I have a deep interest in nature, gardening, and sustainability. The local arboretum is my universe of learning, and my garden is my lab!
Goldenrod or solidago is in the asteraceae family and is native to North America, South America, Asia, Canada and China. It can be found in any open sunny location or along roadsides. It usually is at its best in late summer and early fall. Showcasing itself with its beautiful plumes of yellow and gold, it is the last hurrah of summer before winter settles in.
There are many different varieties, including a white variety, and a ground cover variety. They can be tall, medium, short or ground level. They are easy to grow and are a perennial, so you don't have to replant them each year.
A word of warning: they do spread in a spirited way! So, if you don't want them all over your yard you could plant them in a large pot or be adamant about not letting seed heads ripen.
How to Grow Goldenrod
Cut the flower heads off when done blooming or let them fade to a very light cream color. I think they are lovely in all stages of bloom.
Although they are native and hardy, and most are super drought tolerant once established, the one that I got from a local nursery had written on the label that it likes a little extra water—so go figure, there's always an exception to the rule. I can say truthfully it has been brutally hot where I live this summer and I have not given it a lot of extra water, and she is still doing fine.
Goldenrods don't like to sit in water, so make sure they have good drainage. A handful of gravel mixed into the soil helps with drainage. So, don't hesitate to give them a thorough watering when it is very hot, just don't drown them. Remember, they are drought tolerant.
Designing With Goldenrod
Goldenrod is available in lovely shades of yellow, gold and white, with a variety of heights. There are many ways you could design with this flower.
Since it generally likes full sun, a combination of purple salvias with the goldenrod would look really striking. My salvia has a height of about 1 foot and, if combined with a petite or medium variety of goldenrod, would look striking.
Goldenrods are pollinator friendly, as are the salvias. Plant the perennial goldenrod with an annual such as angelonia in combination with a deep purple petunia, or a white petunia, or the annual verbena. With the base plant of goldenrod as your anchor perennial, you can switch up its plant mates with different annuals every growing season.
If you wish to plant the goldenrod with perennials, the salvia mentioned above is a great choice. If you really want to push the wildflower factor, plant with asters. These native flowers together with goldenrod will look casual and breezy and, most importantly, feed our pollinators. They are both hardy, and virtually pest free, and they will come back every year.
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Russian sage would also be a wonderful choice because of its color (light purple to lilac and its upright form. These two together would complement each other, provide food for insects and birds, and would be an extra perch for birds.
Types of Goldenrod
How many types of goldenrod are there? There are plenty and they range from delicate-looking ground covers to petite upright ones ones (which I have) and tall varieties that can grow upwards of 6 feet. Imagine if you had a large property and your open meadow was filled with these beauties!
Mine is growing in a sunny part of the garden next to my daylilies. It is about 1.5 feet tall and is a sturdy, elegant plant. Like all goldenrods, it is a perennial and graces my garden returning every year. The flowers have not opened yet, but you can see they want to. The little round buds form at the top of the flower and burst forth at the height of summer. My plant is a clear, bright yellow.
An interesting variety I would like to try in my garden is the anise-scented goldenrod that smells like licorice. It's about 2 feet tall and is a very pretty variety. The leaves of this flower are used to flavor licorice and medicines. But don't mix this up with the licorice plant! These are two totally different plants.
My direct experience with goldenrod is within my garden with the petite 'Golden Baby' variety and the wild goldenrod growing in fields in more rural areas.
Native Plants and the Meadow
Many native plants formed our natural grasslands and meadows in the United States. These grasses, sedges, and flowers evolved to be perfectly adapted to their sunny, open locations. They feed bees and other pollinators who have also evolved in certain regions.
They also provide food for birds who love their seed heads like dark-eyed juncos. Some birds build their nests on the ground and use the protection of the meadow to hide their nests and eggs from predators.
I think it is important to keep these subtle, strong plants in your garden and keep the non-natives to a minimum. Many non-natives are really quite beautiful, but they are not the preferred food choice for our native insects and birds. The Russian sage that I am so fond of is a non-native, but the bees seem to really like it, and it does add an elegant touch to my garden.
Best Places to Find Goldenrod
If I was in the market for more goldenrod, I would go to my local native plant garden center. They will probably have more varieties of it than a more commercial plant store.
Arboretums are also great places to go to find native plants. They have a few sales throughout the year.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.