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