Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) is a plant that provides cheerful color during that quieter period in the garden in late spring, It is perhaps not one of the spectacular garden plants, but it can make a fine addition to more informal beds and borders. It is native to a wide swath of eastern and central North America, from Quebec across the Middle West and as far as Texas.
Reasons to grow Golden Alexander start with its umbels of yellow flowers, a sign of membership in the Carrot Family. The flowers have an extensive bloom period, lasting four weeks or more depending on the weather.
Golden Alexanders are easy and fairly trouble-free in the right conditions. They like fertile, moist soil in sun or part shade.
This is a plant that attracts lots of native pollinators, especially short-tongued bees. It also draws the predatory insects that eat insect pests and is recommended as a tool of biological control.
Golden Alexander is not perfect. About 2-3 feet tall, it’s a relaxed plant. It tends to lounge about in a way that would put off, say, a tightly clipped boxwood hedge. Also, if it likes your garden, it will tend to self-sow. Possibly A LOT. So I always cut back seed heads when they appear, which also keeps the plant looking more tidy through the summer.
If there is a part of your garden that is more informal or devoted to wildflowers, you may want to give Golden Alexander a try.
Nice to see the Golden Alexander. I sowed some seeds of this last fall/winter. Think I see it coming up and that it’s not just a wonderful weed patch that I am tending. Yours looks so nice with the nepeta behind it.
Sometimes I think my whole garden is a wonderful weed patch!
Definitely an underused plant in the landscape. The most common complaint I have about it is the seeding.
The seeding is easy to fix by cutting back after flowering.
I think you have convinced me to give it a try.
Another one I’m not familiar with, perhaps not so common in Europe. It looks good with those ferns as well as the nepeta (I have the same nepeta coming into flower, and was just thinking it needs ‘lifting’ with a bit of yellow) and I do like your border in the first photo with the alliums looking really good in the background, although with something nice and fuzzy, is it fennel?
Yes, bronze fennel that eventually gets about 6′ tall.
We have wild flowers called Alexanders over here but it is not the same plant (Smyrnium olusatrum) and has white flowers. Yours look lovely with the Nepeta, I had never thought of using the Axanders in the garden. Amelia
Hmm, that’s an Alexander I don’t know.
It is a wild flower and I have never seen it for sale but it has a very similar look to your Alexanders.
You got a laugh out of me with that title. I needed my mood lifted after being out whacking cicadas. I like the yellow with the blue — you really do make the most of every inch! I agree with Sel Calderbank, above, that the allium clump is quite the eye-catcher; it does not take well to being in the background — it wants to be seen.
I’ll be writing about the Alliums soon.
I’ve always loved how this looks in your garden Jason. I really need to try it. Flowers with umbels are beautiful. I continuously resist that lovely garden thug, bishops weed.
I have some variegated bishops weed left by the last owner. I don’t find it too unmanageable, but whenever I see a flower I snip it off.
I see it here a lot on roadsides and along trails but it actually looks better in your garden. I rarely show it on the blog because I find that it’s almost impossible to get a good photo of it, so well done with the camera!
The gold looks beautiful with the purple.
Yes I also like that color combination.
So, it is another American wildflower (that I am not familiar with). In large areas, I would like to add more native wildflowers. In smaller spaces that I can give a bit of water to through summer, I intend to add a few exotic but North American wildflowers, including some that are annuals and biennials. I do like those from the prairies and plains, but really, I have not met an American wildflower yet that I am not intrigued by.
I’ve seen this plant recommended but was afraid to add it, fearing it would spread too much. It is gorgeous in your garden. (I love the allium.)
Well, it will spread if you don’t cut it back after flowering.
Your green lush garden looks great all the time, but I agree, Golden Alexander looks pretty great, especially amongst the purple flowers. Happy gardening.
I love it, and I see it this time of year on almost every hike. I don’t think it would grow well in my garden because of all the shade…although I’m thinking of expanding a few plots in the partial shade… 😉
It definitely likes part shade.
I don’t know this one, although any umbellifer is welcome here except cow parsley. I grow parsnips for their lovely yellow flowers which are quite similar to this one.
I don’t grow parsnips, but I do eat them, preferably with butter.
It looks lovely with the Nepeta. Also noticed your wonderful Alliums! I have never grown this as it seems relatively unknown here.
More on the Alliums to come.
As you mentioned it is a perfect plant for this time of year. Such a cheerful yellow in the garden. I have found in my garden that it is drought tolerant. I sprinkled seeds at the base of a maple tree whers weeds grow and they have filled in and I don’t have to weed so much there now. They have distinctive new leaves when they pop up in unwanted places infind them easy to pull. The green leaves are pretty all summer. Can you tell I like them? Even so I do dead head them to keep them from spreading too much.
Growing it at the base of a big tree is a great idea.
There’s a Texas endemic called Texas Tauschia that looks so remarkably like this one I thought you’d gone Texas native in your garden. I’m going to have to sit down and do a close comparison; they’re so similar it’s hard for me to spot the diffences at first glance. The leaves are different, but the blooms seem identical. The Tauschia’s also in the carrot family, of course, and it’s just as pretty as this one. I’ve been meaning to feature it at my place, partly because I found it in Galveston county, where it’s not yet been listed.
There are a number of similar plants in the genus Zizia. According to NPIN this is also in the Carrot family but not a Zizia.
Besides the fabulous title of the post, the plant does seem like a pretty great addition to the garden. Nice post, lovely shots!
Thanks very much, Tina!
Is it constantly expanding Into new territory? And does it live only a short time?
Doesn’t move as fast as that Alexander and has many progeny, so its generals won’t divide up its territory.
I love my zizea, it is very pretty. Usually pollinators are buzzing all over the flowers this time of year, which is always fun to watch. You really only need one or two plants at the most as it does reseed. i just pull out what I dont want.
Exactly. I also find that they attract a lot of pollinators.
I don’t think I have heard of this plant but it is pretty combined with the purple or blue flowers !
The heads remind me of dill flowers .. and that is a positive for me .. I love dill but in the past few years it is so hard to find starter plants .. I’m terrible at seeds.
I laughed a lot about your mothergilla idea , I think you are RIGHT ! LOL
I find that dill is pretty easy to direct sow outdoors. Glad you like mothergilla.
It’s lovely, as are those blues and yellows, beautiful combinations.xxx
It’s pretty – too bad it self sows because we already have that problem with a couple of other part shade lovers. I had never heard of this plant but it does combine wonderfully with the purple blooms.
You can control the self-sowing by cutting back after the flowers are done, though that does make for extra work.
I love Zizia, such a welcome plant in my meadows. Having read Nature’s Best Hope by Doug Tallamy has solidified my dedication to native plants. The more the better!
For sure, tnough I can’t give up my exotics completely.
I’m partial to mine as well, esp. my Japanese maple…
Hello Jason, I must admit that I would have just glossed over these as they don’t seem to be particularly eye-catching, but then I read where you wrote that they are recommended for attracting beneficial insects and those that predate on pests and that caught my attention. I could do with plants like those as blackfly is currently trying to take over the garden and the ladybird beetles are always so slow to catch-on and take advantage.
I wonder if your blackflies are the same as ours. Here the are nasty biting insects.