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Invite this garden-worthy ‘weed’ to your landscape

'Little Joe' Joe Pye weed. Photo courtesy perennialresource.com

‘Little Joe’ Joe Pye weed. Photo courtesy perennialresource.com

Sure, weed is part of its name, but this plant is one of the best for attracting bees, butterflies, other pollinating insects and hummingbirds.

Plants called Joe Pye weed is a big family with lots of nearly unpronounceable names. Recently, the name of the common Joe Pye weed was changed from Eupatorium to Eutrochium. The Chicago Botanic Garden has evaluated most of this family during the past decade and found many garden-worthy candidates in this group of native plants.

“Joe-Pye weeds and their relatives are underrated native plants that possess many great garden qualities,” wrote Richard Hawke, plant evaluation manager at the CBG. “Large airy inflorescences and handsome foliage grace an array of plant sizes. These long-blooming plants are invaluable for attracting an assortment of butterflies to the late season garden.”

Joe Pye weed does best in full sun, but tolerates light shade. It thrives in soil that is more moist than dry, so water as needed. Some Joe Pye weed family members self sow, so deadheading – removing spent flowers – will help reduce that. Cut back to the ground in late winter.

Here are the five-star earners in the CBG trials. Chicago-area bloom times are provided, but here in central Indiana, they might be a slightly earlier.

‘Chocolate’ (Ageratina altissima sometimes listed as Eutrochium rugosum) has 3-inch wide white flowers atop 36-inch tall stems. The undersides of the leaves are a dark purple or brown, giving it the chocolate moniker. The foliage, which has excellent mildew resistance, is not that spectacular, but the plant size makes it serviceable in the garden from early September to late October.

‘Little Joe’ (Eutrochium dubium) has purple, flat-top flowers that get up to 5-inches wide. It’s 48- to 60-inches tall. This clump grower blooms from early August to mid September and shows excellent mildew resistance.

‘Carin’ (Eutrochium dubium) has pale pink flowers that get up to 9 inches wide. It blooms from early August to early September, and may get up to 85 inches tall and has excellent resistance to mildew. Hawke calls these tall Joe Pye weed titans, and recommends planting them in the back of a perennial border. Titans also could be planted as a late-season specimen or focal point.

‘Bartered Bride’ (E. fistulosum f. albidum) is another tall beauty, reaching up to 90-inches tall. The 9-inch wide white flowers start blooming in late July and continue into September. It exhibited good resistance to mildew. Here’s the full report.

 

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