By Bethany Hayes
Towards the end of summer, you can find fields of goldenrod plants with their tall flower plumes full of yellow flowers. Goldenrod practically screams that fall is on the way, so get ready. Despite its beauty, few people purposefully include it in their garden, thinking that it’s mostly a weed, but learning how to grow goldenrod in your garden can give your beds a splash of color needed as summer winds down.
Goldenrod is native to North America. Once prized by the indigenous people, now it is considered a nuisance and a cause of hay fever (which is often a misconception). People think of it as a weed instead of an ornamental plant.
It’s time we take another look at goldenrod and consider adding it to our gardens as a late-summer plant. If you’re ready to take a chance on a native plant, you need to know how to grow goldenrod in your garden.
A Quick Look at Goldenrods
When you envision goldenrods, the classic, large plant will come to mind, but new cultivars have larger flowers and a refined growth habit. These plants are better suited for purposeful garden growth, and they put the idea that this is simply a weed to shame.
If you still aren’t sold on the idea, let me tell you one crucial reason why you need to add at least one goldenrod plant to your beds – pollinators.
Pollinators adored goldenrod. It’s a late-season food source for butterflies, bees, and tons of other pollinators that your garden needs. Growing it in your garden helps keep the pollinators near your house, so they’ll pollinate and help your garden grow, especially if you have vegetable plants that require pollination.
Here are some of the basic facts of goldenrod.
- It’s a herbaceous perennial that will continue to grow back each year, tolerating cold winters and hot summers.
- The hardiness zones do vary based on species, but you can find them from USDA zone 4-8.
- They have a long bloom period, starting in the late summer and ending in mid-to-late fall. Some cultivars continue to flower and bloom until your area’s first frost.
- Some bushes can reach heights of 6 feet tall!
- Goldenrod is a member of the aster family, but rather than having daisy-like flowers, they grow clusters of small yellow or gold florets.
Popular Goldenrod Varieties
You might be surprised to know that there is more than one goldenrod cultivar. Each one has something unique, whether it’s the size of the mature plant or the blossoms’ size. Here are some popular choices.
This cultivar grows well in USDA zones 4-8, reaching 1-3 feet tall. It blooms from August to early fall with clusters of daisy-like flowers on blue-green stems. Bluestem grows well in shady areas and dry soil.
Seaside grows well in USDA zones 4-9, reaching up to 6 feet tall! It blooms from August to October, thriving in sandy soil. You might guess from its name, but it grows well in seaside gardens, thriving and loving salty air.
Growing in USDA zones 4-8, Golden Fleece reaches 1.5 to 2.5 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. It blooms from August to October with large sprays of golden-yellow flowers. When it’s not in bloom, Golden Fleece is still lovely because it has heart-shaped foliage.
If you want a small cultivar, Little Lemon grows in USDA zones 5-8, reaching a maximum height of 14 inches. It blooms from July to August, making it an excellent option if you want to try growing goldenrod in a container. The size also makes it ideal as an edging or border plant.
This cultivar lives in USDA zones 3-8, reaching 2-3 feet tall. Showy Goldenrod blooms from July to September, and it’s a real showstopper. This native plant showcases densely packed bright yellow flowers on red stems.
Here is a variety that does well in USDA zones 4-9, reaching up to 4 feet tall. It blooms from August to September, leaving a lovely anise scent in the area. Sweet goldenrod is an East coast native plant that smells like licorice if you crush it, so it’s often used in cooking and herbal teas.
Getting Started: How to Grow Goldenrod in Your Garden
If you decide to grow goldenrod, it’s not hard at all! Here are the simple steps to add this plant to your garden beds.
Select the Right Spot for Goldenrod
The first thing you want to do is find the spot where you want to grow this plant. You can either grow them by rhizomes or clump-forming crowns. The clump-forming varieties work better for garden beds and borders because they spread less. Only use the kind that needs to be planted by rhizomes if you can contain their spread or you want it in a natural setting.
Goldenrod prefers to be planted in full sunlight unless you use a woodland species. Those types can grow well in partial shade.
Have The Necessary Soil for Growing Goldenrod
As you more than likely noticed, goldenrod can grow anywhere, and those locations don’t tend to have the best soil. So, it can thrive in any average garden soil, so long as it has decent drainage. You don’t want to plant in a spot that is too rich because it can cause leggy growth.
If you have sandy, rocky, or clay soil, you can find a type that will grow in your area.
Start Indoors – If You Want
It’s not a requirement, but if you’re already starting seeds inside, you might want to start a few goldenrod seedlings as well. Sow your seeds in small pots 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.
Don’t sow the seeds too deeply! The seeds need access to light, so keep them warm and place them under a grow light in your house.
Once germinated and sprouted, allow them to continue to grow inside until it’s safe to plant outside. You can put goldenrod seedlings outside after the danger of frost passes.
Planting Goldenrod in Your Garden
Goldenrod is like most wildflowers, so it’s easy to grow from seeds. Sow the seeds directly outside in either the fall or spring. Once you reach your last frost date, you can sow the seeds outside in the spring. If you decide to plant in the fall, do so 6-8 weeks before your first frost date. These seeds won’t germinate until the temperatures warm up the following spring.
No matter when you decide to sow the seeds, make sure you soil them on the surface because the seeds need sunlight to germinate properly.
Whether you sow the seeds directly outside or plant seedlings that you started inside, you want to make sure you space them appropriately. Goldenrods are far from small plants, and they need adequate space between each of the plants. It’s best to space them 1-3 feet apart, depending on the variety you selected.
Extra space gives the plants extra space to grow, but it allows for proper air circulation. It reduces the risk that your plants will spread and bother other plants nearby.
Caring for Goldenrod
The great thing is that goldenrods are easy to grow; that’s why you found them along the roadside or throughout fields. They’re carefree, drought-tolerant, and disease resistant, but when you grow them purposefully in your garden beds, you actively want to make sure you reduce their spread while making sure they look their best.
Water Your Plants
All plants, including goldenrod, need plenty of water. In general, you should give your plants one inch of water each week, but they can withstand drought conditions. While you will have the best results and flowers if you water consistently, sometimes life happens, or Mother Nature goes crazy. In those cases, your goldenrod will survive.
Fertilizing Isn’t Needed!
Don’t even worry about fertilizing. Your plants will survive and thrive without additional feedings. Too many nutrients in the soil can cause goldenrods to develop floppy growth and fewer flowers.
If you feel like you have to fertilize, side-dress the plants with compost at the end of the growing season.
Divide The Plants Up
All goldenrod plants will eventually need to be divided up. You don’t have to plant the divisions, but it’s a shame not to do so!
If you use the rhizome-based plantings, they can quickly take over your garden, so plan to divide them every 2-3 years. If you plant the clump-forming species, they grow much slower and will only need to be divided infrequently, typically every few years.
Remember to Deadhead
Reseeding happens when the dead flowers on your plant drop off, spreading seeds everywhere. If you want to reduce the chance of the goldenrod plants spreading everywhere, deadhead often – taking off the dead flowers.
If you don’t mind, you can leave the seed heads in place. The wildlife in your area will enjoy munching on them throughout the winter.
Do Pests & Diseases Bother Goldenrod?
Do you need another reason to add goldenrod to your garden? It’s rarely bothered by pests or diseases! Since this plant is native to most of the United States and grows prolifically in most places, it has adapted and survives most pests.
There are only two diseases that bother goldenrod, which are:
If you notice a white film over the top of the leaves in your garden, you might have powdery mildew. This is a fungal disease that typically occurs when there isn’t enough air circulation between your plants.
This disease attacks plants that don’t have enough air circulation because it loves wet, humid conditions. Rust produces pustules that break open and release powdery orange to red-colored spores on your leaves.
Give Growing Goldenrod a Chance
It’s time to go out of the norm and find new plants, such as the native goldenrod plant everyone knows, but no one loves. Learning how to grow goldenrod in your garden beds adds unique beauty and encourages pollinators to visit your property.