Wood avens – planting, care and tips

Wood avens (Geum urbanum)
Wood avens (Geum urbanum) - by Badlydrawnboy22

Almost everyone has already discovered the wood avens in their garden. Here you can find useful information and care tips.

Profile of wood avens:

Scientific name: Geum urbanum

Plant family: rose family (Rosaceae)

Other names: herb Bennet, colewort, St. Benedict’s herb

Sowing time: April to August

Planting time: April to August

Flowering period: May until October

Harvest time: Nay, October to November

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: chest complaints, jaundice, toothache, meningitis, bladder weakness

Use as spice herb: salad, as a vegetable

Use in: embankments, group planting, overgrowth, area greening, apothecary garden, herb garden, natural garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

wood avens

Plant characteristics and classification of wood avens

Plant order, origin and occurrence of wood avens

The wood avens (Geum urbanum) belongs to the genus of the avens (Geum), which consists of about 30 species and belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae). Almost everyone has already discovered them in their garden, because Geum urbanum grows wild all over Europe (except in the high mountains), North Africa and the temperate zones of Asia. It was also introdced to North America. The botanical name Geum probably comes from the Greek verb “geuein”, which means “try”, “taste” or “smell”.

Characteristics of wood avens


The wood avens is a perennial herbaceous plant. It reaches heights of 25 to 80 centimeters (10 to 32 in), sometimes even 120 centimeters (48 in).


An evergreen leaf rosette of long-stalked, unpaired pinnate and hairy leaves forms from the rhizome of Geum urbanum, which lies just below the surface. This in turn pushes up the leafy, hairy and branched, upright growing flower stems.


The rather small flowers, up to about two centimeters (0.8 in) in diameter, consist of five green, tapered sepals that are hairy on the outside and spread under the five round yellow petals. The latter do not last very long and fall off soon after the flowering of the wood avens. At least 60 and up to 80 small carpels and a large number of stamens sit in the center of the flower. The flowering period extends from May to September or even October.


Small, hairy nutlets that resemble hedgehogs emerge from the carpels. The sepals then tilt down. With the ripe fruit, only the outward-pointing stylus remain. This enables them to hold on to animals or clothing that are passing by and thus spread.

Wood avens – cultivation and care


The wood avens prefers light oak and floodplain forests in nature. However, it is also a common occurrence on edges of woods, on meadows and on the side of paths, as well as in house gardens and on urban wasteland, as the species name “urbanum” means.


Geum urbanum loves nutrient-rich, loose and consistently fresh to moist soils in the sun and partial shade. You can also find the wood avens in drier and shadier locations.

  • Fresh, herb rich oak and hornbeam forests and floodplain forests
  • Nutritious
  • Loose, humous and a bit damp
  • Slightly acidic to low in lime


The wood avens is rarely planted in a targeted manner. The rather inconspicuous wild perennial settles on its own, but is then often considered a weed and therefore removed. If you do not actually have them in the garden, but want to establish them there, you can sow the seeds from April to August.


The propagation of wood avens works well and is easy. The plants can simply be divided or they can be propagated by sowing. The self-sowing of the plants should not be underestimated. They quickly populate large areas of the garden and it is difficult to get rid of.


Sowing the Geum urbanum, it can be helpful to undergo the seeds to a cold treatment (stratification) beforehand. Place the seeds in a moist substrate in a warm place with temperatures around 20 °C / 68 °F for 2-4 weeks. The substrate should always be slightly damp during this time. This is followed by cold treatment.

To do this, place the seeds with a little damp sand or perlite in a plastic bag, close it and keep in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks at temperatures between -4 ° to + 5 ° C / 25 ° to + 40 ° F. During this time, it is particularly important to check regularly for possible mold. After this cold treatment, the seeds are sown about 0.5 cm (0.2 in) deep in small pots and initially placed in a cool place at 5 ° to 12 ° / 40 ° to + 54 ° F, even if the seeds are already germinating. If the seedlings are large and strong enough, they can be planted outside, as far as the soil is frost-free.


If the wood avens spreads too much, does not bloom so profusely, or fades away from the inside, it is advisable to divide it. The best time to do this is in spring, but division in autumn is also not a problem. To do this, carefully pull the plants out of the ground without damaging the roots too much. Then you shake off loose soil and divide into several sections with a spade or a sharp knife.

It is important that each individual part has sufficient roots. Roots that are too long can be shortened somewhat. Now plant the parts separately from each other again, preferably in compost-enriched and loose soil. The young plants should be watered regularly in the first weeks after planting.


The wood avens does not like and cannot tolerate dry soil. It should always be a little damp. However, wetness is also not tolerated. It is important to design the soil so that it does not become too dry. The peat cover described above does a good job. The ground does not have to be so damp in winter.


Add compost or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting, as this improves the soil quality.

The wood avens then grows particularly abundantly. Otherwise, add a complete fertilizer in spring and summer.


It is not necessary to prune the wood avens, but regularly faded and withered parts of the plant should be removed. In this way, the plant not only looks much better cared for, it is also stimulated to form new flowers and buds.

In order to favor a nice new shoot in spring, the wood avens can be cut completely down to just above the ground after the winter. If you want to make it particularly easy for yourself or if you have planted it on a larger area, you can simply use the lawn mower. It doesn’t harm the plant and it will sprout vigorously again in spring.

Measures in case of baldness

Older plants, however, sometimes show signs of becoming bald over the years, which spread out from the inside. In the course of this, blooming will also become sparse or, in the worst case, may even be left out entirely.

But this problem can also be solved quickly and easily with this guideline.

  • Dig up and split the root ball: if the plant becomes bare, the wood avens should be carefully dug out and the root ball should be divided. For this purpose, the soil is carefully shaken off the roots and then the root ball is divided into two or more parts with a sharp knife or a spade. It is important to make sure that each part still has enough roots. Very long roots can be shortened, but care must always be taken to use a really sharp cutting tool, otherwise the sensitive roots will be crushed and damaged.
  • Enrichment with compost or organic fertilizer: the individual parts are now planted in loose soil enriched with compost or other organic fertilizer and should be watered well in the first time.
  • Spring or summer: this rejuvenation for the plant, which also serves for propagation, should best be carried out in spring or autumn.

Even if the wood avens is not to be propagated, it should be divided in the case of baldness to rejuvenate the plant. There may still be room for the excess root parts in a dark, hidden corner of the garden, or a neighbor may be happy about the growth.


The wood avens does not place demands on the care and if you have chosen an ideal location for the plant, you will not have too much work with watering and pruning once a year.

Diseases and pests

Wood avens is a robust and healthy plant. Diseases are extremely rare. Pests are also less common. Snails spare wood avens, which is particularly advantageous in rainy and snail-intensive years. In places that are too dry or in long dry periods, the plants are quickly attacked by mildew.


Wood avens is extremely hardy. The plants survive an average North American or Central European winter without any problems, even without protection.

Use in the garden

If you want to combine wood avens in a wild herb bed with other species, ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) go well with it.

There are no varieties of the wood avens. The more conspicuously avens for flower gardens are selected from red avens (Geum coccineum), scarlet avens (Geum chiloense) and water avens (Geum rivale) or cultivations of them.

Use as a medical plant

The wood avens was used as a medicinal plant in ancient times and should help against chest complaints, jaundice, toothache, meningitis and bladder weakness. It was also used as an aphrodisiac.

The plant is still used today in homeopathy and folk medicine. It is used against:

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • digestive problems
  • fever
  • hemorrhoids
  • inflammation of the gums
  • nausea and vomiting
  • poorly healing wounds
  • skin inflammation
  • sore throat
  • toothache
  • weakness of the liver

In addition, the wood avens is said to have hemostatic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

The plant is used as a tea, tincture, envelope or as a bath additive. The dried roots and rhizomes are primarily used for this. The effective ingredients are glycosides, bitter substances, tannins and essential oils.

Wood avens as a tea

The wood avens tea can be prepared as an infusion or decoction. You can’t really describe it as tasty. You can use the tea against indigestion.

Due to its contracting power, it works against diarrhea. However, since it stimulates digestive activity, it can also help against constipation. The wood avens can also help with nausea and vomiting.

For gum infections and sore throat, the tea can be used to gargle and rinse.

Wood avens root

In the past, the root of the wood avens was chewed for bad breath. It also helps against gingivitis.

Wood avens in the kitchen

When clove (Syzygium aromaticum) used to be very expensive, wood avens was sometimes used as a substitute for clove. The young shoots of wood avens can be eaten as a salad and vegetables.

Harvesting wood avens

The roots and flowers should be harvested at the beginning of the flowering period, preferably in May. But they can also be collected from October to November. The roots are freed from the dirt and dried in the air. The same applies to the flowers.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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