Most people, I suspect, think of Goldenrod as a big, rangy plant. Canada Goldenrod (S. canadensis), is probably considered by many to be the typical Goldenrod. People imagine it running rampant over open fields with 6′ stems and mopheads of yellow flowers. In our garden, however, we have mainly little Goldenrods, growing not much more than 3′.

Bluestem Goldenrod with Short’s Aster.

First there’s Bluestem Goldenrod (S. caesia), with arching purplish stems featuring clusters of flowers held along the stem like little yellow bouquets. Bluestem Goldenrod does not run at the root, though it will self-sow a fair amount.

Aromatic Aster with Bluestem Goldenrod.

Then there’s Zigzag Goldenrod (S. flexicaulus). For us it grows over 3′ and tends to lean but not flop. I’ve tried cutting it back but that doesn’t seem to make much difference, so these days I leave it alone. Flowers bloom in alternating bursts most of the way up the stems.

Zigzag Goldenrod

Zigzag Goldenrod can spread aggressively by rhizome, so it is best suited to an informal woodland garden.

Zigzag Goldenrod

Both of these Goldenrods are shade tolerant and fairly adaptable. Pollinators, especially bumblebees, love these more compact wild Goldenrods just as much they love the taller members of the genus.

Bumblebee on Zigzag Goldenrod

You don’t need sunny, open spaces and room for 6′ plants in order to provide the pollinators in your garden with the benefits of Goldenrod. These two modestly-sized Goldenrods are a good fit for a variety of garden settings.

40 Comments on “The Little Goldenrods”

  1. We have several goldenrods, but I’ve not encountered these. As it happens, the blue-stemmed is listed for east Texas — particularly, the Big Thicket, where I like to roam. I’ll keep my eyes open for it now. Its shorter stature should make it easy to distinguish from the others.

  2. Hello Jason, I’m glad I saw this as, “best suited to an informal woodland garden” matches exactly the border that I have (and need to fill). It has a very “frothy” look about it so would look great paired with something that has a strong shape or definition. The ideas are starting to roll in.

  3. Lovely choices of Solidago for your garden, and lovely pictures of them. A friend and neighbor just discovered that she had the S. flexicaulis growing under some native shrubs in her garden and we had to go to the field guide to ID it~it isn’t one I typically see in the forest preserves I haunt. What a nice find! I believe it is a C=7 plant~pretty high quality.

  4. It is nice to hear about other sorts of Goldenrod. We only usually see Solidago canadensis which grows wild here, but I have planted our native one S. virgaurea in my garden and it is so small it is hardly noticeable! I am hoping it will grow a bit more next year! I suspect your garden is more attractive with some dappled shade and moister ground. Love that combination with the aster. πŸ˜ƒ

  5. Yes, I have some of the big goldenrods and I have been eyeing the zig zag because I have seen it grow where it is fairly shady. Always a plus in my garden. Beautiful photos that really render autumn.

  6. The shorter varieties are not ones I’ve tried, but they sure look pretty in your garden! The only one I grow is S. Rugosa, “fireworks”, which is 3-4′ and grows in moderately mannerly clump. It’s in part shade. I just love it’s form. Whatever their form, they all say Fall in such a lovely way. They’re gorgeous with the purple asters!

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