3 Goldenrods for the Shade Garden
Too many people still think of Goldenrods (Solidago sp.) as a weed instead of a garden plant. Resistance to Goldenrods in the garden is built around three misconceptions: 1) Goldenrods cause hay fever; 2) they spread like crazy; and 3) they tend to be too tall and ungainly. (Actually, 2 and 3 are only partial misconceptions.)
First of all, Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.), not Goldenrod, causes hay fever. Admittedly, there are Goldenrod species that are big and rangy, not to mention overly aggressive. However, other species can be incorporated into a garden setting.
Goldenrod species can give your garden a sunny autumnal aura. They’re also an important late season source of nectar for bees and butterflies. Here are 3 species worth considering, all of them shade tolerant to varying degrees.
First of all, there’s Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia, also called Wreath Goldenrod). This species has 2-3 foot arching stems lined with tiny bright yellow flowers. It likes sunny to partially shaded conditions. It can self-sow aggressively, so if that bothers you cut it back before it goes to seed. On the other hand, birds like to eat the seeds, so I personally just resign myself to pulling up seedlings.
Then there’s Anise Scented or Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora). This plant is practically demure, by Goldenrod standards. In my garden it hardly spreads at all. It’s about two feet tall and the flowers are concentrad on a plume at the top of the stem.
The leaves are fragrant when crushed, and can be brewed into a tea. It prefers medium to dry soils.
Finally, there’s Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis). This is, admittedly, a pretty aggressive species that spreads by rhizomes. I would only plant it in naturalized settings, like our back garden’s Thicket Corner.
The other side of the coin is that it will make itself at home in difficult spots, including dry shade.
There are the three species we have in our garden. There are sun-loving Goldenrods that are also worth looking at. Do you grow Goldenrod in your garden, and are you happy with it?