Sun/shade: Part to full shade
Soil moisture: Dry to medium
Flowering period: May
Host plant for caterpillar species
As the northeast Ohio woodlands warm in springtime, columns of effervescent white flowers rise from the forest floor. The plant is foamflower, and its spike-like clusters of delicate blooms attain a height of about 1 foot, overtopping the plant’s handsome, maple-like leaves. The flowers primarily attract queen bumble bees, who have recently awakened from their winter slumber and are now starting their colonies. The bees will collect the foamflower pollen and mix it with nectar and pollen from other plants, making a nutritious meal for their offspring. Once mature, the offspring will take over the foraging tasks, and the colony will continue to grow throughout the summer. Bumble bees are the most social of our native bees, and they are outstanding pollinators. Planting spring-blooming plants like foamflower is critical to enabling the bumble bee queens to start their colonies.
Though not an aggressive plant, foamflower spreads rapidly over bare soil via horizontal stems called stolons to form a colony. Following a blooming interval that lasts 3-4 weeks, the plant’s foliage persists throughout the growing season, providing a nice low groundcover. A native constituent of NE Ohio forests, foamflower grows best under part shade to full shade, and in soils of average moisture. Due to its excellent shade tolerance, foamflower is perfect for planting in areas with low light availability. For a colorful spring display, plant foamflower with Jacob’s ladder and wild geranium, which also have good shade tolerance.