How to Grow New York Ironweed, a Native Plant

Updated on May 3, 2019
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Source

Every August when I see purple flowers blooming, usually around local ponds, I think to myself that those “asters” are blooming early this year. Then I look more closely and realize that they are not asters. They are New York ironweed, a native plant that blooms in August, a month ahead of the asters.

What is New York Ironweed?

New York ironweed is a perennial plant that is native to the Eastern part of the United States. In its native habitat, it is usually found growing along streambanks because it prefers moist areas. It grows in both full sun and partial shade. The plants are quite tall, 4 to 6 feet in height and can spread 3 to 4 feet. Bloomtime is August. Up close, the flowers look like they are having a bad hair day!

The flowers look like they are having a bad hair day
The flowers look like they are having a bad hair day | Source

There are quite a few varieties of ironweed. The most popular are the New York ironweed and the giant ironweed which can grow up to 7 feet. Most people grow the New York ironweed in their gardens.

Why is it Called Ironweed?

It does seem strange that a tall green plant with purple flowers would be called “ironweed”, but if you revisit the plants in the fall after the flowers have finished and the seed heads have formed, it will become obvious. The beautiful purple flowers will have been replaced by rusty yellow seed heads resembling rusty iron. Also, the stems of the plants are very tough like iron. Both attributes are what give the plants their “ironweed” name.

The seed heads are a rusty yellow color similar to rusty iron.
The seed heads are a rusty yellow color similar to rusty iron. | Source

How to Grow New York Ironweed

Ironweed may grow in moist areas in the wild, but it will also grow perfectly well in your garden. The tall plants make a lovely back of the border display. The ones you see for sale in nurseries and online are domesticated varieties. It’s usually not a good idea to plant wild plants in your garden. They tend to grow and spread aggressively, crowding out your tender, domesticated plants.

If 4 to 6 feet is too tall for your garden, in the late spring, you can cut back the stems. They will grow back but shorter so that the plants won’t overwhelm a small garden.

Plant ironweed to attract butterflies
Plant ironweed to attract butterflies | Source

Ironweed adds interest to your garden because the flowers attract butterflies such as the American Lady, Sachem, Crossline Skipper and Fiery Skipper. If you let your plants go to seed, the birds will thank you. They love snacking on the seed heads.

The plants readily reseed themselves so be sure to remove the spent flowers in the fall. If you allow them to go to seed, you will find many new seedlings in your garden the following spring.

How to Grow New York Ironweed From Seed

Ironweed seeds need a period of cold stratification. They need to experience winter, real or fake, to germinate in the spring.

The best way to grow ironweed from seed is to sow the seeds in your garden in the fall. Plant the seeds no deeper than ⅛ inch deep. Barely cover them with soil. The seeds will germinate in the spring. Another way to start your seeds outdoors is to plant them, again ⅛ inch deep in pots that you leave outdoors so that the seeds can experience winter. They will germinate in the spring. When the seedlings are at least 2 inches tall, you can transplant them into your garden. Remember, they will grow into very large plants, so space your seedlings 12 inches apart.

You can start your seeds indoors and fool them into thinking that they have experienced winter. Most people do this by planting the seeds in flats, covering the flats with plastic to prevent them from drying out and then refrigerating the flats for a number of weeks. In the case of ironweed, it should be for 3 months. Some people go to extremes with their ironweed seeds and alternate refrigerating and freezing their seeds to really mimic winter conditions. To do this, they put their flats in the refrigerator for a day and then the freezer for a day. Then back to the refrigerator for another day followed by a day in the freezer. They keep this up for a week before removing the flats to a warm room (70⁰F) to mimic spring weather. Whichever cold stratification method you use, you can transplant your seedlings into your garden when they are at least 2 inches tall and all danger of frost has passed. Use the same 12 inch spacing as above.

Other Ways to Propagate New York Ironweed

If you don’t want to fuss with cold stratifying seeds, there are other ways to obtain ironweed plants. The easiest way is through division. Perennials should be divided every 3 to 4 years to keep them healthy. Carefully dig up your plants. Cut away any dead parts of the crown and roots, usually in the center and then cut the remaining crown and roots into pieces that you can replant. Be sure to space the plants at least 12 inches apart.

Another way to obtain ironweed plants is through cuttings. Take your cuttings in the late spring when the plant is actively growing. Cut 5 to 6 inches off an actively growing stem. Remove the leaves from the bottom 2 to 3 inches and dip that end in rooting hormone. Rooting hormone encourages the formation of roots. Place the cutting up to the level of the leaves in sterile soil. Keep the soil moist while your plant is growing its new roots. Be patient, it may take a few weeks. An easy way to tell if new roots have grown is to gently tug on your cutting. If there is some resistance, new roots are growing. If the cutting easily comes out of the soil, the roots have not yet started growing.

Questions & Answers

© 2018 Caren White

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      8 months ago

      Claudia, what a welcome surprise that was!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      8 months ago

      I love New York Ironweed. The purple is such a bright spot in late summer fields and gardens. We are lucky because we had a couple come up on their own and they come back every year.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)