It is September here in central Massachusetts, which means goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is at its peak and looks great. The bright yellow color can light up a garden or a field. Admittedly, I haven’t always loved goldenrod. In my life before bees (B.B.), I saw goldenrod as a weed and one that had to go.
This was a mistake, since goldenrod is so good for the bees–all kinds of bees, beneficial insects, and butterflies. And the birds will eat its seeds. For honey bees, goldenrod provides a feast of nectar and pollen before winter. Honey made primarily from goldenrod nectar is dark, full flavored, and loved by many.
Good for the Gardener
Besides being great for the pollinators, goldenrod offers these benefits:
- drought tolerance, with some xeric varieties
- an ability to grow in a range of soils and growing conditions
- native to North America, so you know it will be tough
- resistant to rabbits and deer
- size variety
And no, despite what you may think, goldenrod doesn’t cause allergies (its pollen is “sticky” so it cannot blow around and irritate your nose.)
I’ll admit the wild goldenrod that shows up in my garden (probably Solidago rugosa), has some faults. It can be too lanky for some situations, and invasive. For me, it works in a wildflower area I have in my yard. I corral it there. And I love it next to purple–purple asters are great.
Which Goldenrod to Grow?
North America has an amazing variety of goldenrods (approaching 100 species). Begin with one that grows great in your local area and in the growing conditions of your garden. A local nursery can offer help here. And remember to seek out sources that don’t use neonicotinoids on their plants. If you don’t want an invasive plant, opt for a clump-forming one. Here are several that I know feed the bees well and The Xerces Society recommends:
- Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
- Riddell’s goldenrod (S. riddellii)
- Stiff goldenrod (S. rigida)
- Seaside goldenrod (S. sempervirens)
- Tall, hairy goldenrod (S. rugosa)
Breeding efforts have given us smaller, well-behaved cultivars that can work well in a cultivated garden. As clump-forming plants (not rhizomatous), they will be less invasive. Some of the best cultivars as determined by the Chicago Botanic Garden are: Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Solidago ‘Baby Sun’, Solidago flexicaulis ‘Variegata’, Solidago ‘Goldkind’, and Solidago sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’.
As I discussed in my post, Are Native Cultivars Good Bee Flowers?, new cultivars don’t always deliver for the bees and pollinators. Or they could be great. Watch bee activity and seek out the ones that are best for the bees and pollinators. If you have experience with a cultivar or species in your garden, please share your experience with our readers in the comments section below.
How do you feel about goldenrod? Do you grow it?
Feature image Copyright: rmorijn / 123RF Stock Photo
Bumblebee Photo on goldenrod Copyright: kinkedtree / 123RF Stock Photo