With the garden creeping into fall, one of my favorite late-summer plants is in full bloom. It’s goldenrod, and it’s good not only for brilliant color but because of the amazing array of beneficial insects it attracts to the garden.
Let’s get one misconception out of the way right away: goldenrod does NOT cause hayfever. Ragwort does; it’s a totally different plant.
I love goldenrod — the Latin name on plant labels is Solidago — for the bright yellow sprays of flowers it bears in August. It provides a great color complement to purple coneflower or Joe Pye weed. It’s carefree and drought resistant. While the native goldenrods that you see in ditches along rural roads can be aggressive in a garden, mine do just a bit of self-seeding. If you have more plants than you need, the volunteers are easy to pull in the spring.
I like to stand near goldenrod at dusk and watch clouds of tiny wasps and bugs swarm over the flowers. I've read that goldenrod is a lure for up to 75 kinds of beneficial insects that attack bad garden bugs. One garden blogger said that if she could only plant one perennial to attract good bugs, it would be goldenrod. It’s also a great plant for bees and butterflies.
I bought my goldenrod as a hybrid called “Fireworks” but after seeing the real thing at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum I know I have something else. Here’s a video from the University of Minnesota about “Fireworks:”
There are lots of other cool hybrids out there, including “Crown of Rays” and “Peter Pan.” There are tall goldenrods and short ones, plants with balls of flowers and plants with sprays of flowers.
Here’s a web page about goldenrod and the insects it attracts:
And here’s a fact sheet from the Chicago Botanic Garden that lists a bunch of varieties of goldenrod for the garden:
What’s your experience with goldenrod? Do you have a favorite native plant in your garden?