Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) Quick Facts:
Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) is a host plant to Checkerspots
Outstanding nectar plant for Monarchs, Swallowtails, and more than 100 butterfly species
Native to US east of the Rockies
Hardy in USDA zones 3-8
Full to partial sun
Prefers well draining soil, medium to dry moisture levels
Yellow flowers bloom from late summer to early fall
Grows about 3-5 feet tall
Space 2 feet apart
Showy Goldenrod – Nothing to Sneeze At!
The rumors are not true–hay fever is not caused by any of the 120-plus species of goldenrod! The sneezles and wheezles you may hear in early fall are caused by the wind-borne pollen of green ragweed flowers, not by the glorious yellow blooms of the goldenrod. The goldenrod pollen is too heavy and sticky to travel by breeze; pollinators from the animal kingdom spread the powdery grains.
In order to attract those pollinating insects and birds, the goldenrod produces copious amounts of nectar. It blooms for about a month in late summer/early fall, and is a valuable nourishment source for many bee species, butterflies, and birds. Renowned entomologist Doug Tallamy describes the goldenrod as “one of the best herbaceous perennials for attracting and feeding wildlife.” Goldenrod nectar is utterly crucial to help fuel Monarchs migrating to their overwintering sites in Mexico.
Showy and Solid Gold
Clusters of small, bright yellow flowers completely encircling tall (3-5 feet high at maturity) reddish stems earn the Showy Goldenrod its name. It is truly one of the most spectacular late season nectar sources you can include in your garden!
Gently curving plumes of gold are just part of the appeal of this plant. Of all the goldenrod varieties, the Showy Goldenrod is one of the very best choices for your garden. Some varieties can be quite aggressive, but the Showy Goldenrod does not have this issue. It tends to spread slowly by self-seeding clumps, and will spread even more slowly in soil that remains fairly dry and only minimally fertilized. Dryness will also help its tall stems to remain erect.
The low-maintenance plant will thrive in almost any well-drained soil and requires full to partial sun. You’ve probably noticed vigorous goldenrod groups growing wild on roadsides or in abandoned fields. Try pairing the Showy Goldenrod with Common Milkweed, New England Aster, and Bee Balm (Wild Bergamot).
Who Loves Showy Goldenrod?
The many varieties of Checkerspot Butterfly (Baltimore and Silvery, to name a couple) use Showy Goldenrod as a host plant. The plant is extremely valuable to bees, and more than 100 butterfly species are known to enjoy its nectar. As previously mentioned, Monarchs depend upon this late-season nutrition source for their winter migration.
Birds flock to feast on its seeds, and hummingbirds sip from its flowers. Your garden’s animal visitors love the Showy Goldenrod, and so will you!