ulmaria with white flowers in a field
Simply ensure meadowsweet has ample moisture, and it’ll do well!

Meadowsweet does best when exposed to partial sun, although it is somewhat shade tolerant. The most important factor in caring for meadowsweet is ensuring that it has access to plenty of water. Planting meadowsweet near the margins of your pond is a great way to make sure it has access to thoroughly damp soil.


How to Winter Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet is native to northern areas with cold winters, and as a result is able to survive cold weather without much difficulty. In fact, it is important that this plant is grown in areas with cold winters because its seeds rely on cold stratification to sprout in the spring. There is no need for any special treatment to prepare meadowsweet for winter when grown in its native hardiness zones. If growing outside of meadowsweet’s native hardiness zones, please consider whether this plant is invasive in your area. Some areas in the United States, for example, consider meadowsweet to be quite invasive.


Is Meadowsweet Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?

Meadowsweet can be invasive outside its native areas and is even prohibited in some locations. It can sometimes take over habitat from other plant species, which can be problematic for native ecosystems. If you are set on growing meadowsweet in your pond or garden, be sure to plant it in pots and remove dead flower heads before they go to seed in order to prevent spreading.

Meadowsweet is not considered to be toxic, and in fact has a long history of being consumed by humans for a variety of reasons.


Is Meadowsweet Edible? Will Fish Eat it?

Meadowsweet is edible, and has been used throughout history for culinary and medicinal purposes. One significant way that meadowsweet has been used is as an ingredient in making mead. Mead, made from fermented honey and water, does not require meadowsweet, but it was a common addition at one point, and is still sometimes used to this day.

Pond fish will likely not get the chance to eat meadowsweet, as it is not a fully aquatic plant, but they should not experience any ill effects if they do try to eat it.


Where to Buy Meadowsweet & Seeds? (UK & US)

Meadowsweet is easily obtained from plant nurseries in Europe and Asia, both in person and online. Elsewhere, you may have to order it online if you are set on having it in your garden. Keep in mind that if you are in North America, this plant may be prohibited in your area. As always, try to plant native species in your pond or garden whenever possible.

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