Susan Harris
All about gardening the eco-friendly way, by Susan Harris and 22 other garden writers and experts.

Bishop’s weed –
your super-wrong plant for mixed borders

August 28, 2008 · 9 comments

I have no one to blame but myself, thinking this fast-spreading ground cover wouldn’t be a problem for ME, in MY garden.  See the hubris here?  Problems are for lesser gardeners.  And if I don’t like  ‘em I’ll just pull ‘em out, like I do every other plant I try and don’t like.

So I added Bishop’s weed to a border (location, location, location) because I loved how its light-green-and-white foliage brightens up even the darkest spot.  

Well.  Here’s what the Missouri Botanic Garden has to say about  it.  

Avoid use of this plant in any mixed planting with other perennials such as in a rock garden or border. Best in a pure, contained planting (surrounded by natural or installed barriers) where it can be allowed to grow and spread solely as a ground cover. Can be quite effective when grown in the shade of trees or large shrubs.

Having done exactly what they so wisely say not to do, I can tell you why.  Because unlike, say, a stray black-eyed Susan seedling that’s easily dug out, the roots and runners on Bishop’s weed secretly inhabit your garden from below.  This photo only hints at the problem – I’ve found even longer roots that could only be removed in pieces, and still some bits remain, to emerge and annoy me another day.  See, they have the ability to entwine their sneaky selves through the roots of every single plant in the border.  I’ve gone through the border carefully removing every single fleck of the stuff, then done it again, and I’ll be doing it until the end of my years gardening here. 

Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’) photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden.


1 Krys August 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I planted some (known affectionately in the family as Auntie Mary’s weed) hoping that it would take over and cover serious ground. Many years later, it has possibly spread to cover 2 or 3 square feet. Sometimes you just can’t win with some plants.


2 susan harris August 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm

That’s SO interesting. Where and what conditions did you grow it in?
Reminds me of the situation with periwinkle, Vinca minor, which is often described as thuggish and I’ve seen it growing like crazy in parkland just miles from me, but nobody in my town can get the damn stuff to fill out AT ALL, and survival itself is in doubt if it receives afternoon sun.
Once again proving that plants don’t read much, or they’d behave like we expect them to.

3 Lucy Corrander August 30, 2008 at 1:22 pm


I went to leave a note on your Blotanical plot but it looks as if you don’t go there much so I’m leaving it here instead.

Hope that’s ok.

This is it.

‘This is an unashamed advert for my blog PICTURES JUST PICTURES (which tends not to get noticed because my other blog is listed first!). It’s a photo a day (without words) – mainly but not exclusively of the landscape. I thought I’d let you know, hoping you like it! Lucy’

By the way, I’ve always thought ‘Bishop’s Weed’ was another name for ‘Ground Elder’. (Showing a historical divide in Britain.)

But this isn’t ground elder in the photo . . . so I’m a bit thrown!

Lucy Corrander


4 Carol, May Dreams Gardens August 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Susan, Sigh, we gardeners are all alike. In OUR gardens these thuggish plants won’t be an issue, we’ll stay on top of them, contain them, control them, eradicate them if we must. I have just about gotten rid of the “goutweed”, as I learned to call, and what remains is hidden under a big Kerria japonica. I think it’s hiding there so I can’t get it, but when I turn my back, it’s going to jump out and start growing again!

5 Ann August 31, 2008 at 6:59 am

I have Bishop’s Weed but it never turns into too much of a thug b/c it is the preferred food for my slugs. As soon as it starts getting cocky and spreads, it gets the slug smack-down. Not the ideal control!

6 Shannon September 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Amen sister. Be warned ye garden enthusiasts. I finally spent the many hours necessary to do a first cull of the beguiling Bishop’s weed that took over my gorgeous woodland beds. I raked through the top 3″ of soil to get as many of the “bean sprout root-lets” as I could. I introduced it years ago and while it charmed me with its early spring green, it patiently threaded its way out-of-bounds, in and through the helibores, beyond the skimmia japonica, surrounding my hostas, choking into the cherry tree’s roots — all to bad effect. Thank you for cautioning the new gardeners – and good with it. Unless you use it as Susan suggested, I think it will become your nightmare. Unfortunately several of my neighbors admired it and introduced it into their beds as well and I warned them then, and will congratulate them when they decide it has to go.

7 BigAssSuperstar June 4, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I’m in Nova Scotia, and on a mission to eradicate the goutweed that’s taking over the yard at my new home … although we’ve spent hours on digging out the flower bed at the side of the house, we’re not near the end … or the beginning of the end. It still feels like we’re at the beginning of the beginning. This is going to be a fight.

I’m going to take on the back half of the yard with a weed whacker tonight … and blast the hell out of it with Roundup when it comes back.

And, for the record, my first idea for handling it was “cover it with gas and set it on fire” … but, sadly, we’re not even allowed backyard bonfires in my neighbourhood.

8 Maggie H January 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Wow, I am stunned. I can KILL Bishop's Weed. I live in Spokane, WA and if you don't water this stuff well all summer it dries up and dies. I have killed it myself. I have never seen it take over anything up here. I thought we had a more temperate climate than Nova Scotia, though. I guess there are places where it will thrive and places where it behaves itself. Maybe with Global Warming you too can cook it to death.  Best of luck to your efforts to eradicate it!

9 Cheryl April 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

I HATE Bishop’s Weed. My husband planted a few plants in a garden area years ago to fill it in and we can not get rid of it. It takes over everything. We pull it up, roots and all, all summer. The roots take over underground. We transplanted another plant to another garden to get it away from the Bishop’s Weed, thinking we had all of the roots out of that rootball, only to find the Bishop’s Weed pop up in the new location as well. If anyone has any idea how to get rid of this stuff, short of digging up the entire garden area about 6-8 in deep, please let me know!

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