Be The First On Your Block to Grow American Spikenard!
Here’s something new for your shady garden: American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa).
This is a big woodland perennial native to a large swath of Eastern and Central North America, from Quebec to Manitoba and from Georgia to Texas.
American Spikenard has been growing in my garden for two summers and so far I am pleased with it. It is a big plant growing up to 5′ tall, though mine is under 3′ this year. It has dark stems and bold, heart-shaped leaflets.
In mid-summer it has interesting-looking racemes of tiny greenish white flowers. While the individual flowers may not look like much to most people, they do attract a variety of native bees, including some really tiny ones.
Later in the summer there are berries that I think are extremely ornamental as they turn from green to purple. The berries are attractive to birds.
A virtue of American Spikenard is that it can take over after ephemeral spring flowers have faded away. Also, it is supposed to be quite adaptable as to soil. It likes moist, fertile woodlands best, but a variety of sources say it will grow (less imposingly) in dryer and leaner locations.
I grow pots and pots of Marigolds (Tagetes patula) and Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), so I am not a plant snob. However, this plant is really underused, and there is an innocent pleasure in growing an unfamiliar plant that will excite questions from your gardening friends and neighbors – as happened with American Spikenard when my garden was on the Wild Ones tour.
This provides one last reason, if you need one, to give this woodland wildling a try.