Goldenrods for Your Gardens and Bouquets Back »

Goldenrods are a valuable source of nectar for migrating Monarch butterflies.


In late summer and fall, goldenrods brighten up landscapes with cheerful bright yellow accents. There are approximately 120 goldenrod species, known botanically and in many parts of the world as Solidago spp.; most are native to North America. All but one species have the bright yellow flowers, and they can range in size from a few inches to over six feet tall! As is evident in many pastures and uncultivated areas, our native goldenrod species tolerate heat, drought, and cold, and can lend their beauty to low-maintenance landscapes as well as summer and fall flower beds. Most will appreciate full sun.

About Goldenrod

Europeans have long admired and used goldenrods in landscaping (although a few species, including Solidago gigantea, became aggressive weeds there). In the United States, however, their blooms were mostly overlooked or unappreciated - although goldenrods are the state flowers of Nebraska and Kentucky, and the state wildflower of South Carolina. Goldenrods can quite easily hybridize across species – a characteristic that can make botanical identification difficult, but has aided ornamental plant breeders. In recent years, many beautiful cultivars have been developed, and are less likely to spread where they aren’t wanted. Not all are hardy for South Dakota, but among those that are there are a good selection of sizes and shapes to choose from. Florists have also come to appreciate goldenrod’s contribution to their cut flower bouquets, and numerous cultivars have been developed specifically for that use.

Goldenrod flowers are insect pollinated, and provide nectar for a number of desirable insects, including monarch butterflies, honeybees and native bees. Chickadees and finches feed on their seed. The stems may be infected by a small fly that causes quite large galls, but do little damage to the plant, and the fly larvae provide food for overwintering birds.

There are many new, well-behaved cultivars of goldenrod, such as this attractive "Fireworks". Seaside goldenrod is found in the Eastern United States, and is a major food source for migrating Monarch butterflies along the East Coast.
Photo by J.C. Semple.
 

Uses & Management

Goldenrods have been used for tea and medicines by Native Americans and others, for ailments ranging from skin sores, diarrhea, and respiratory to urinary and kidney disorders. The flowers can also be used for a yellow dye. While it was once thought that goldenrod were a major cause of hay fever, we now know that the pollen is too large and sticky to be carried far by the wind, and hay fever is caused by other plants blooming at the same time, particularly ragweed. So we can enjoy the flowers in our gardens and bouquets without fear!

Flowers can be deadheaded after bloom to prevent unwanted seedlings (probably not necessary with the new cultivars); the whole plant should be cut back to the ground in late fall or early spring. Types that spread by rhizomes can be divided every 2 to 3 years, in the spring or fall. The rhizomes should be replanted with the tops about one inch below the soil line.

Canadian Goldenrod.
Photo by J.C. Semple.
Giant Goldenrod can sometimes become a problem weed.
Photo by J.C. Semple.
 
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