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Goldenrod treats your garden right

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Jessica Walliser
Goldenrod will add a late season pop of color to your garden.

With so many wonderful, garden-worthy plants in the world, you may wonder why I think you should plant goldenrod in your garden. Chances are, you probably don’t see it as much more than a common roadside weed. But hear me out, because goldenrod is, in fact, one of those wonderful, garden-worthy plants.

Goldenrod ( Solidago spp.) is a member of the aster family, and it’s native to North America, making it well-acclimated to both our soils and our climate. There are dozens of species of golden­rod, each with its own unique attributes, but almost all goldenrods bear bright yellow flowers on slender stems in late summer.

Depending on the species, goldenrod’s tiny flowers are organized into inflorescences that range from spike-like clusters to plumes, balls and even firework-like bursts. There are so many flower forms, it’s sometimes tough to tell one species from another.

A hardy perennial, goldenrod is one of the last plants to bloom every season, providing an important late nectar source for many pollinators and other beneficial insects, including butterflies, soldier beetles and ladybugs. Plus, its seeds are consumed by many types of birds throughout the winter months.

All goldenrods prefer full sun and need nothing more than average garden soil to thrive. In other parts of the world, where it’s been introduced as an ornamental specimen plant, goldenrod is a common sight in gardens, and breeders have been creating some pretty cool cultivars over the past few years.

For your garden, it may be best to use clump-forming cultivars that will not spread too eagerly. “Fireworks” is a personal favorite for its 4-foot-tall spindly bursts of yellow blooms. “Baby Sun” reaches only 2 feet in height and has a slightly earlier bloom time. A dwarf goldenrod called “Golden Fleece” is another good choice for the garden. For more natural areas, species that self-sow and spread by underground runners will work just fine.

Undeservedly shunned from gardens for many years because it was thought to cause hay fever, goldenrod is not to blame for your late-season allergies. Ragweed is the real culprit. Goldenrod’s pollen is too heavy and sticky to be carried by the wind and inhaled. This common misconception may have come about because the two plants are in bloom at the same time, and the bright yellow plants are quite noticeable while the dull green of ragweed is not nearly as eye-catching.

One more reason you should plant goldenrod: It looks beautiful in combination with other late-season bloomers. Plant it next to pale blue or bright pink asters, white Boltonia, deep purple ironweed or speckled toad lilies. It will be a show-stopping combination that is sure to impress.

End the season with a bang of color. Plant goldenrod.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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