Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Going Native: Joe Pye Weed

Even though the holidays are only days away and I have a long list of things to do, here I am dreaming of Spring and planning changes for my garden ... you are too, aren't you?

Well, if there was one native plant I had to choose or recommend as a nectar source for pollinators, my choice would be Joe Pye Weed. If you do not have this beautiful American native and can grow it near you, be sure to include it in your plans. I have two patches started in two different areas of my garden. The minute Joe Pye comes into bloom, it is covered in bees, flies, butterflies, and even hummingbirds.

There are many varieties of Joe Pye to choose from. I am growing Eupatorium purp. maculatum Gateway, a cultivar which I purchased from Bluestone Perennials. It is so far, the tallest Joe Pye I have in my garden. This fall I discovered a few volunteers and have moved them into other areas of my garden.

Eupatorium Gateway
White Admiral Butterfly on Eupatorium Gateway

I am also growing Eupatorium maculatum or Spotted Joe Pye Weed, a true native I purchased from Prairie Moon.

Eupatorium maculatum
Monarch Butterfly on Eupatorium maculatum

A native choice for more shaded areas would be Eupatorium purpureum or Sweet Joe Pye Weed (which I have just added to my wish list for the north side of our garage/workshop). Its blooms have a vanilla scent and Prairie Moon notes that Native Americans used this plant to cure fevers.

I am also growing Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate,' or Snakeroot. Its leaves are burgundy and its blooms white. It blooms much later in the fall.

Just a note that on Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflowercenter site, the Joe Pye Weeds have been assigned to the genus Eupatoriadelphus to separate them from the Bonesets (Eupatorium). Some sources still refer to Joe Pye species as Eupatorium. The genus Eupatoriadelphus differs from the genus Eupatorium by whorled leaves, while Eupatorium has opposite leaves. I find that the blooms of either genus attract many pollinators. 

If you like merry butterflies, try growing a variety of Eupatorium, or Eupatoriadelphus. Maybe more than one?


  1. I would have to agree, if I had to choose only one native perennial, it would be Joe Pye...such a stunning plant! I just love the blooms and the purple stems...they are so striking. I have 'Gateway' as well as 'Little Joe', which is nice in a smaller area (although it still reaches about 5' tall). They are pretty much the star in any garden they appear in :-)

  2. Yes! - I am dreaming of spring! :) And I don't have Joe Pye Weed in my garden, but thanks for the recommendation. I will have to find a spot for it!

  3. Super beautiful post! I love Jpye...gorgeous!

  4. I have Chocolate and them and they love to seed all over the back of my garden especially in the rain garden area...building some big patches I hope so i can add some to the meadow too...

  5. Joe pye was the first native wildflower I planted at my first house. I had no idea about the pollinator explosion that was to ensue when it bloomed! It made such an impact on me that I've been a Joe Pye lover ever since. "Little Joe" is also a good cultivar, growing around 3 to 4 ft tall.

  6. I have one Joe Pye Weed plant and I have confess that I have not placed it well in the garden. It needs a few friends that bloom at the same time to really set it off. When we build our pond, I plant to move it. Merry Christmas to you and all the best for the holidays!

  7. I love this plant,and have a couple although it isnt that well known in the UK. I had a chocolate one but managed to kill it off so will have to source another one

  8. Dear Kathy,
    How delightful to see one of my favorite natives blooming here when all is brown and dry out in the garden! Lovely!! Beautiful shots of the butterflies too!
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!


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