The flower heads of Joe Pye weed are attractive right up until frost, so deadheading is not a recommended practice. Instead, the normal routine is to remove the plant stalks entire at the end of the season.
Mature plants can handle short droughts, but too much dry soil for too long will cause Joe Pye weed to shrivel and scorch. Make sure the plant is getting enough moisture in the heat of summer.
Division of roots is the easiest way to propagate mature Joe Pye weed plants. It is best done in early spring as soon all danger of frost has passed, but propagation in the fall is usually successful, too. Few plants are easier to propagate.
It's rare for gardeners to have trouble getting Joe Pye weed to bloom, but the plants sometimes underperform if they don't get enough sun or if they experience extended drought conditions. And very poor soil can sometimes hinder the blooms. But generally speaking, Joe Pye weed will bloom if it gets enough light, enough water, and just a small amount of nutrition.
Orange Spots on the Leaves
Like many native wildflowers, Joe Pye weed is renowned for its easy-care attitude. Problems are rare and usually easy to solve:
Joe Pye weeds have thick stems with lance-shaped, serrated dark green leaves that can be up to a foot long. And in the midsummer, tiny mauve or pink-purple flowers bloom in large clusters atop the stems. Although it’s often considered just a roadside week, Joe Pye weed has a sweet vanilla scent that is especially attractive to butterflies and other pollinators, and it has become an increasingly popular plant for native gardens. Joe Pye weed is best planted from potted nursery plants in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. It has a fast growth rate, usually flowering in its first season.
Joe Pye weed is, as the name implies, a plant with a weedy appearance. But its appeal to butterflies and other pollinators makes it a good choice for native plant landscapes and pollinator gardens. Massed groups can create a notable display and architectural height at the rear of a border garden, in meadow gardens, or along water margins. It is also a good plant to fill drainage ditches and other low-lying areas.
Common Plant Diseases
By far the most common problem for Joe Pye Weed is powdery mildew, Although it is rarely fatal, powdery mildew's dusty covering of the leaves can hinder their ability to photosynthesize, sometimes causing the leaves to dry up and die.
Joe Pye weed lives almost indefinietely, as the root crown gradually spreads and sends up new growth stalks to replace the old ones. This is not a perennial you will likely need to replant.
Deam’s Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida v. deamii) is an outstanding wildflower that blooms in mid-summer with a profusion of large, golden flower petals surrounding a black cen.
The genus Eupatorium*, commonly known as Bonesets or Joe Pye Weed, are a large group of wildflowers valued in the garden for their large size, robust growth, attractive foliage and large, showy displays of summer through fall flowers. Widely distributed across the northern hemisphere, they can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. However, the Bonesets most commonly in cultivation in the US are native species.
Agastache Ava is one of High Country Gardens very best plant introductions, renowned for its tall spikes of deep rose-pink flowers held by raspberry-red calyxes. This vigorous hybrid.
Davis Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa ‘Davis’) is an outstanding western form of this widespread species. ‘Davis’ Milkweed is grown for its vigor, showy silver-grey foliage, and l.
Planting Joe Pye Weed
Eupatorium maculatum ‘Red Dwarf’ – A European introduction of this native species, ‘Red Dwarf’ is a vigorous, yet compact grower. Topping out at about 36 inches in height and 24 to 36 in. in width, it’s still a medium-large plant, but decidedly smaller than the species which can reach 6 ft. in height. The late summer flowers are mauve-pink and are held by burgundy-red flower stems which make a nice combination with the flowers. ‘Red Dwarf’ is a more tightly growing, more rounded form than ‘Little Joe’.
Gardeners value growing Joe Pye Weed for their big, mounding flower heads that are typically white, shades of pink and occasionally violet-purple. The flowers are loaded with nectar and pollen that attract native bees, honeybees and butterflies. In the fall, many species set copious seeds that are both ornamental as well as useful for attracting and feeding small seed-eating songbirds. The plants are highly resistant to browsing deer and rabbits.
Eupatorium plants enjoy fertile soil and moderate to moist soil conditions; thus are referred to as “mesic” (not xeric) plants. They should be planted with other mesic garden perennials. Joe Pye weed is also a good choice for planting in rain gardens.
Not a Weed: The Beauty and Pollinator Value of Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed or Bonesets)
Most species of Eupatorium can grow to large size and are best used at the back of the perennial border, or in meadows and other wildland plantings where they form an impressive backdrop for other summer and fall blooming perennials and ornamental grasses. In general, these large growing plants prefer fertile soils and sun, although some species are fine in partial shade. Our native species are herbaceous (die back to the ground in winter) and should be pruned back hard in mid-spring to give the new stems room to push out from the crown. Flowers can be deadheaded to reduce re-seeding should it become an issue, although this is usually not required.
*Note on botanic nomenclature: Recently botanists have broken up the genus Eupatorium into three new genera. Many of our most familiar Joe Pye weeds are now in the genus Eutrochium. But for the sake of familiarity and to avoid confusion, I have used Eupatorium in this blog. Most commercial growers are continuing to use the old genus as well.