Native to the Midwest, Joe-Pye Weed is an easy plant to grow and can make a powerful statement in the wildflower garden. Joe-pye weed is rumored to be named after a Native American herbalist who used the plant as a medicinal herb to help cure fever-centered illnesses in early American history. This herbaceous perennial is often called “queen of the prairie” because of its 10-foot stature and regal crowning flowers that are a rose-purple shade and attract butterflies and bees by the hundreds. Plants have a lovely vanilla scent, and the flowers make extraordinary cut flowers. If you have a bird garden, do not deadhead the flowers as the seedheads attract all types of feathered friends. While Joe-pye weed has been considered medicinal, it is rarely used in modern times [for this purpose] because it is considered highly toxic to pets and humans when it’s not consumed as directed. Below is an excerpt from the Indiana Getting Started Gardening Guide teaching you more about this beautiful flowering plant.
- Botanical name — Eupatorium purpureum (also – Purple boneset)
- Bloom Period and Seasonal Color — Summer; rose-purple flowers
- Mature Height × Spread — 3 to 10 feet × 3 feet
- Added Benefits – Low maintenance, attracts pollinators and beneficial insects, birds love the plant
- Sun Requirements – Sun, Part-Sun – hardiness zones 3 to 8
When, Where, and How to Plant – Although Joe-pye weed prefers full sun, it will do well in part sun but might sprawl if its spot is too shady. Joe-pye weed prefers rich, humusy, moist soils. Improve soil where needed with rotted manure and compost. Plant either from seed or potted plants. If it’s planted early enough, Joe-pye weed should flower by the end of its first season of growth.
Growing Tips – Encourage shorter plants by pinching back early in the spring growing season. Consider planting in wet soils near rivers, streams, ponds, and as a plant for wetland mitigation.
Advice and Care – Maintenance includes cutting down the plant completely in early winter. Typically Joe-pye weed has very little insect or disease problems, although overcrowded, shady, and consistently wet conditions can lead to fungal problems. Give the plants lots of space in the planting beds in order to help prevent these issues. Treat fungal spot and powdery mildew with an organic fungicide.
Companion Planting and Design – Joe-pye weed naturalizes very well both in prairies and along the borders of woodlands. It makes an outstanding rain garden plant and looks good combined with grasses and water-loving iris. Because it is such an exceptionally tall prairie plant, it is best used at the very back of borders, as a natural fencelike border plant, and mixed in with other natives in prairies and meadows. Joe-pye weed is a must-have choice for a butterfly garden and works well planted in the center of an island of mixed butterfly shrubs and perennial plants. In a more drought-tolerant border, consider placing Joe-pye weed at the back with ornamental grasses, Russian sage, goldenrod, and butterfly weed, mulching the garden well to help hold moisture.
My book the Indiana Getting Started Garden Guide has some delightful ideas on how to grow joe pye weed and many more perennials, annuals, and shrubs, particularly if you live in the midwest.