Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) is a perennial wildflower that has long been a feature of UK meadows, heaths and grassland. It produces a froth of honey-scented flowers in July and August.
Also known as yellow bedstraw, or bed flower, it’s thought to get its name because its dried flowers were traditionally used for stuffing mattresses. When dried, the flowers smell of hay, and the scent was said to repel fleas. It also has associations with helping women giving birth – it’s thought to have a sedative effect.
Galium verum is also known as rennet weed, or cheese rennet, as the plant contains an enzyme that curdles milk, making it a useful alternative to rennet in cheese production. The plant was also used as a dye and was even used to give Double Gloucester cheese its distinctive colour.
Lady’s bedstraw is a popular component of wildflower meadows and is excellent for wildlife – it provides nectar for pollinating insects such as bumblebees and butterflies and food for caterpillars of several moths, including the humming bird hawk-moth.
How to grow lady’s bedstraw
Grow lady’s bedstraw in poor soil, in full sun or partial shade. It can be grown from seed, plug plants or young plants.
Lady’s bedstraw: jump links
- Planting lady’s bedstraw
- Caring for lady’s bedstraw
- Propagating lady’s bedstraw
- Growing lady’s bedstraw: problem-solving
- Buying lady’s bedstraw
Where to grow lady’s bedstraw
Grow lady’s bedstraw in an informal border, wildlife area or wildflower meadow. It prefers sunshine and poor, dry soil.
How to plant lady’s bedstraw
Grow from seed, or buy plugs or young plants. Plant in spring or autumn and do not improve the soil beforehand.
Caring for lady’s bedstraw
Do not water once established. There is no need to use a fertiliser – wildflowers prefer poor soils. In autumn, cut the faded flower heads down to the ground.
How to propagate lady’s bedstraw
You may find that you do not need to propagate lady’s bedstraw, as it gently self-seeds.
Lady’s bedstraw can be grown from seed – you can collect your own from plants already in your garden in autumn, or buy seeds. Sow into trays of compost in the spring or autumn.
You can also divide plants in spring.
Growing lady’s bedstraw: problem solving
Lady’s bedstraw is generally free of pests and diseases.