Goldenrod’s Midas Touch

Goldenrods (Solidago sp.)  are one of the iconic flowers of fall. Because it is a common roadside weed, and because it is often inaccurately blamed for the airborne pollen that aggravates hayfever, some people have a hard time thinking of goldenrods as garden plants. That’s a shame, because they can add texture as well as glowing color to the fall garden. As with many American wildflowers, goldenrod’s ornamental possibilities were first widely perceived in Europe. Just about all Goldenrods are magnets for pollinators.

There are about 100 species of Goldenrod, mostly in North America. In this post I’m going to write about the four species growing in my garden. All are straight species, not cultivars.

Anise-Scented Goldenrod

Anise-Scented Goldenrod (Solidago odora). I highly recommend this plant. It is relatively compact – most descriptions put it at 1-2′ but in my garden it grows at least a foot taller. It is relatively upright, though I’m going to try cutting mine back next year to reduce flopping. It’s the first of my Goldenrods to bloom, starting around mid-August. The flowers are fluffy clouds of gold. It grows in sun or part shade, and doesn’t spread aggressively. I’ve read you can make a tea from the leaves, but I’ve never tried that. I also haven’t noticed it being especially aromatic.

Blue Stem Goldenrod
Blue Stem Goldenrod – in this picture you can see the blue color of some mature stems.

Blue Stem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia). This is another excellent Goldenrod for the garden. Like Anise-Scented Goldenrod, it is fairly compact. However, Blue Stem Goldenrod has a weeping habit, with cascades of arching and flowering stems. This Goldenrod will grow in sun or part shade. It self-sows pretty aggressively, but the seedlings are not hard to yank, and it does not spread by rhizomes.

Zigzag Goldenrod

Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulus). Use caution when planting this guy. It spreads very aggressively, by both rhizomes and seed. I would put it only in difficult situations with plenty of tough competition. Zigzag Goldenrod has flowers that bloom at intervals up more or less rigid stems. Actually, I cut it back to prevent flopping. It can grow in full shade, and is an attractive plant in bloom.

Canada Goldenrod

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). OK, this plant really is a weed. Even so, I let Canada Goldenrod establish itself in a few difficult spots because it has its own beauty. It spreads aggressively by rhizomes and seeds, and I pull it up whenever it pops up outside its designated areas, which it does often. It’s kind of tall and gangly, but the racemes of flowers on top can be very attractive.

In a week or so I’ll do another post about Asters – I want to wait until mine have fully bloomed. Asters and Goldenrods are like the bread and wine of Midwestern gardens in autumn. Do you have Goldenrods growing in your garden, or do you plan to add some?

14 Comments on “Goldenrod’s Midas Touch”

  1. Great information and inspiration! I agree, goldenrod is definitely a plant that more people – including me – should try out in the garden! It’s such a standout at this time of year. And it’s super-tough, as well…I’m going to finally give it a go for next year.

  2. Hi! I used to have the canadensis in my previous garden and I promised: never again! That was in a small town garden though. Actually I’m growing very happily solidago rugosum, I love it’s foliage and the flowers look like golden fireworks. It doesn’t spread apparently, but it’s its first year here and I put it in a very drought spot (because I don’t trust solidagos…). Then I have another one which is an un-named cultivar with pale yellow flowers and it’s short. It flowers in June. Lovely.
    I really enjoyed this post of yours and I’m officially in love with the bue stem goldenrod, must look around if I find it. I’m waiting for the post about asters then (glad you are a little old fashioned like me about names, asters new name is unpronounceable!)

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