Silverweed: planting, benefits & use as a medicinal herb


I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Silverweed has an array of properties which make it a valuable plant in our gardens. As it creeps into some lawns, however, it can become a weed.

Yellow dog’s tansy flower
Silverweed flowers glow golden yellow [Photo: Lyubov_Nazarova/]

Although it may not jump out at you, silverweed (Potentilla anserina) is quite a common plant and there is more to it than meets the eye. This medicinal plant is easy to care for and can grow in a wide range of locations. In this article, we will explain how to plant silverweed and how you can use it in cooking or for medicinal purposes.

Silverweed: flower, origin and characteristics

Silverweed (Potentilla anserina) is one of our native wild herbs and is common in the temperate climates of the northern hemisphere. It can be found in meadows, on lakeshores and by roadsides. The perennial, herbaceous silverweed spreads through stolons, also known as runners, which creep over the ground. It is a low growing plant that reaches just between 5 and 15 cm in height. Rosettes of leaves form on reddish shoots, which are rooted into the ground. The leaves are pinnate and easily identifiable due to their finely haired, silvery underside. This gives silverweed its other names: silver feather and silver cinquefoil.

The flowering season for silverweed begins in May. These five-petalled, yellow flowers will be in bloom until September. It is uniquely tolerant to treading, cutting and salt, which is why it can grow well along roadsides. These factors, together with its tolerance for waterlogging, make silverweed a resilient plant in locations where many plants would not survive.

Silver, feather-shaped dog’s tansy leaves
From below, the leaves have a silvery sheen [Photo: Edita Medeina/]

Tip: As there are many subspecies of silverweed, for the sake of clarity it is now sometimes classified under the Argentina genus, to distinguish it from other Potentilla plants. Therefore, you may also see it referred to as Argentina anserina.

Planting and care

Potentilla anserina can often be found cropping up as a weed in lawns. However, you may wish to plant silverweed intentionally as it can form a path on your lawn along which you can walk. It is ideal for wet or moist areas. The location should be partially shaded to sunny and the soil should be nutrient-rich, moist and dense. If you spot silverweed in a patch of your garden, this may be a sign of waterlogging, as it mostly grows only on permanently moist, clay rich soils.

Silverweed doesn’t grow as well in very permeable soils, on the other hand, but this can be adapted to better suit the plant by mixing in a generous amount of clay powder. You can improve nutrient-poor soils by working in slow-release fertiliser. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is perfect for silverweed, as it provides all the nutrients the plant requires, lasts a long time, and its high content of organic matter also stimulates soil life. A top-up of fertiliser is only necessary when the leaves begin to turn pale or when the plant is growing in a pot.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

As a plant which requires light to germinate, sow your silverweed seeds at a maximum depth of one centimetre. Potentilla anserina can either be sown outdoors in autumn or grown on a windowsill between January and March. Make sure to keep the soil evenly moist. After 10 to 21 days, seedlings should appear, which you can then transplant outside from mid-May onwards. Alternatively, you can buy young plants or simply find silverweed growing naturally in your garden.

In summer, silverweed needs generous watering, as the plant prefers a moist substrate. Watering even to the point of waterlogging will not pose a problem. Potentilla anserina can, however, also tolerate three or four dry days without any problems.

Silverweed with long red stolons and yellow flower
Silverweed forms long, creeping stolons [Photo: Todd Boland/]

Tip: Silverweed is also sometimes called goose tansy or goose grass because it is particularly common on pastures where geese are kept. Since goose droppings contain a lot of nitrogen, the plant has an ability to tolerate high levels of nitrogen.

How to control the spread of silverweed on your lawn

Sometimes, silverweed can spread as an unwanted weed on lawns. But on what kind of soils? This plant is often found in compacted soils which are moist and sometimes waterlogged. Many other plants, including lawn grass, cannot cope with these conditions and as a result, silverweed is able to spread and take over. Potentilla anserina can also tolerate salty soils.

Potentilla anserina’s vibrant yellow flowers add a pretty splash of colour to lawns and serve as a valuable source of food for bees. The plant also has medicinal and culinary uses too. So, there is actually no need to control the growth of silverweed on lawns. What is more, it is tread-resistant, which is why regular treading on the lawn is no problem for the plant.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to keep silverweed on your lawn and you would like to get rid of it, you should dig up the individual plants with their roots. Then fill the resulting holes with a lawn seed mix such as our Plantura Lawn Repair Mix. This grass seed mix will prevent silverweed from spreading again while also revitalising your lawn, making it look lush and healthy. As an alternative method, you can make the soil less hospitable for silverweed. This can be done, for example, through aerification. This loosens and aerates the soil, depriving the weed of its original advantage.

Dense patch of wild tansy with yellow flowers
Due to its ground-covering growth, silverweed can also sometimes spread into lawns, becoming a problem [Photo: agatchen/]

Harvesting, effects and silverweed’s medicinal uses

All parts of the plant can be used for cooking, but the tastiest part is the silverweed root. The root can be cut into small pieces, fried and served just like the similar-tasting parsnip. The leaves taste slightly bitter, but can be used just as well, in soups and salads. Chemicals in the leaves such as flavonoids and tannins help with digestion and are responsible for the plants’ healing properties. Silverweed tea can be used to relieve diarrhoea and stomach aches. For this, steep about one teaspoon of dried leaves in hot water for ten to twelve minutes.

The period just before flowering, between May and August, is the best time for harvesting silverweed leaves, while the root is better harvested a little later, in September.

Silverweed leaves and flowers next to cup of tea
Silverweed tea can be used to aid digestion [Photo: ElenVik/]

Is silverweed edible or poisonous?

As highlighted above, silverweed is edible and can have a positive impact on digestion. It is not poisonous to humans or animals such as dogs, cats or horses. Nevertheless, as with all medicinal herbs, silverweed should not be consumed for long periods or in large quantities. Consuming too much can lead to side effects such as stomach aches. It is recommended that people with sensitive stomachs avoid consuming silverweed.

Potentilla erecta, more commonly known as tormentil or blood root, is often confused with silverweed. The plants are closely related and the flowers in particular look very similar. Find out how to harvest, plant and care for tormentil.