Xanthorhiza simplicissima

Common Name: yellowroot 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 0.50 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Dark purple-maroon
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Good Fall
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Wet Soil


Easily grown in evenly moist, acidic, humusy, well-draining soils in part shade. Will adapt to a wide variety of soil conditions including wet, dry, or clay. Will also adapt to various sun conditions ranging from part sun to full shade. Tolerant of drought once established. Alkaline soils can cause chlorosis. Can spread indefinitely in ideal conditions. Concrete walkways and metal edging can help contain its spread. Will also spread less readily in full sun and drier soils. Hardy in Zones 3-9.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Xanthorhiza simplicissima, commonly called yellowroot, is a deciduous, suckering, spreading shrub native to forested stream banks and other moist woodland areas in portions of the eastern and southeastern United States. The stems are upright, unbranched, and somewhat leggy in appearance, reaching between 0.5-2.5' tall and topped with a cluster of leaves. The compound leaves can reach up to 7" long and have five, toothed leaflets, making them somewhat similar to celery leaves in appearance. A drooping, branched panicle of small, dark purple-maroon flowers appears in spring from the bases of the leaf clusters. Bronzy-yellow fall color can be quite showy. Crushing the roots and stems produces a yellow dye. The roots have been used traditionally to treat various aliments of the digestive and circulatory systems.

Genus name comes from the Greek words xanthos meaning yellow and rhiza meaning root.

The specific epithet simplicissima means "most simple" or "least divided", in reference to the unbranched stems.

The common name yellowroot refers to the roots of this plant which are yellow in color and can be used to make a yellow dye.


No major pest or disease problems. Deer tend to avoid this plant.


An adaptable, shrubby ground cover. Can help stabilize slopes. Suitable for use in dry shade. Performs best in woodland gardens, shady pond margins, or other semi-shady, moist areas of the garden. The flowers are generally considered horticulturally insignificant.