Cup Plant: A Plant You Can Look Up To

Judy and I like tall perennials, and we have lots of them in the garden. I mean really tall, like you have to look up to see the flowers. We’ve considered starting an organization for ourselves and others who admire towering plants. It could be called the American Prodigiously Tall Plant Society (APTaPS).


Anyhow, of all our really tall perennials, the absolute tallest is the Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum). In our garden, it grows a to a good 10′. If you look at the leaves at the bottom of this picture, you can see how the leaves are perfoliate – the main stem passes right through them. As a result, the leaves form cups that catch rainwater – hence the common name.

DSC_0767Late July and August is when Cup Plant is topped by bunches of yellow daisy-like flowers,

DSC_0789We have a patch of Cup Plant at the back of our Front Island Bed. At this time of year it blooms with Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) and ‘Purple Rooster’ Bee Blam (Monarda didyma).

Cup Plant has a reputation as a thug but I do not find it difficult to control. Sure, you will find volunteers popping up here and there but I just yank them out of the ground or cut them at the base. It’s really a gentle giant.

DSC_0768Cup Plant is very beneficial for wildlife. The flowers attract bumblebees, native bees, honey bees, and predators of insect pests. Some native bee species nest in the hollow stems. After the flowers fade, Goldfinches come to feast on the seeds.

DSC_0790Not surprisingly, given its height, Cup Plant needs some support in our garden. I use rebar for stakes and lots of green twine.

Some gardeners are put off by Cup Plant’s size and enthusiastic self-sowing. Not us. We love its dramatic height and the giant contribution it makes to wildlife habitat in the garden.

50 Comments on “Cup Plant: A Plant You Can Look Up To”

  1. Amazing plant — it will even grow in shade. Nice to use it place of a shrub where you want height but not width. I’ve never had to stake but Jason’s soils may be very rich indeed. Yes, seeding is a bit of an issue out here on the prairie — it has migrated to my hay lot along with a whole lot of other stuff! I think this would be manageable in a home garden.

  2. Love it! Ours is now blooming as well but it doesn’t get to 10′ – perhaps 7 or 8. We do have some popping up in some pretty strange places this year – this is the first time that’s happened (we’ve had them for over 7 years) so I’m wondering why that is.

  3. Your front garden reminds me of mine! I’m thinking I’ll keep the Silphium, but may need to severely edit it, to keep it vaguely in the space that it’s in. What a wonderful plant to enjoy, however! The flower visitors are amazing, from butterflies to bees.

  4. Hello Jason, I like the acronym of “APTaPS”, have a nice ring to it. The only plants we have that are this tall currently are trees and shrubs, when we get round to creating the large herbaceous border, we’ll be needing the help of APTaPS for ideas on what to grow at the back.

  5. I live north of Atlanta and became familiar with this plant about fifteen years ago. I now have it in my own garden and have not seen it being invasive in this area at all. Although it does need staking, I think it a worthy addition to the Southern landscape.

  6. Pingback: Cup Plant: A Plant You Can Look Up To โ€” gardeninacity – SV Tech Articles

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