Plant of the Month: Joe Pye Weed
For this month’s featured plant, I’d like to showcase Joe Pye Weed — one of my summer favorites. Before it blooms, the foliage has nice color and texture, with reddish stems and upright shape. The blooms are large clusters of smaller rose-pink blossoms that will stick around throughout July and August.
There are several native varieties that are in full bloom right now, like these at Heritage Park. In full sun and wetter soils, these plants can grow over 6 feet tall, though I typically see them more in the 4-foot to 5-foot range. The native varieties will self-seed and spread, but I have not found them to be overly aggressive with the right companion species.
In consulting my copy of Pollinators of Native Plants, the native Joe Pye Weed has large quantities of nectar for visiting moths, butterflies and bees.
As I was double-checking my facts, I discovered the genus name has changed!
Current Scientific Name: Eutrochium maculatum
Previous Scientific Name: Eupatorium maculatum
Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum — great option for shady or drier locations, with a larger, paler pink flower.
Cultivars available locally have been designed to be a bit smaller than the native, and tend to stay in larger clumps. Local cultivars include “Little Joe” Dwarf Joe Pye Weed and “Phantom” Joe Pye Weed. They are still attractive to butterflies, but may not provide the same nutrient quality as the true natives.
The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.
Here’s an interesting article from the Chicago Botanic Garden. We may not be able to grow these varieties here in the Twin Cities, but it’s worth keeping an eye out at your local garden center:
A Comparative Study of Joe-Pye Weeds (Eutrochium spp.) and Their Relatives (PDF)