Goldenrod (Solidago) is truly the star of keystone native perennials. You are sure to find a goldenrod you and your insects will love, because there are eight species native to our area. Here they are:
- Anise scented goldenrod (Solidago odora)
- zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)
- bog goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa var. uliginosa)
- early goldenrod (Solidago juncea)*
- giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea)*
- gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis var. nemoralis)
- showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa var. speciosa)*
- wrinkleleaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa subsp. aspera)
Be careful which one you choose, because some are rather invasive. I starred the most aggressive ones to avoid, especially if you have a small property.
Solidago is a deer resistant perennial with very high wildlife value. It’s a favorite of native plant gardeners because it is easy to grow in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. It tolerates poor soils, dry soils, clay, and drought.
Solidago naturalizes quickly in the garden and may need to be divided every two or three years to control its exuberance. Another way to control spreading is to deadhead the blooms as soon as they fade to prevent re-seeding, but then there will be no seeds for the birds to eat.
If you love Monarch butterflies, think about this: goldenrod offers monarch butterflies high quality nectar as they ramp up energy for the annual fall migration.
News flash: goldenrod is sometimes confused with ragweed, the bane of allergy sufferers. Goldenrod does not cause allergies and hay fever, so forget that idea.
Now let’s take a closer look at one of the best goldenrods for tidy gardeners–anise scented goldenrod (Solidago odora), a.k.a. sweet goldenrod. If you have a small garden, this is the plant for you.
Yes, the glossy dark green leaves actually do have the scent of licorice when crushed. Anise scented goldenrod is clump forming and is not weedy or aggressive like some other goldenrods. It attracts many beneficial insects, including butterflies, specialist bees, ladybugs and lacewings. It works well in wildflower gardens, pollinator gardens, meadows and borders.
Solidago odora stats every gardener wants to know
- Feathery gold flowers bloom from late August to September
- Grows about 2-4’ tall and 2’ wide
- Tolerates many soil types from heavy clay to sandy soils
- Does well in full sun to light shade
- Very pest and disease resistant
- Spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes or seed, but is not aggressive
- Drought-tolerant once established
- Deer resistant!
- High ecological value: larval host plant for a native leaf beetle, leafhoppers, and several flies.
- Provides habitat.
- Small birds like goldfinch eat the seeds.
- Foliage is forage for young woodland animals.
What’s not to love about goldenrods? Even if you’re not crazy about it, the insects that frequent your garden will be. And isn’t that why we plant natives? So go ahead, add a goldenrod—star of keystone native perennials–to your garden this spring.