butterflies relish the Joe Pye weed. Here, an
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feasts on a variety
called Little Red.
reporter once asked me, "If you could convince all
garden centers to sell one perennial, what would it
be?" The answer at that time was simple for me: the
Joe Pye weed. Iíve since fallen for a few other native
weeds too, especially when I see the way they bring in
bees and butterflies.
that question was asked a little over a decade ago, I
have found more of them for sale. One garden center I
visited a year ago even had three varieties. This time
of year when a lot of plants are starting to look a
little rough, the Joe Pye weed is showing off. Not only
does it draw the attention of passers-by, but also it
attracts butterflies and bees to the joy of plant nerds
imagine out there is a reader who wonders why I am
promoting a weed. Donít let the name throw you. This
relative of the chrysanthemum is loved worldwide and has
made it into gardens everywhere. Here, unfortunately,
many people just admire it on the roadsides where it is
has it that Joe Pye was a Native American who used the
plant to cure fever. While Joe Pye weedís medicinal
properties are not known, its placement as a landscape
perennial is a sure thing.
Joe Pye is now known botanically as Eutrochium, and we
find at least four species all rightfully claiming the
name. Eutrochium fistulosum, or hollow stem Joe Pye
weed, is often seen at the edge of woodland roadsides
producing rose-pink flowers on stalks that may reach 6
to 8 feet tall. These and most Joe Pye weeds are
recommended toward the back of the border.
the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, where I am
director, we are growing Little Red, a variety of
Eutrochium purpureum. It has been bringing in
swallowtails of all sorts, and the hairstreak
butterflies including the Great Purple hairstreak.
Little Red is a more compact selection at 4 to 5 feet
with large rose purple heads of flowers.
favorite at garden centers is Gateway, a variety of
Eutrochium maculatum that reaches only 4 feet tall.
Baileyís Nursery in Minneapolis-St. Paul introduced
this variety and it has turned out to be a winner across
the country. Iíve grown it in the landscape and in
large mixed containers on our deck and absolutely love
choice landscape plant is the Coastal Plain Joe Pye
weed, Eutrochium dubium, native from South Carolina to
Maine. Little Joe is a selection of this species that
has received rave reviews across the country. It too is
dwarf, reaching 3 to 4 feet tall.
of the one you choose, remember that the Joe Pye does
best in fertile, loamy soil. To look their best they
will need supplemental water during the summer,
especially since now is their peak season. Plant them at
least 3 feet apart.
they get started, you may feel like you can gather the
neighbors to come over and watch them grow. With this
rapid growth, you may find it to your liking to pinch a
couple of times to encourage branching.
the Joe Pye with ornamental grasses, swamp hibiscus and
a large drift or sweep of rudbeckias. Add Blue Fortune
or Black Adder agastache and youíll have a butterfly
haven. You build it and they will come.