Filipendula is one of those little-used perennials that deserves to be in every partial shade or shade garden. The large size of flipendula is called “Queen of the Meadow” and grows as a four-foot shrub while the short version is named meadowsweet and grows in a compact fifteen-inch clump. They both bloom with pearl-shaped buds opening to lacy flower clusters and are wildlife- and pest-resistant.
Filipendula – Queen of the Meadow
Filipendula or large, Queen of the Meadow, blooms in lacy creamy clusters in late summer and grows upright and erect.
Filipendula – Meadowsweet
Filipendula or small, Meadowsweet, blooms in June with fine, lacy, ivory-colored flowers on fern-like foliage.
Medicinal uses, fragrance, and dyes
Both plants are adaptable to Rocky Mountain gardens with their low zone-three hardiness. Both grow well in alkaline soils and have carefree, long-lived, tidy natures. But they are also very different. Queen of the Meadow has always been used as an herb for healing. Its clean, non-toxic, fresh smell of wintergreen was used as a flavoring and sweetener for beer and tea and to scent linens. Its flower buds are a good source of salicylic acid from which aspirin is made, and can be used as a mild sedative or pain reliever. Queen of the Meadow’s chartreuse seed head’s fragrance becomes stronger when dried so they are fine additions to potpourri. A bright lime-colored dye results from boiling these seeds. Surprisingly, boiling leaves and stems creates a blue dye while my boiled roots produce a dark brown color.
Meadowsweet, is a good name for this powerful perennial because everything about this superb plant is sweet. Its small size is sweet, just right for the front or mid-section of a flowerbed where it will look flawless all season. Meadowsweet stays put where its planted and rarely needs dividing. Pulling the rooted tubers along with some stem from the mother plant and planting them close together will allow meadowsweet to grow as a lovely ground cover. Its flowers are also sweet, starting out pink and opening to elegant, white, lacy clusters on taller wiry stems. The stems may get top-heavy when in full bloom, so many gardeners snip these rather than allowing them to flop.
Filipendula in either size is an excellent perennial for a shady part of the yard. The white blooms add much-needed brightness to shade and the foliage of both plants stays gorgeous. These two plants can be planted and forgotten, for with very little care, they will always be there in their classy beauty.