Goldenrod is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae). The goldenrods are in the genus Solidago; within this genus, there are over 100 species of goldenrods and many more cultivars. Goldenrod plants are primarily native to North America, although there are additional species in Central and South America and a few species in Europe and Asia.
Notably, goldenrod is an often misunderstood plant. It has gained a reputation for causing seasonal allergies and hayfever, but actually, it is other less conspicuous plants, like ragweed, that bloom at the same time that are actually to blame. Goldenrod does tend to naturalize quickly and spread freely, which makes it easy to grow, but it will require maintenance to keep it well-contained.
Goldenrod plants typically have bright yellow flowers that bloom in the fall. They are hardy, adaptable, and highly versatile. You can find a place for goldenrod in a native plant garden, butterfly garden, cottage garden, or anywhere you need some reliable fall color. And if you want to attract butterflies and pollinators, this is an excellent plant to grow in your wildlife-friendly landscape.
Now let’s dig into more details about different types of goldenrod plants, how to use them in your landscape, and how to help them thrive and look their best!
Goldenrod Plant Overview
Plant Natural History
Goldenrods, abundant in various ecosystems, have over 100 species worldwide.
Goldenrods are abundant and diverse. They are common and characteristic plants of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem throughout central North America. They also grow naturally in moist meadows, dry uplands, moist wetland edges, and open woodlands. Anyplace with a wild, open, sunny area has the possibility for goldenrod to grow there.
There are over one hundred different species of goldenrod plants, and they are found throughout North America, Central America, and South America. There are even goldenrod species native to Europe and Asia. Because of their popularity as landscaping plants, goldenrods have been bred to create many different cultivars with desirable gardening traits.
Goldenrods reproduce readily by seed and by underground rhizomes. As a wildflower, you will often find them in large clusters. As a landscaping plant, you must allow them plenty of space to grow. Goldenrod is not only a common plant in many natural landscapes, but it is also an important part of the natural ecosystem. The flowers and seeds support a wide assortment of birds and insect pollinators.
Perennial goldenrods bloom into vibrant yellow flowers in late summer and fall.
Goldenrods are herbaceous perennials. They spend most of the growing season in a state of leafy greenery. The leaves are usually small, simple, rounded, and smooth-edged. During most of the growing season, goldenrods are fairly unremarkable.
However, they burst into bloom in the late summer and into fall with very showy, bright yellow flowers. The fall color is breathtaking. The flowers are small and grow in clusters. Different species will display different flowering forms, from rounded floral masses that line the leafy stems to long finger-like extensions.
Goldenrods range in size from just one or two feet tall to up to six feet or more. Some develop a series of single upright stems, while other varieties are bushier, like small shrubs. In the winter, they die back to the ground and overwinter as a root mass, only to sprout up again with renewed vigor each spring.
Propagating goldenrod is simple. The easiest way to grow new goldenrod plants will be by sowing seeds and dividing established clusters. If you are starting from scratch, you’ll either sow seeds or purchase a potted plant from a nursery. If you already have an established goldenrod, you can easily divide it.
For easy goldenrod cultivation from seed, direct sow in fall.
If you are starting goldenrod from seed, the easiest way to proceed will be to sow your seeds in your garden in the fall and allow them to overwinter outside. This is a very simple process that mimics the natural growth cycle of these plants. In late fall, loosen the soil where you’d like to grow your goldenrods.
Sow the seeds outside and firmly pat them into the soil; they don’t need to be buried. Then, allow them to overwinter outside naturally, and they will sprout in the springtime when the weather starts to warm.
Quickly propagate goldenrod by dividing mature clumps with a sharp spade.
A very quick and easy method to propagate goldenrod is the division of mature clumps. If you have a cluster or goldenrod or are sharing with a gardening friend, you can easily divide a single large clump into two or more smaller clumps.
Dig out the entire clump that you want to divide. Using a sharp spade, cut straight down through the roots to divide into separate clumps. Then, replant each clump in the location of your choice.
Transplant potted goldenrod in spring or fall, ensuring proper hole size and watering.
If you have a goldenrod plant growing in a pot, it is a very simple procedure to transplant it into your garden. The best season for transplanting perennials is in the spring or fall. The first thing to do is identify where you will transplant your new plant. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the size of the pot.
Carefully remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole. Keep the soil level from the pot level even with the surrounding soil, and re-fill the space with the freshly loosened soil. Gently pat the soil around the base of the plant, adding soil until the area around the plant’s base is level.
Give your freshly transplanted goldenrod a hearty drink of water to help it adjust to its new home. As a bonus, you can add a thin layer of organic mulch or compost around the base of the plant to help preserve the soil moisture around the roots.
How to Grow
Goldenrods are variable and adaptable plants. You can find a goldenrod species to satisfy almost any gardening need, so match the species you choose with your landscape site conditions.
As long as your plants are well-matched for your site, you will find goldenrods very easy to grow. You will want to perform regular maintenance, particularly thinning them every few years, to keep your plants looking their best.
Goldenrods thrive in full sun, requiring a bare minimum of six hours of bright sunlight daily.
Goldenrod plants grow best in full sun with at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. Some species are more shade tolerant and will grow well with dappled shade. Your plants will generally be less leggy and produce better flowers when grown in full sun.
Goldenrod species vary in water needs, generally thriving in moist, well-drained soil with adaptability.
Different species of goldenrod have different water requirements. They should all grow well in an area with moist, well-drained soil. Some species are drought-tolerant and can handle periods of dry soil, while others thrive in consistently moist to wet soil.
Goldenrods prefer fertile, slightly acidic soil.
While most goldenrods will do well in average-quality soil, they typically prefer fertile, organically rich soils. The best soils will be rich, moist, and well-drained. Goldenrods generally prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil with a pH of less than 7.0.
Climate and temperature
Goldenrods, hardy in USDA zones 3-8, some even in zone 2, are perennial plants.
Goldenrods are very adaptable and hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 3 through 8. You will find some species, however, that are hardier and tolerate winters as far as zone 2. Goldenrods are perennials and will die back to the ground in the winter, but they will regrow from the roots each spring.
Goldenrods thrive without added fertilizer.
Goldenrod plants are well-adapted to natural conditions, and you won’t need to add extra fertilizer. If you want to give your plants a nutritional boost and help preserve soil moisture at the same time, add some light organic biodegradable mulch around your plants, such as wheat straw, compost, or leaf mulch.
Control goldenrod spread by pruning dead foliage, dividing larger clusters, and removing unwanted seedlings.
Goldenrods naturally spread by self-seeding and via rhizomes. Unless you want them to occupy a large naturalized area, you must do some regular thinning. Anytime after plants die back for the year, prune off the dead above-ground foliage. You can dig and divide larger clusters every few years to keep populations manageable. Each spring, pull out any unwanted seedlings sprouting up nearby.
Incorporate goldenrods in various gardens with strategic placement for visual appeal year-round.
Goldenrods can be easily incorporated into a wide assortment of different types of gardens. Do you have a larger area for a naturalized setting? You can use goldenrod in a meadow or prairie-themed garden. Grow it with other native grasses and forbs to create a beautiful grassland landscape.
If you love watching birds and butterflies visit your garden, you’ll want plants that bloom in the spring, summer, and fall. Grow goldenrod among other native wildflowers to attract and support native wildlife. It’s a great addition to a bird garden, butterfly garden, or pollinator-friendly habitat. Goldenrod blooms in late summer and into fall, providing nectar, pollen, and seeds that attract plenty of butterflies, native bees, and birds.
If you have plenty of space and want a garden with a rustic appeal, grow goldenrod in a cottage garden. You can even grow goldenrod in a container garden if you have limited space or challenging soil conditions.
Taller goldenrod varieties can be grown as background plants, with more compact varieties right in the front where they can be fully seen and appreciated. Since goldenrods don’t bloom until late in the season, you’ll want to grow them with other plants with interesting foliage and earlier blooming seasons to maximize the visual appeal of your garden plot all year long.
Canadian Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis
Solidago canadensis, hardy in zones 3-9, thrives in full sun to light shade with medium-moisture soil.
Canadian goldenrod is native to central and eastern North America and is hardy in zones 3 to 9. It grows in full sun or light shade with medium-moisture soil.
This showy goldenrod species produces spreading rays of bright yellow flowers from late summer through mid-fall. It grows four to five feet tall and must be thinned regularly to control its vigorous growth.
‘Fireworks,’ Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’
The ‘Fireworks’ cultivar, hardy in zones 4-9, blooms late, attracting pollinators with its golden-yellow flowers.
‘Fireworks’ is a popular cultivar that deserves a place in the garden. It blooms from late summer into fall and attracts plenty of attention. The long sprays of golden-yellow flowers create a mass of late-season color that attracts abundant pollinators. ‘Fireworks’ spreads slowly, appreciates consistently moist soil, is hardy in zones 4 to 9, and grows up to three feet tall.
Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa
Native to central and eastern North America, showy goldenrod is hardy in zones 3-8.
Showy goldenrod is native to central and eastern North America and is hardy in zones 3 to 8. It tolerates drought and does best in dry to medium moisture soil with full sun. Showy goldenrod grows up to three feet tall and produces dense, very showy, thick spikes of bright yellow flowers that attract plenty of pollinators.
Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida
Native to central and eastern North America, stiff goldenrod reaches up to five feet tall in zones 3-9.
Stiff goldenrod is native to central and eastern North America and is hardy in zones 3 to 9. This is a taller species, growing up to five feet tall. It does best in full sun with medium-moisture soil. Stiff goldenrod has an upright growth form topped with large masses of yellow flower clusters that bloom in late summer or early autumn.
Goldenrod is a wildlife-friendly plant with dazzling yellow flowers that attract pollinators and birds.
Goldenrod is an excellent plant for a wildlife-friendly landscape. The first thing you notice about goldenrod when it’s blooming is its dazzling yellow flowers. The next thing you will notice is the pollinators! Butterflies, bees, and many other pollinators will love hovering around the flowers.
This species is especially valuable to pollinators because it blooms late in the growing season after many other pollinator plants have stopped blooming. After flowering, birds will come to forage on the seeds. Deer and rabbits generally do not bother goldenrods.
Goldenrods are generally very easy to grow and aren’t prone to many problems. You will, however, occasionally have some problems with bacterial and fungal diseases, particularly in warm and humid climates.
This fungal disease causes brown-orange spots on leaves but rarely kills the plant.
Rust is a fungal disease that causes brownish-orange spots and patches on the leaves. It doesn’t typically kill the plant but is more of an eyesore and nuisance. More severely infested plants infected with rust may have leaves that fall prematurely, or the entire plant may be stunted. Remove severely infected leaves and dispose of these in the trash to help prevent spread.
A white or gray coating on leaves often indicates powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is most common in very warm and humid environments. You will notice a white or gray coating on the leaves and stems. The plants will wilt in severe cases, and infected leaves may turn brown and die.
Keep your plants thinned to help improve air circulation. If you see a heavy case of powdery mildew, you can trim back the most infected parts of the plant and dispose of them (not in your compost) to reduce the spread to neighboring plants.
Both bacterial and fungal infections cause leaf spot, causing brown or black blotches.
Leaf spot is caused by one of many types of bacterial or fungal infections, often spread via insects from nearby infected plants. Leaf spot causes brown or black spots of blotches on the leaves.
Mildly infected leaves will sometimes not be a problem, but a severe infection can kill several leaves and possibly cause the plant to die back prematurely. If you suspect leaf spot, remove the most heavily damaged leaves and dispose of them (not in your compost) to prevent further spread.
Frequently Asked Questions
Goldenrod plants are an excellent choice for a pocket prairie because they are native to North American grasslands. A pocket prairie is simply a small-scale prairie scene where you grow an assortment of native grassland plants. Combine some native grasses and wildflowers to create your own pocket prairie. This is an easy-to-grow garden theme that you can start from seed or by choosing specific individual plants. There are no size limitations to starting a pocket prairie and you can even grow your own butterfly-friendly mini prairie in a large raised bed!
If you are looking for some other fall-blooming perennials to mass with your goldenrod, they look fabulous growing with hardy chrysanthemums and fall-blooming asters. If you are looking for a few summer-blooming wildflowers to compliment the fall-blooming goldenrods, try purple coneflower and black-eyed Susans to attract pollinators through the summer months.
Goldenrods are very vigorous and they will spread in a cultivated or wild setting. As long as you are growing goldenrod species that are native to your area, or using well-behaved cultivars, they should not be invasive. If you are concerned about your goldenrod plants spreading into unwanted territory, thin them regularly and pull out any unwanted seedlings that pop up each spring.
Goldenrods are beautiful perennial wildflowers that are easy to grow and useful in many garden situations. There are many different species and cultivars that you can enjoy in their various forms. Goldenrods are versatile and adaptable plants that grow in almost any sunny location. The flowers are showy and long-standing, make excellent cut flowers, and attract plenty of pollinators. So next time you’re looking for a showy wildflower to brighten your fall garden, look no further than a goldenrod plant.