In this post we cover some of the best Thalictrums to grow in your garden, as well as running through the key points you need to know in order to help your Thalictrums thrive.
Commonly known as the Meadow Rue, Thalictrums are herbaceous perennial plants and typically have fine blue-green or green foliage of various sizes, with delicate small flowers held aloft above the leaf stems.
There are estimated to be in excess of 120 species of Thalictrum, with multiple varieties and cultivars of the most popular species. Some Thalictrums grow to 2 metres or more in height, while others are small alpine plants.
Thalictrum planting notes
Ranunculaceae – the Buttercup family
Prefers partial or dappled shade. Can thrive in sun in cooler climates.
Taller species grow up to 2m tall and 50cm wide. Smaller species 15cm x 30cm. See individual notes below.
Thalictrum plant calendar
Sow seeds: Feb, March, April, Oct
Plant Out: April, May, June
Flowers: July, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov.
Uses of Thalictrum
Even the tallest Thalictrums are not big or bulky plants. They are not plants that dominate the border like a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) or a Canna. Instead, with their frothy flowers and subtle foliage, Thalictrums bring kind of harmony to the planting, tying together the rest of the display.
Below, you can see how I used Thalictrum delavayi in a mixed border, where it works well towering above the pink Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) and in contrast to the yellow and orange Rudbeckias.
I used Thalictrum delavayi again in this urban garden (below). This was a a north facing garden in London, which was in shade for around half the day in summer. The Thalictrum thrived.
As you can see, the planting style in this garden was semi-tropical, with tree ferns, bananas, Cannas and Melianthus major. But, despite the contrast with the big-leaved tropicals – or perhaps because of it, the Thalictrum shines, adding an accent of cool blue to the scheme,
Those examples both feature Thalictrum delavayi, but there are plenty of other Thalictrum species and cultivars to choose from. Here are ten of the best Thalictrums for you to consider growing in your garden.
Thalictrum aquilegiifolium is one of the most popular species of Thalictrum. Given its name, you won’t be surprised to read that it has attractive foliage much like that of Aquilegia. It has lovely showy pinky/purpleish flowers and grows up to about 1.4m (4.5 feet) tall. There are a number of different varieties of T. aquilegiifolium, including ‘Thundercloud’ that has dark stems, as well as a white variety: ‘Album’.
Thalictrum kiusianum, also known as the dwarf meadow rue, works as a very effective ground cover plant. It does well in partial shade and will spread over time. It reaches around 15cm (6 inches) in height and has dainty pink flowers and delicate foliage.
My favourite, Thalictrum delavayi, has wonderful delicate foliage that resembles the maidenhair fern. It prefers partial shade, but takes some sun. Planted among other perennials, the subtle pink blue flowers with multiple yellow stamens froth above their stems, adding a hazy ethereal look. Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitts Double’ is even frothier.
Thalictrum delavayi, can grow up to 2m ( 6 feet) tall, but other varieties such as Thalictrum delavayi ‘Splendide White’ are significantly shorter (up to 60cm, or 2 feet).
Thalictrum flavum is an interesting yellow spiky flowered meadow rue, which still grows wild in many places. It will be happier in sun and drier soil than many of the other species of Thalictrum and looks good amongst other taller boarder plants. It will grow to about 1.5m (5 feet), but can be delicate and may need to be staked.
Thalictrum flavum ‘Glauca’ has bluish foliage. Whilst the outstanding variety ‘Tukker Princess’ has purple, green and pink stripe stems and can grow to up to 3m (9 feet) tall, with fluffy plumes of yellow flowers.
Thalictrum minus is one the smaller Thalictrums, growing up to 60cm (2 feet tall). Grow in the middle of the border but give it some room to expand into as it will form a nice clump. It can tolerate full sun or partial shade and prefers moist well drained soil. It has creamy white flowers with yellow stamens and tri-lobed attractive leaves.
Thalictrum filamentosum is another mid-sized variety, growing to about 60cm (2 feet). It needs moist rich soil and is suited to partial or dappled shade shade. The best feature of this species is that it will flower over a long period from mid-Spring to early Autumn. The flowers themselves are white and starry and really shine out in a shady spot.
Thalictrum ichagense is one of the smaller Thalictrums, growing up to 30cm (1 foot tall). It grows well in partial shade and flowers from May until mid-summer. Flowers are a shade of lilac and the reddish green foliage of some forms is particularly attractive.
Thalictrum tuberiferum is native to mountainous regions of Japan and typically found at the forest margins. It is therefore one of the alpine species of Thalictrum and will grow well in full or partial shade. Another of the Thalictrums with starry white flowers, it will grow to 60 to 70 cm (around 2 feet) tall and will thrive in most re well drained soils.
Thalictrum urbainii is low growing Thalictrum species that is native to Japan. It reaches up to 30 cm (1 foot) tall and has deep green leaves on thin stems. Its white flowers are held above the leaves and have a ring of sepals at the base, broader than those of many Thalictrums, with familiar thin needle like petals. In some varieties, like the one pictured above, there is a hint of pink in the flower colour.
This is a good garden plant, if you can find it, somewhat similar to Thalictrum ichangense. Each flower lasts for a few weeks and multiple flowers are produced over the season. It does well in partial shade on well drained soil.
Also known as the lavender mist meadow rue, Thalictrum rochebraunianum grows to about 90cm (3 feet) tall. It has finely divided bluey green leaves and pink and, in some varieties, white flowers with distinctive yellow stamens. A nice clump forming and versatile plants, ideal for mixed borders.
How do you take care of Thalictrum?
Thalictrums are fairly easy to take care of. Most varieties just require moist but well-drained soil in partial or dappled shade. The biggest problem I have experienced with Thalictrums is when I have mistakenly planted them in a space where the soil dries out and the sun is too strong. The result was scorched foliage and an unhappy plant, although it recovered when moved to a more suitable position.
Thalictrums are hardy perennials. This means the foliage will die off in winter and regrow the following spring. You can cut back the foliage as it becomes untidy in autumn, but keep a note of where the plant is, because it is easy to damage it if planting bulbs or doing other work in the border when it is dormant.
How are Thalictrums grown from seed?
It is easy to grow Thalictrums from seed, but the seed does not remain viable for very long. Therefore if you collect the seed from you plants in Autumn, sow them straight away. They can be slow to germinate so be patient.
Can Thalictrums be divided?
Yes. Wait until you have a decent sized clump and then dig up and divide it into separate parts in early Spring. If the divisions are big enough you can plant them back into the border. Otherwise, pot them up and grown them on until they have re-established a good root system.
Does Thalictrum grow in shade?
Most Thalictrum prefer partial or dappled shade, rather than deep shade. Some varieties, Thalictrum flavum for example, can stand a more sunny spot.
Is Thalictrum invasive?
Thalictrum doesn’t spread invasively by creeping roots or rhizomes. But, it can spread around a fair bit by self-seeding. The key to preventing this is to dead head the flowers before they set seed.
If some seeds do get away, it is easy to spot their distinctive foliage as they germinate. You can then decide if you want to leave them, pull them up or move them to a new spot where you do want them to grow.
When should Thalictrum be planted?
Thatlictrums are best planted out in spring and early summer.
What do you do with Thalictrums after flowering?
If you want to prevent the seeds from spreading new plants, remove the flower heads as soon as they have finished flowering.
Thalictrums are fantastic and easy to grow border perennial which, with the right conditions can be used in many different types of planting schemes. Here we feature a selection of the best Thalictrums, but there are plenty more varieties to choose from that are worth searching out.
Thalicturm ichagense: Peganum from Henfield, England, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commonsw.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do, via Wikimedia Commons.
Thalictrum tuberiferum: Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Thalictrum revolutum: Steve Waslo, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Thalictrum urbanii: KENPEI, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Thalictrum rochebraunianum: Michael Wolf, Penig, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.