Spotlight On: Goldenrod, Misunderstood Fall Wildflower Or Unwelcome Weed?

By October 20, 2021Plant Spotlight
Spotlight On: Goldenrod, Misunderstood Fall Wildflower Or Unwelcome Weed?

Goldenrod, known in fancier terms as Solidago, is a fall staple. You can find it everywhere from carefully designed back yard gardens to wild roadside fields.

You’d probably recognize it anywhere by its fluffy yellow-gold flower spikes, but what do you _really_ know about Goldenrod? It has a reputation as an invasive weed, but could there be more to it than that? Could Goldenrod be an often-overlooked fall wildflower worthy of any beloved garden?

In our plant Spotlight series, we highlight seasonal favorites that bring multi-sensory appeal not just during their prime, but through other seasons, too. So we wouldn’t have put Goldenrod on our list if we didn’t think it had something special to bring! Learn a little bit more about this native beauty and see if anything inspires you to include this fall charmer in your landscape.

goldenrod flowersPervasive Myths And Fascinating Facts

Goldenrod gets a bad rap for being a weed, but it’s one of the hardiest native wildflowers in North America. There are over 100 species of Goldenrod, and they’re often cultivated as highly prized flowers in Europe today.

But perhaps one of the most common myth about Goldenrod, one that may keep this beauty from adorning gardens across New Jersey, is the belief that it causes hay fever.

When it comes to misery-causing plants, the real culprit is ragweed. Believe it or not, the fluffy yellow flowers of Goldenrod produce pollen that is too heavy and sticky to fly through the air. Ragweed, on the other hand, is a lot less interesting to look at, and freely releases its irritating pollen into the air where it coats everything including your sinuses.

The confusion probably came about because both bloom at the same time. So next time you have a seasonal sneezing fit, don’t blame the innocent Goldenrod.

Beyond the myths, there are some interesting tidbits that you might not be aware of. Not only is Goldenrod innocent of causing allergy flareups, but it has health benefits, too. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, and has been used in herbal form as a pain reliever. Its very name, Solidago, comes from the Latin word “solidare” which means “to make whole”.

Goldenrod has been used as an herbal brew in place of tea since colonial times. After the Boston Tea Party, steeped blends including flowers and berries, like Goldenrod, hibiscus, chamomile, blueberry, and raisins, were called “Liberty Tea.”

Dried and ground Goldenrod flowers lend an anise flavor to teas, and its seeds can be added to soup as a thickening agent. Flowers are also used to create a rich, dark honey, in addition to being edible all on their own.

Turns out there’s a lot more to this golden fall-blooming wildflower than meets the eye!

goldenrod near waterCare & Maintenance

As a native wildflower, Goldenrod is quite adept at thriving and propagating on its own. In fact, most of the maintenance involved is going to be keeping it in one place! Goldenrod is a prolific spreader, and if left to its own devices will earn its reputation as an invasive plant.

But don’t let that scare you – much like bamboo, it grows by sending out rhizomes, so the key to successful gardening with both of these gems is to contain the roots by planting properly. That may mean planting it in pots, or using it as a border flower. It can also simply mean containing it in a wildflower garden where it will be right at home.

Plus, cultivated varieties are less prone to spread than their wild counterparts, so planted the right way, you shouldn’t have any problems with this plant taking over.

Otherwise, Goldenrod is incredibly hardy and tolerant of a variety of temperature conditions. It’s drought tolerant, deer resistant and will grow in just about any soil variety you can find, from sandy to clay to rocky.

It flowers best in full sun, but can also tolerate some shade, especially varieties that have been cultivated for lower light conditions. It requires no fertilizer, and is rarely bothered by insects or disease.

So if you’re looking for a fall garden addition that will bring vibrant color with little effort, this one can’t be beat.

butterfly on goldenrodWhy We Love It

If all of the reason above aren’t enough, we’ve got a few more tidbits up our sleeve that may make you a fan of Goldenrod.

Its prolific blooms attract bees and butterflies, important pollinators for your garden and enjoyable all on their own. For new landscapes, Goldenrod is a great addition, since it reaches its full size – up to six feet or more – in just a few months.

The flowers also a perfect accompaniment in cut bouquets and arrangements. The tall, slender blooms are easy to pick by hand – no shears required – and the floppy, pyramid-shaped plumes practically arrange themselves. Grab an armful and add other late summer and autumn favorites like coneflower, late-blooming roses, or daisies, and you’ve got a gorgeous burst of seasonal color worthy as a centerpiece anywhere.

We hope that you’ve fallen in love with Goldenrod, and forgotten any myths you may have learned. The color that this plant brings through late summer and fall is too stunning to miss.

If you have questions or want to talk about adding Goldenrod or any seasonal favorites to your landscape, contact us for a consultation. We’ll design a landscape that will bring you four seasons of joy and beauty, now and for years to come.