Go for the Gold – Goldenrod!

raceme of small yellow ray flowers

Missouri Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis) flower

Ever considered including Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) in your garden?  It’s great for late season pollinators, provides nectar for many beneficial insects and is amazingly hardy.  As we approach planting season, I challenge you to consider adding a Goldenrod to your landscape!  It’s one of my favorites!

numerous green stalks with racemes of yellow flowers at top

Missouri Goldenrod, Solidago missouriensis

Goldenrod is a host plant for a number of beneficial insects and is used as a food source by a number of moth and butterfly caterpillars.  The Goldenrod in my gardens is literally covered with bees, wasps, flies and butterflies sipping nectar when it is in bloom.  Other insects including Praying Mantis, Lacewings, a number of spider species, beetles and parasitic wasps utilize it for both habitat and food.

It is especially valuable for pollinators in late summer when other plants are dormant.  In my garden Pine Siskins eagerly harvest seeds and insects while dangling on the tall stems during fall months.

umbel like flower head of yellow ray flowers

Rigid Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) flower

Historically Goldenrods were unjustly blamed as the cause of hay fever, but the true hay fever culprit is really ragweed (Ambrosia sp.) which blooms at the same time as Goldenrod.  While ragweed’s pollen is wind-born, the pollen of Goldenrod is to heavy and sticky to be blown in the wind and it is pollinated primarily by insects.  So nix to that argument!

With nearly 100 species of Goldenrod (some are difficult to distinguish from others), there is at least one species that grows in your area.  In the Rocky Mountains we have 11 species including Solidago canadensis, S. missouriensis, S. gigantea, S. multiradiata, S. rigida and S. decumbens.

several stalks of Canada Goldenrod with yellow flowers at tops

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

There is a great deal of variation among the Goldenrods.  Some (like Rocky Mountain Goldenrod (S. multiradiata) are rather short and have smaller flowers; others such as Giant Goldenrod (S. serotina) top six feet in height with open flower heads crowded in showy pyramidal clusters.  Rigid Goldenrod (S. rigida) is found in wet areas while Missouri Goldenrod (S. missouriensis) is an inhabitant of dry open meadows.  Rocky Mountain Goldenrod prefers high elevation, cooler sites while Canada Goldenrod is found in ditches and in disturbed areas at lower elevations.

several stems with yellow flower head comprised of many small flowerlets

Rigid Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Goldenrods spread by both seeds and rhizomes so they can become pesky, especially if given supplemental water.  Best to avoid water!  It seldom becomes problematic in rangelands and is not invasive when put in a sunny, dry location.  I do try to contain them in my gardens by occasionally removing seedlings and removing shoots that overstep their boundaries, but I find them quite manageable.  Then again, I don’t water except in the extreme heat of summer.

Many of the Goldenrods are positively affected by disturbance and thrive in disturbed soils.  They will often colonize these areas rather quickly and play a significant role in erosion control.

plant with several stems and small yellow ray flowers

Rocky Mountain Goldenrod (Solidago multiradiata)

The leaves have significant quantities of latex and apparently Thomas Edison attempted to create rubber from them although the rubber was rather sticky and lacked tensile strength.

Considered a weed by some Goldenrod has nonetheless earned a reputation as a prized garden plant by gardeners worldwide providing swaths of gold color covered with buzzing insects.

flower heads of Missouri Goldenrod with small yellow ray flowers

Missouri Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis)

So next time you are looking for a good plant for color, late season bloom time and/or a great pollinator plant, go for the gold and find a Goldenrod to add  to your landscape!

© 2013, Kathy Settevendemie. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    Kathy, thanks for this informative tribute to a truly great plant. My appreciation for goldenrod has steadily increased as I have learned about its importance as a fall booster; helping insects get through the winter, whether it’s by migrating or hibernating. I love all its crazy names and its ability adapt into a plethora of habitats. You’ve got to appreciate a plant that works so hard and shines so brightly! I hope your post induces folks to grow more of it at home, too!
    sue dingwell recently posted..Toothwort: Is That for Dinner?

    • says

      Sue,
      Like you I have become increasingly enamored with Goldenrods over the years. My opinion of it has been transformed from considering it a weedy species to appreciating it’s great garden qualities as well as it’s role in our ecosystem. Glad you are a fan too and hopefully we can spread the good word!

  2. says

    I love this post! Goldenrod is such a great genus of plants – so colorful and with such a wide array of sizes, shapes and niches to choose from. Here in south central Kansas, I’ve got Missouri, Canada, and one lonely stiff goldenrod in our natural areas (restoring prairie), with more stiff goldenrod, ‘Wichita Mountains’ goldenrod, and elm-leafed goldenrod in the garden beds near the house. The community of insects and other arthropods that live on it add another fascinating dimension to enjoying it in the garden – I don’t understand why more people don’t grow it.
    Cynthia, aka Gaia gardener recently posted..Red-Tails at Home

  3. kathy hood says

    Yes to goldenrod. I transplanted some into my garden two years ago-draught tolerant, great foliage, easy to grow with little maintenance. The transplants were taken from an area that would have been mowed by the city; to bad the areas around the fringe are so “well kept”- they are getting rid of all the good stuff. (transplanted in early spring and they took off.)

    • says

      Nice work! Goldenrod is a terrific plant and people like you are helping spread the good word about how easy it is to grow. On some sites some of it will need to be occasionally pulled to keep it from getting too aggressive, but it is well worth that little bit of effort!

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  1. [...] glabra, inkberry, and Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey tea, in the corner that got a bit of sun.  Zig zag goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis, good for pollinators, early bloomer. Packera aurea, golden goundsel, bright yellow in full shade, and cardinal flower, [...]

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