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New This Week

June 6, 2023

Plant of the Week: Goldenrod

Fifty is the 'Golden Anniversary', and to celebrate we’d like to highlight this native, powerhouse perennial prized for all the benefits it provides to wildlife!

There are two misconceptions about goldenrod that keep uninformed gardeners from adding this plant to their landscapes. One being allergies - many believe goldenrod is responsible for seasonal allergies, as it’s an easy target with showy blooms summer through fall. Most allergies are in fact caused by plants with windblown pollen, like Ragweed, which blooms at the same time but isn't as easily spotted. Goldenrod’s pollen is very sticky, requires assistance from bees to transfer the pollen from plant to plant, and is not windborne. 

The other misconception is that goldenrod is a weed. To the unfamiliar, goldenrod isn’t much to look at during spring or summer. For the first three-quarters of the growing season, goldenrod focuses on growing multiple stems from rhizomes and only vegetative growth is witnessed. To the bloom-centric gardeners, the colony-forming habit and leafy stalks scream “weed!”, but even the unassuming foliage is providing benefits to wildlife, including habitat and food. There are about 50 species of insects that rely on goldenrod before it even blooms, just by feeding on the stem and leaves while in their larval or nymph form. You’ll often see galls along the stems of goldenrod, and many have reported seeing downy woodpeckers and chickadees feeding on the insects that cause the galls.

Goldenrod blooms late summer and fall, during a period of the growing season after many other plants have bloomed. This provides a much-needed source of nectar and pollen during a window of time where it’s needed most. Many insects feed on the nectar and pollen, including bees, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, and butterflies, which in turn attracts other insects and birds seeking to feed on these insects. Goldenrod hosts 115 moth and butterfly species as well as specialized bees: Perdita octomaculata, Melissodes fumosus, Colletes simulans and Colletes solidaginis, as well as several Andrena species. It’s also a great source of nectar for Monarch butterflies in migration south in autumn. Birds and small mammals will feed on the prolific amount of seeds in late autumn and winter, including squirrels, foxes, racoons, and opossums.

Now that we all understand goldenrod’s importance to wildlife, how can we, as stewards and garden-enthusiasts, implement goldenrod into our property and gardens? Goldenrod is a very adaptable perennial and can flourish in parts of the landscape that are considered less than desirable or poor to other plants. Goldenrod is common in a wide range of conditions including prairies, grasslands, roadsides, thickets, forests, and swamps. Most species of goldenrod prefer full sun, average to poor soils, and tolerate clay or dry soils. While deer and rabbit may browse on the leaves, it is generally considered deer and rabbit-resistant. Some straight species of goldenrod can get tall, even reaching 6’ in height! Plant goldenrod in areas you’d like to naturalize, or in meadows, along driveways, banks or areas you’d prefer minimal maintenance and with ample space to spread. We also grow several cultivars and nativars that provide importance to wildlife while also maintaining a more compact size - these plants would work well in a more cultivated garden. All goldenrod works best when planted in mass and paired with asters and other fall-blooming plants to attract and support even more pollinators. 

Below is our current selection of goldenrod at Painters Greenhouse. All prefer full sun and are hardy in zones 3-9 with the main variations between them being height, size, habit, and species.

'Little Miss Sunshine', Solidago canadensis 

Tight and neat, multi-branched habit only reaching 12” tall and 12-18” wide.

'Fireworks', Solidago rugosa

Grows into a bushy, upright clump reaching 3’ tall and 2’ wide. The inflorescences produce long stretches of blooms resembling an exploding skyrocket.

'Golden Baby', Solidago hybrid

Compact form with strong stems make it a great cut flower. Reaching 18-24” tall and 8-12” wide. Available in 1 gallon pots for $9.50 each.

'Little Lemon', Solidago hybrid

One of the most compact hybrids of Solidago, only reaching 9-18” tall and wide. Clump-forming habit has tight inflorescences. Flowers mid to late summer.

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