Golden ragwort – a four-season plant

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Spring has finally arrived in Kentucky, and instead of ring-around-the-rosy we have a ring of golden ragwort (Senecio obovatus) around our pin oak tree (Quercus palustris). Last spring I planted several plants in the mulched area around the tree and I’ve been surprised at how quickly they filled the entire area.


I was primarily interested in the dark-green basal leaves that provide an attractive evergreen ground cover. However, the bright golden blossoms of spring are certainly an added bonus. I will continue to use golden ragwort as a year-round ground cover that does especially well in dry shade. However, given its tendency to spread, I will be cautious about planting it with other small plants.


At close range, I find the blossoms quite beautiful and think they deserve a nicer-sounding name than ragwort.


When it has finished blooming and begins to look scraggly, I will cut off the flower stalks and continue to enjoy it as a ground cover. Then next spring I’ll look forward to seeing the green turn to gold again.

11 thoughts on “Golden ragwort – a four-season plant”

  1. Betty–I love this plant! What a great idea to circle the tree with it … When you mentioned the “ugly” name, I became curious about the derivation. As you may already know, “wort” (from Old English “wyrt”) is the Middle English word for any herbaceous plant. Apparently, “rag” comes from the ragged shape of this plant’s leaves. The word “ragwort” first appeared in use in the 14th century. I’ve always pronounced “wort” almost like “wart,” but, apparently, it should rhyme with “pert” and “skirt.”

    1. Patsy, I really appreciate your research. I’m impressed to know “ragwort” has been around a ‘long-long’ time. I had no idea about the derivation of “wort”, nor had I thought about the connection with the ragged leaves. I, too, have pronounced “wort” as “wart” and, will now change that. Thanks to you, I now have a very different feeling about the name.

  2. You might remember that you gave me a couple of plants and they certainly do multiply. However, I made the mistake of planting them in a spot that gets too much sun, so while they are fine in the spring, many die out during the summer. I hope to find the time this spring to move them to a preferable location.

    1. Ann, I’d totally forgotten I had shared with you. I appreciate you sharing your experience with planting them in the sun. Good to know they are definitely a shade loving plant.

  3. What a great idea. I had no idea you could plant a ground cover at the base of an oak tree. I’ve tried to plant ferns with no success. Thanks for the info.

  4. I am late in reading this posting mainly because I was having a negative reaction to how I, too, mistakenly thought ragwort was pronounced.
    Bless Patsy for her inquiring spirit, research and corrective information – I find myself almost believing my mother had a second daughter that I never knew about and who inherited much more of Mom’s etymolological curiosity
    than I did. 🙂 Anyway, the ragwort blossoms are lovely and their setting at the base of the oak very attractive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *