All the Dirt on Gardening: Gooseneck Loosestrife

Gooseneck Loosestrife is a shade loving perennial that evokes and emotional response among gardeners.

Gooseneck Loosestrife, Lysmachia clethroides, is one of those plants that generates an emotional reaction among gardeners, with responses ranging from appreciation to a level of dread akin to seeing Frankenstein on Halloween. This maligned Lysmachia came from China and Japan and loves the growing conditions in the United States so much that it enthusiastically spreads out its rhizomes throughout the beds where it lives.

It is a perennial that disappears during the winter and returns double its size the next spring. The plants are 2 or 3 feet tall and have a characteristic plume of flowers in June or July, depending on where in its zone 3 to 8 range it is growing.

In a wild or difficult shady to partial-shade location the white flowers light up the darkness, and experienced gardeners understand that they may have to control its spread each spring by removing plants that stray from their intended spot.

They prefer moist soil and thrive near ponds or wet meadows and naturalize there. They are less likely to be as aggressive if planted against a structure or in dry conditions.

In “Plant This Instead,” plant enthusiast Troy Marden urges gardeners to plant White Longleaf Icicle Spike Speedwell, Veronica spicata longifolia, and Culver’s Root, Veronicastrum virginicum, instead of Loosestrife because both are native plants that feed pollinators and are better behaved in the garden.

Icicle Spike Speedwell is hardy from zones 3 to 9, grows about 2 feet tall and has spikes of white flowers. Veronica’s flower spikes last a long time as cut flowers. The plants form bushy clumps that can be pruned mid-summer. They tolerate all soil types, partial shade or full sun. They are deer and rabbit resistant. They are named for Saint Veronica.

Culver’s Root can easily be grown from seed as well as plants (prairie moon.com). The plants can grow as tall as 5 feet with their spikes of white flowers in summer. They are happy in zones 3 to 8, shade or sun, with moist, well-drained soil.

The name of the plant genus honors the Macedonian King Lysimachus of Thrace (306 BC). 

Molly Day has been gardening for 40 years and garden writing for 15 years. You can search 2,000 entries in her blog at www.allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com.

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