Goldenrod, Harbinger of Fall

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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field of goldenrod upclose

The bright yellow plumes of the Goldenrod that wave gracefully along roadsides & in waste areas from July to November have drawn the attention of American gardeners for the past several years. Because of its ability to survive roadside conditions, Goldenrod is an ideal candidate for low water use areas in the home landscape. Unlike many tall flowers, goldenrod grows sturdy and upright, thus requiring no stakes. Plant forms tend to improve under cultivation, but some goldenrod can become aggressive and weedy (almost invasive) in rich soil. Flower heads make long-lasting cut flowers. Dried sprays are particularly useful in herbal wreaths and fall wall ornaments.

This showy plant should be a prime candidate for late-season color in perennial plantings. Goldenrod is so conspicuous in the landscape it usually gets the blame for fall hay fever. Actually, ragweed is the major culprit of nasal distress. Ragweed blooms at the same time as goldenrod, but it’s small, dull, yellow-green flowers do not attract the eye of humans, nor many insect pollinators. For fertilization, the ragweed plant produces large quantities of light pollen that are carried by the wind to other plants. By comparison, goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be airborne long, & bees are the principal pollinators.

Most garden catalogs feature a few varieties of goldenrod for sale. Local nurseries also usually carry a selection of goldenrod. Check out local plant sales coming up in October. Wing Haven, UNCC Botanical Garden, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden and the Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Union County plant sale all take place in October.

Join the Extension Master Gardener volunteers of Union County for a Ask a Master Gardener on Saturday, September 28, 9–11 a.m., at the Teaching Garden located at the Union County Ag Center.