How to Grow Gillenia Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Bowman's Root, American Ipecac and Indian Physic

Gillenia plants are a genus of hardy perennial shrubs that reach a height of about 1.2 meters (4 feet).

They bloom in the summer when they carry white stellar flowers.

A commonly grown Gillenia plant in the garden is Bowman's Root. Latin names include Gillenia trifoliate and Gillenia stipulata.

Gillenia trifoliata
Gillenia trifoliata by Campobello Island.

Gillenia Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Bowman’s root, American Ipecac, Indian Physic.
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 30 to 50 inches (75 to 125 cm).
Native: Northern America.
Growing Region: Zones 4 to 8.

Flowers: Late spring and Summer.
Flower Details: White. Star-shaped.
Foliage: Serrated leaves. Palmate.

Sow Outside: 1/4 inch (6 mm). Autumn using fresh seed. Spacing 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm). Seeds should first be sown into flats. Next sink the flat into the ground in an area that offers shade, preferably close to a wall that faces north. Provide a glass/plastic covering. Keep an eye on the flats to ensure that the soil remains moist and to check if seedlings have emerged, transplant when they are strong.
Sow Inside: Germination time: two to three weeks. Autumn using fresh seed. Stratify by refrigeration for three months. Transplant outdoors in autumn.

Requirements and care: Full sunlight or shade. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.0 to 6.0.
Woody soil, rich soil. Mulch. Regular watering during periods of growth. Provide support. Cut back stems once flowering has completed. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas.

Miscellaneous: Synonymous with Porteranthus. There are two species in this genus and they are distinguished by their stipules; these being rounded and toothed in Gillenia stipulate and slender in Gillenia trifoliata.

How to Grow Bowman's Root and other Gillenia Plants in the Garden

It is best to first sow Bowman's roots in flats. Sow the seed at the beginning of autumn at a depth of 7 mm (1/3 inch). Cover the flat with glass, and sink into a shady part of the garden. Keep the soil moist.

Once Bowman's roots germinate (about three weeks) and sprout, transplant them (late autumn) into their final location.

Gillenia species such should be spaced at about 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) apart.

They can grow in sunny and partially shaded parts of the garden. Ideally they prefer to have a rich, acidic (pH 5 to 6) woodland soil in which to grow.

How to Look After and Care for Gillenia plant

Gillenia plants likes to grow in a moist soil so keep well watered. Supply a permanent mulch. Stake taller species.

Once flowering has finished cut back plant stems.

If you require more plants then propagate in the spring or autumn by division.

Common Questions

How many members does the Gillenia genus have?

The Gillenia genus is very small, with only 2 species.

Do members of Gillenia make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Gillenia, also known as Bowman's root, features attractive foliage and star-shaped flowers, making it a charming addition to a garden.

Which Gillenia species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The species most often grown is Gillenia trifoliata, appreciated for its delicate, white flowers.

Are members of the Gillenia plant genus fragrant?

Generally, Gillenia flowers are not noted for their fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Gillenia?

Gillenia prefers a location with full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

Is Gillenia invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Presently, Gillenia is not listed as an invasive plant in the USA.

How do I remove Gillenia plants from my garden?

To remove Gillenia, dig out the plant, making sure to remove as much of the root system as possible.


The Gillenia genus, commonly referred to as Bowman's Root, is a member of the Rosaceae family. Native to North America, these perennials are admired for their star-shaped white or pink flowers and attractive fall foliage.

Plant Gillenia in early spring or fall, in a spot with part to full shade and well-drained, acidic soil. They prefer a location with good airflow to prevent fungal diseases. Regular watering and occasional feeding will support their growth and blooming.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Gillenia plants. ou may also enjoy my gardening guides on how to grow Agapanthus, Arisaema plant, and Allium plants.