Question of the Week: Should it Stay or Should it Go? Joe Pye Weed, That Is

Not go as in to the compost pile, but rather to another spot in an nearby flower bed.

Joe Pye Weed ‘Gateway’ (right) in the front raised bed in early August.

Some two seasons ago I had to fill a hole in the raised bed along the front walk created by my removal of some diseased purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). I filled it with two Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) ‘Gateway’, basically because I had been lusting after this plant. I already had Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). I like Sweet Joe Pye, but its flowers are a dusty pale pink and I wanted the richer flower color and deep purple stems of ‘Gateway’.

Sweet Joe Pye Weed in the front island bed.

Thing is, it wasn’t really a very good spot for ‘Gateway‘. Eupatorium maculatum loves moisture, but I planted ‘Gateway’ in a raised bed with soil more well-drained that moist. But I didn’t care, I just wanted this plant. Plus, I figured moisture-loving plants sometimes adapt reasonably well to drier soils. So it was something of an experiment.

The ‘Gateway’ I planted closer to the middle of the bed has done just fine. However, the one planted closer to the west edge of the bed has clearly had moments of stress in this year’s drought, despite my frequent waterings. Leaves drooped regularly and by late August one of this plant’s four stems had completely died back.

More ‘Gateway’.

So I’m thinking of moving both ‘Gateway’ to the island bed in the center of the front yard, which has fairly moist soil. This bed is mostly full of big plants that like moisture – Sweet Joe Pye Weed, New England Aster (Aster Novae-angliae), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), and Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum).

Swamp Milkweed

To make room for ‘Gateway’, I would take out some of the New England Aster, whose performance has been somewhat disappointing to me.

And I’ve already ordered the plants to fill the hole created by moving ‘Gateway’: Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) and white Carolina Phlox ‘Miss Lingard’ (Phlox maculata).

Yellow Coneflower

Only problem is that Judy doesn’t want me to move ‘Gateway’. In the continuum of gardening mentalities from compulsive revisionist to defender of the status quo, I lean more toward revisionism and Judy is the hidebound conservative. She likes the ‘Gateway’ where they are.

There is a compromise position: just move one of the ‘Gateway’ plants. However, that would sacrifice the massing effect you get with two (yes, two are a mass, this is a big plant).

Another thing. If I don’t move ‘Gateway’, I set off a game of musical plants as I try to figure out where to put the Phlox and Yellow Coneflower currently en route. I can usually shoehorn things in if I need to, I suppose.

As usual, I am racked with indecision. So, what do you think? Move one or both ‘Gateway’ plants or leave them where they are?

26 Comments on “Question of the Week: Should it Stay or Should it Go? Joe Pye Weed, That Is”

  1. I vote to leave them both or move them both. I sure wouldn’t separate them! They are lovely where they are, but they might be happier in moister soil. (Okay, I didn’t help much!) I do enjoy your blog, though, and I’m thoroughly gratified that others are racked with indecision when it comes to their gardens! I know just how you feel! :O)

  2. I vote for moving them both, unless the domestic discord it causes will be too unbearable. Perhaps she will come to love the yellow coneflower and white phlox just as much, or even more! Do it for the sake of the plants!

  3. Well, you could always order 2 more Gateways and plant them in the front bed, leaving the current Gateways where they are…. That way, if the 2 current ones have an even worse year in the future and give up the ghost, you’d still have the ones in the front bed.

  4. I just really like having some very tall plants in that spot. I love opening the front door and being assaulted by flowers in midsummer. There used to be hollyhocks,and then he pulled those out. Then he pulled out coneflowers (not so tall, but they were my friends.) Now he wants to pull out the Joe-Pye weed. How much change can a girl take?

    • OK, you’ve kind of convinced me. But what I was thinking was to move the unhappy Joe Pye to the center of the same bed, on the other side of the happy Joe Pye. The soil is probably more moist there, and the leaves are more protected form the afternoon sun. This would involve taking out some Rudbeckia fulgida,

  5. Oh man, that is a tough call–especially when I can’t see your entire garden in the photos. I guess if you both come to an agreement, then whatever you decide will be good. My first thought was to make sure you have a suitable replacement for the spot where you’re pulling out the Joe Pye Weed. Good luck with your decision!

  6. I recognize that feelng: buying it knowing it’s wrong but you gotta have that plant anyway. I also feel that moving both would be best but what happened to the rule of planting things in threes or fives? You should therefore buy another one.

  7. Whatever you decide, two things to know: Joe Pye weed, including ‘Gateway,’ doesn’t like to be moved, has very tough roots and isn’t easy to move, will still probably survive a move, and will probably sulk for at least a year, likely two, after it’s moved.

    Second thing is they’re alot more drought-tolerant than you might think. I have ‘Gateway’ planted in a very dry spot where it competes with silver maple roots and it does fine. Like many other perennials, it just takes time to establish itself.

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