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joe pye weed seed pods

Joe pye weed seed pods

Plants die back to the ground in late fall. This dead growth can be cut back or left over winter and cut in spring.

Spring or fall is the most suitable time for when to plant Joe-pye weed. Due to the large size of Joe-pye weed, it makes a great background plant but also needs plenty of room to grow. In fact, they are best planted on 24 inch (61 cm.) centers as they will eventually form large clumps. When growing Joe-pye weed in the garden, group it with similar woodland plants and ornamental grasses.

There’s little maintenance involved with Joe-pye weed care. The plant does enjoy regular, deep watering and will withstand heat and drought fairly well when the soil is kept moist or shade is provided. A layer of mulch will help retain moisture levels too.

In their native environment, these plants can be found in thickets and woodlands throughout the eastern half of North America. The plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4 through 9. They reach heights of anywhere between 3 and 12 feet (1-4 m.), offering great focal interest when using Joe-pye weeds in the garden. In addition, the flowers have a light vanilla fragrance that becomes more intense when crushed.

Growing Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-pye weeds in the garden prefer full sun to partial shade. They also like to be kept somewhat moist in average to rich soil. Growing Joe-pye weed will even tolerate wet soil conditions but not overly dry sites. Therefore, in areas with hot, dry summers, plant these ornamental beauties in partially shaded locales.

Older plants can be divided and replanted in the early spring as new growth starts or fall. When the center dies out of Joe-pye weeds in the garden, then it’s time for division. You need to dig up the entire clump, cutting away and discarding the dead center material. You can then replant the divided clumps.

Eupatorium purpureum, or Joe-pye weed as most people know it, is far from an unwanted weed to me. This attractive plant produces pale pink-purple flowers that last from midsummer through fall. It’s a great addition to nearly any garden and a must have for wildlife lovers, attracting a multitude of butterflies with its sweet nectar. Growing Joe-pye weed flowers is a wonderful way to bring a little bit of nature to your backyard.

What are Joe-Pye Weed Flowers?

For those that don’t have this wildflower presently growing on your property, you can usually find them in nurseries and garden centers. However, many of these Joe-pye weed plants are sold as E. maculatum. This type has more foliage and the flower heads as its wild counterpart. ‘Gateway’ is a popular cultivar for home gardens as it is a somewhat shorter variety.

Joe-pye weed flowers were named after a New England man that used the plant medicinally for helping people with typhus fever. In addition to its medicinal properties, both the flowers and seeds have been used in producing pink or red dye for textiles.

Joe pye weed seed pods

by Ginger Laurits

Coastal Joe-Pye (Eutrochium dubium) is the most shade tolerant of the Maine Joe-Pye species, which includes spotted Joe-Pye (Eutrochium maculatum) and hollow Joe-Pye (Eutrochium fistulosum). Coastal Joe-Pye has a compact habit, reaching 4-5 feet tall with a 3 foot spread. Its upright habit adds structure to the garden. Attractive lance-shaped leaves are arranged in whorls around the stem and prior to flowering, upper leaves are tinged with magenta. The flower is a member of the Composite or daisy family, which generally consists of central disk flowers surrounded by ray flowers, known as petals. Unlike its siblings, Joe-Pye contains only disk flowers, as if someone had picked off the ray flowers and left it without its bloomers.

Growing Joe-Pye
Joe-Pye is easily grown from seed. To grow your own, plant seeds in a pot outdoors in the fall or winter. The wet, cold conditions mimic wild seed propagation in nature and the seeds will germinate in mid spring. To learn more about growing and sowing the seeds of native wildflowers, read How to Grow Natives From Seed, and seeds can be purchased from our shop.

Meadow rue has just dropped her delicate white petals and coastal Joe-Pye’s pink blooms join white-flowered boneset. Spotted jewelweed adds a touch of pizazz with its orange-yellow irregular flowers. Its seed pods burst at the lightest touch, much to the delight of children of all ages (including me!) Asters and goldenrods will follow as the drainage ditch dries and summer winds down. Sedges and grasses that prefer the moist, part sun/part shade conditions fill the spaces in between.

Coastal Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium dubium)

Who needs books on garden design? We can take inspiration from nature.

Who was Joe-Pye?
According to folklore, he was a Native American healer, possibly named Jopi, who used the plant as a remedy to cure typhoid fever. He is credited with having halted a typhus epidemic in Colonial Massachusetts. In other lore, Joe Pye weed is believed to have magical attributes as a love potion and for improving one’s luck. I do wish it wasn’t called Joe-Pye Weed. Perhaps Joe-Pye Flower would be better—it’s a welcome plant in my garden!

On my walk to the beach, I pass by a lovely drainage ditch. Lovely, because it is full of native plants, unmolested by invasive species, just as nature would have it (aside from the fact that it is a drainage ditch).

The dome-shaped pink blooms attract many pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects who feast on its pollen and nectar. Flowers mature into buff-colored seed clusters in fall that provide food and nesting material for birds. In addition to its natural companions mentioned above, Joe-Pye blends well with swamp milkweed, blue vervain, and New England aster.

Pussy willows that bloomed in early spring were followed by speckled alder, birch, and sassafras under a canopy of red oak and red maple. Viburnums in spring and winterberry in early summer add to the continuous display of flower and leaf colors and textures.