These plants grow naturally in sites that have somewhat moist soil, such as near streams. So keeping them well watered will generally be the most extensive part of their care. You’ll also have to remove dead growth from the previous year before the new year’s growth begins. And you might have to apply fertilizer if your soil isn’t rich. Plus, if your Joe Pye weed becomes quite tall, it might need staking to keep it upright, especially when it’s heavy with blooms.
Maintaining consistent soil moisture is key for growing robust Joe Pye weed. During your plant’s first growing season, keep the soil evenly moist at all times but not soggy. And even once the plant is mature, try not to let the soil remain dry for more than a few days at a time, especially during hot weather. A layer of mulch around your plant will help to retain soil moisture and keep the roots cool.
This wildflower is adaptable to different soil conditions. A fairly rich, well-drained soil is ideal. The plant is tolerant of clay soil and wet soil, and mature plants even have some tolerance for drought.
Once cold weather arrives in the late fall, Joe Pye weed goes dormant and dies back. You can either prune the dead foliage to about 4 to 8 inches off the ground at this time or wait until early spring to do this garden cleanup task. The plant blooms on the new season’s growth. So don’t wait until it’s too late in the spring to prune, or it can be difficult to avoid the new growth.
Joe Pye weed is a fairly low-maintenance plant, and it’s quite rewarding to grow due to its notable size and fragrant blooms. It does need space when you first plant it to accommodate its height and spread. But it can look great planted along borders, in wildflower gardens, and at the back of plant groupings to provide height.
Plants die back to the ground in late fall. This dead growth can be cut back or left over winter and cut in spring.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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This North East U.S. native grows 5-7 ft. tall, and 3-4 ft. wide. Leaves are arranged in whorls along purplish stems. They release a vanilla fragrance when crushed. Joe-pye Weed is a magnificent plant, likely to be the highlight of your garden for years to come. Winter hardy to zone 3.
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Plant Joe-pye Weed Seeds: Sow in 2 in. pots or cell packs, press into soil and barely cover. Needs light to germinate. Kept at 70°F., germination is usually within 4 weeks. If not, put container inside a zip-lock bag and place in the refrigerator for 4 weeks. Remove and return to 70°F. until germination occurs. See starting your seeds more information about growing seedlings under lights.
Joe-Pye Weeds are easy to grow, first year flowering perennials, which produce spectacular blooms in summer and early fall. Flowers attract swarms of butterflies and are long-lasting cut.
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