The goldenrod is making a fantastic display this fall in my prairie and other unmown areas. I love watching the waves of gold sway on a sunny fall day.
Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) thrives in sun to part sun and is a deer-resistant perennial. There are thirty different types of goldenrod that grow in Illinois. They range from the three foot to seven foot tall. Each has a cluster of bright yellow flowers at the top and sides of stems.
There are also some cultivated goldenrod varieties that do well in flower gardens. Retired horticulture educator Nancy Pollard described the flowers as "stunning" when paired with blue and purple New England asters. Her great performers include:
- Solidago flexicaulis 'Variegata': with variegated foliage it brightens semi-shaded wooded areas. This goldenrod is over 4 feet tall and has a spreading nature. It blooms from early September to mid-October.
- Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks' has graceful fine textured foliage with arching branches. The stems of the golden blooms arch in many directions like fireworks. It grows three to 4 feet tall. It tolerates wet soil and grows slowly by underground rhizomes but generally doesn't get out of hand. It blooms mid-September to late October.
- Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece,' which has pyramidal densely flowering stems that form a compact groundcover, grows to 18 to 36 inches depending on site conditions. It is drought tolerant and is also good for fall container gardens. September flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
An added bonus is that goldenrod and other fall blooming flowers are also good at supporting our native wildlife. "Native wildflowers and their cultivars—yellow goldenrod, purple asters, golden sunflowers, and dusty rose Joe Pye—create a lot of interest not only because of the attractive flowers but also for the amazing variety of native butterflies, moths, and other insects that feed on them," said Nancy Pollard.
"Fall wildflowers are particularly outstanding at attracting adult moths and butterflies, which lay eggs that hatch into larva (caterpillars). The larvae provide a high-protein source of food for many birds, particularly warblers and neo-tropical migrant birds of conservation concern. Birds are very good at keeping populations of these insects in check so it is a very good situation for all," Pollard explained.
Unfortunately goldenrod can cause allergy symptoms in some people. According to Thomas Leo Ogren in his book "Allergy-Free Gardening" about thirty percent of those allergic to ragweed are also allergic to goldenrod. Luckily goldenrod pollen is heavier and less likely to become airborne than ragweed pollen.
Take a walk among a field of goldenrod this fall and experience the wonders of nature all around you.