The Perfect Flowering Plant
Are you looking for a flowering plant that is tough and dependable, that returns year after year and flowers for weeks? Looking for one that has showy flower clusters that bloom when little else blooms and attracts and supports butterflies? A plant that is coveted by European gardeners and grown in the fanciest European gardens? Well, we hope you are sitting down when you read this because that perfect flowering plant is goldenrod.
That’s right, goldenrod, and we’ll explain why we think that. It has all those aforementioned attributes and goldenrods do not cause hayfever which they get blamed for. Goldenrods have large sticky grains of pollen that have to be moved by pollinating insects. It is wind dispersed pollen, from grasses, trees and ragweeds (which bloom at the same time as goldenrods) that cause hayfever.
Goldenrods are in the genus ‘Solidago’. That name comes from the Latin words ‘solidus’, which means ‘whole’ and ‘ago’, which means ‘to become’. That translates to ‘becoming whole’, alluding to the healing properties associated with goldenrods.
Historically, goldenrod was used to make rubber. The tires on the model T that Henry Ford gave as a gift to Thomas Edison were made from the latex in goldenrods.
Goldenrods are found mostly in North America. There are 103 species native to Canada and the USA, 8 to Mexico, 4 to South America and 6 to Europe and Asia. In Lambton County we have 20 species. Some, such as Ohio and Showy are very rare. We grow Ohio but not Showy because it is an endangered species and we would require a special permit from the MNR to grow it. There are some species that we don’t grow because they grow from rhizomous root systems and can be invasive in a garden scenario. They are still important plants in ecosystems and should be in used large scale restoration projects. We recommend and grow 8 species including bluestemmed, early, grey, hairy, Ohio, riddells, stiff and zigzag. These are all well behaved goldenrods that grow from a caudex, (a short thick underground stem), and have a clumping habit/form. Three of these species, bluestemmed, hairy and zigzag are shade tolerant and can be grown in the woodland garden.
Aside from being showy with a large inflorescense of dozens of small yellow flowers you will really appreciate their values at attracting butterflies and other beneficial pollinators. Their blooming period is critical as little else, except their close relatives the asters, blooms in late summer and fall. Monarch butterflies especially depend on goldenrods as a nectar source to build up energy for their long trip to Mexico.
Author, professor, and TV host Martin Galloway praises the virtues of goldenrods. Martin decries the disdain for goldenrods and explains that they have nothing to do with allergies, flower for 6 to 8 weeks, require no watering and support a huge community of affiliated flora and fauna.
So there you have it. The perfect flowering plant! Don’t hold back. Plant and enjoy goldenrods in your home landscape. We think you will be glad you did.