Joe pye weed is a very dramatic native American plant. It will grow up to 12 feet (366 cm) in height and is topped by large fluffy pink/purple flowers that last for weeks sometimes months. Its very hardy to zone 4 - some even claim 3, and needs no maintenance once its established. It does need full sun and prefers a moist to damp soil but it will grow in other soils provided it is give extra water on occasion. Will not grow in dry soil. Tolerates a little shade but not much but its not fussy about the soil type. Deer and rabbits don't eat it, but butterflies, humming birds and other pollinators love the flowers. Needs some space but if you have a moist area that needs filling this is the plant for you.
Description of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).
A native American perennial hardy to zone 4 that dies down to the ground in winter. In spring it produces shoots like asparagus that soon unfold into whorls or rosettes of leaves usually 4o or 5 in a whorl but can be anything from 3-6. Leaves are long canoe shaped and mid green in color. Pointed at both ends and coarsely toothed along the edges they can be up to 9" (23 cm) long and 2" (5cm) wide. The stems are strong, stout and hairy they are usually green with purple spots but can sometimes be solid purple. Stems are unbranched and just keep growing taller reaching 5-12 feet (152-366 cm) in height with whorls of leaves at wide intervals.
The top of each stem forms a delicate much branched flower head. Each branch
holds a many flower heads of pink to purple flowers. Each head contains 8-20
petal-less disk flowers. It is the purple bracts on the outside that give the
flowers their color along with the two long stringy styles that provide the
fluffy flower appearance. Individually the flowers are not much but clustered
together in huge clusters from 3-12" across they form striking blooms.
Flowering usually starts around mid summer and can continue through mid autumn.
The flowers are rich in nectar and are a magnet for butterflies, humming birds,
bees and native pollinators and well as night flying moths.
After flowers are finished the heads turn brown and produce light fluffy sees that easy carry on the wind.
Plants tend to grow in a tight bush like structure that expands every year. Both leaves and flowers have a light vanilla like fragrance that becomes stronger when crushed.
This plant is makes a wonderful winter interest plant where the seed head are excellent food for birds while the plants can look extremely attractive covered in frost or light snow.
Growing Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) from Seed.
Seeds need to be cold stratified before they will germinate. They also need light.
This is best done in late fall to early winter. Clear the area where the plants are to grow, remove all weeds and unwanted plant material. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil and then walk over the area to lightly press the seeds into the ground and prevent them from blowing away. Keep moist if winter is dry. The cold of the winter will stratify the seeds for you. Check on seeds regularly in spring and keep the are moist at all times. Once seedlings germinate prick out any that are too close together and transplant if desired. Water plants through the first year to help them establish.
For more controlled results seeds can be sown indoors. There are several methods please see our stratification instructions and choose the method that best suits you. If using a refrigerator or other cold storage keep for 60 days before removing. Ensure that the seed medium stays moist but not wet.
Sow seeds on the surface of the seeding mix as they need light to germinate. and keep moist at all times. Remove seeds from the stratification once spring arrives and treat as a normal seedlings. Keep moist at all times. If cold stratified correctly seeds usually germinate within 4 weeks of removal if kept at around 70°F (21°C). However this will vary with temperature.
Location and Care of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).
The ideal location for this plant is full sun with moist fairly rich soil, but it will grow quite well in other locations. The least compromise is on light, while it will tolerate a little shade full sun is best in all climate zones. It does best in moist to slightly wet soil but is not too tolerant of boggy conditions. It will also grow in dryer soils and is fairly drought tolerant once its established but will not grow as tall. It will tolerate almost all soil types .
This plant is ideal for moist areas of the garden near a pond or stream or even large rain gardens. However since it grows so tall it is not recommended for gardens close to a house. Place it either in the back of small rain gardens or the center of larger ones with smaller plants around it. If planting in an area that has less water using a soaker hose or some other method of watering would be recommended, especially in hotter zones. While it will tolerate drought the leaves often become withered and scorched. Do not plant in dry areas it will not do well if at all.
Joe Pye weed grows tall so consider that before you plant it. Its going to need a lot of space and give a lot of height so it either needs its own area or to be at the back of the border. It will add a lot of drama to your garden and is very showy.
Stems are usually strong enough to hold up the large flower heads but it planted in a sheltered area they may be weaker and bend over after heavy rain or strong winds. Deadheading the flowers will keep them looking their best in smaller gardens otherwise leave them to the birds to feast on.
Once established Joe Pye weed needs little maintenance. Cutting down in early spring before the new shoots start to grow is about all it really needs. Joe Pye Weed is best left standing in the garden over the winter as it provides great winter interest and the birds can eat the seeds. It looks very dramatic when covered in frost or light snow. Clumps will grow larger quite quickly in ideal moist conditions and may need to be controlled but its not very invasive. Deer and rabbits don't eat it.
Harvesting of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).
Fresh flowers, cut long stems of flowers that have just opened and place them in water immediately; strip the leaves that will fall below the water.
Leaves. are harvested in the summer before the flower buds open, and are dried for later use
roots are harvested in the autumn
Medical uses of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).
The whole herb works as a diuretic and is used in the treatment of kidney complains such as painful urination. The roots are used in the treatment of fevers, colds, liver complaints and rheumatism. A wash made from the roots is used to bathe rheumatic joints
Other uses of Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).
Makes a great cut flower. Lasts a long time.
Queen of the Meadow, gravel root, kidney root, mist-flower, snakeroot and purple boneset.