Solidago solidarity

Goldenrod and another wildflower by North/South Lakes in the Catskills

A recent post from my good friend, gardener and blogger, Gail Eichelberger, poses the question, “What’s wrong with goldenrod?” She then swiftly answers, “Nothing!”

I couldn’t agree more. Here is one of my favorite, if not THE favorite, late season plants. I rejoice when it spreads to cover entire neglected lots. I love how it pops up in inhospitable back alleys and inbetween houses. I also adore seeing it where it is welcomed: in state and national parks, along trails and around lakes and ponds. I rarely see it cultivated in gardens, and that’s too bad. There are a couple reasons for that, as Gail points out.

First people think it causes hayfever/allergic reactions. It doesn’t; that’s ragweed, which is out at the same time.

Here is another lovely stand of it in Buffalo, along Lake Erie.

Second, it is undoubtedly aggressive. I have the same philosophy as Gail on this; she notes, “I have a love affair with rough and tumble, take care of themselves, colonizing wildflowers. If you stop by my garden today, you’ll see tall goldenrod/Solidago altissima duking it out with New England ex-aster/Symphyotrichum novae-angliae in the sunnier parts of the garden.”

Same here: I have tall rudbeckia jousting with tall eutrochium, common white eupatorium pushing against aruncus, and colinsonia shouldering its way through anything it can. That’s fine by me, but I realize not everybody likes such an unruly garden aesthetic.

That’s why there are five gazillion types of solidago—slight exaggeration, ok, but there really are plenty of hybrids, some of them very well-behaved. If you need evidence, here’s a great video entitled “So Many Goldenrods, So Little Time,” from Good Gardening Videos.

Long live goldenrod! (Not that it seems to need our help.)

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Elizabeth, your garden sounds beautiful. I wish more folks invited our rough and tumble wildflowers into their gardens…They have enormous wildlife value and they’re gorgeous! Thanks for sharing my post and highlighting the beauty of Goldenrod.

  2. Absolutely agree! My favourite late season flowers are what a lot of people call weeds. I do a ‘kind of’ cultivation of Goldenrod – by letting them grow where they fit (even in a somewhat manicured bed) and pulling them out where not wanted (and they are very easy to pull in moist soil). Dead heading also helps reduce the spread of course.

  3. In late summer and autumn the brilliant flash of goldenrod in a tired landscape lightens my heart just as daffodils do in spring. They are also food sources for the larvae of many butterflies and moths. There are more than 100 goldenrods from which to choose–many sizes and growth habits. Do a bit of research and find the one that best suits your garden.

  4. Since, for me, gardening really takes off in August, I’m a big fan of solidago and other members of the Composite family. August through October is so important for pollinators and the composites fill the bill. A late blooming sunflower head can actually be composed of one thousand flowers. No wonder the bees hang out there for so long. But, my favorite is the zinnia, especially the one member I simply cannot be without. I can have a yard filled with pollinator plants, but when I release the monarch butterflies that feasted on my common milkweed, they head to, and spend the entire day on, tithonia, Mexican sunflower. They fight the other butterflies and bees for space at the table. It is a feast for them and a feast for my eyes. There is nothing like it late in the year. Deadhead every other day and fertilize for flower and nectar production and the insects will fatten up. I grow them from seed indoors even up through July. Here’s a video I took yesterday in Maryland.

    (Also, my nursery has gotten in a number of new Class 7 simple and semi-double chrysanthemum cultivars, also Compositae, that were attracting the bees and butterflies. I bought a few and will be observing them in the garden this fall. These, of course, are not the typical mums that don’t attract pollinators.)

    Right now , my garden is exploding with blooms and insects. Thank you for the post on the critically important late summer and autumn gardening. I’d love to see more on the subject.

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