Description & Overview

Showy Goldenrod is just that, showy! This Wisconsin native perennial has tall stems (up to 3′) topped by panicles of cheery, golden yellow flowers, the inflorescences of which can reach up to 10″! The leaves are medium green and lanced-shaped. Goldenrods not only signal the beginning of autumn but fill in an important niche in the ecosystem, supporting many pollinators. Flowering late in the season, at a time when little else is blooming, Goldenrod provides critical nourishment for pollinators who are migrating and getting ready for winter.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 1-5 feet

Mature Spread: 2-3 feet

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Upright, naturalizes

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Dry to moderate, well-drained, adaptable

Flower: Yellow, 6-8 rays, 10" inflorescence, flowers

Bloom Period: August – October, Mid-summer through fall

Foliage: Green, smooth, thick, 6" long, 1.5" wide, lanceolate

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Smooth seed with pappus

Suggested Uses

Showy Goldenrod is found throughout the state of Wisconsin, except in a few north-central counties. It inhabits dry to moderate, and sandy, loamy soils in Oak and Jack Pine savannas, open fields and pastures, and along roadsides. It tolerates a range of soils as long as they are well-drained. Showy Goldenrod is easy to grow, drought tolerant, and a great option for beginner gardeners who want to enhance their pollinator garden or wildflower patch.

Showy Goldenrod can be used for restoration purposes, in roadside plantings, wildflower gardens, parks, and prairies. Though this particular type of goldenrod does not spread as quickly as others, it will still spread over time to naturalize an area.

Showy Goldenrod is an excellent option for a typical residential landscape as it isn’t aggressive like other varieties as it does not spread via rhizomes. Clumps will eventually get bigger but will not overwhelm an area.

Wildlife Value

A truly staggering number of insects use Showy Goldenrod. The late bloom time benefits those migrating butterflies such as Monarchs. Other moths and butterflies such as the Black-and-yellow Lichen moth (Lycomorpha pholus), Edwards’ Hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii), Bog Fritillary (Boloria eunomia), Common Branded Skipper (Hesperia comma), White-M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m album), Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops), Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) use Showy Goldenrod as a nectar source.

Many insects use Showy Goldenrod as a host plant, meaning larval stages of all kinds of insects rely on it for sustenance until they reach adulthood. The list is long and includes Solidago Eucosma (Eucosma cataclystiana), Goldenrod Gall moth (Epiblema scudderiana), Goldenrod Borer Plume moth (Hellinsia kellicottii), Tufted Apple-bud moth (Platynota idaeusalis), Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa), Confused Eusarca (Eusarca confusaria), White-spotted Sable moth (Anania funebris), The Asteroid (Cucullia asteroids), Dark-spotted Palthis (Palthis angulalis), Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis), Speyer’s Hooded Owlet (Cucullia speyeri), Black Blister Gall Midge (Asteromyia caronifera), Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata), White-dotted Groundling (Condica videns), Common Tan Wave (Pleuroprucha insulsaria), Blackberry Looper moth (Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria), Beautiful Phaneta moth (Phaneta formosana), and more.

More than 19 types of mining bees (Andrena spp., Pseudopanurgus spp.) use species in the Asteraceae family as their host plant, Showy Goldenrod being one of them. Other species include the Small Miner bee (Pseudopanurgus parvus), Small Black Miner bee (Pseudopanurgus andrenoides), Yellow-faced Miner bee (Andrena aliciae), Peaceful Miner bee (Andrena placata), Peckham’s Miner bee (Andrena peckhami), Hairy-banded Miner bee (Andrena hirticincta), and Cloudy-winged Miner bee (Andrena nubecula).

At least 10 species of long-horned bees also use species in the Asteraceae family as their host plant including the Agile Long-horned bee (Melissodes agilis), Melissodes nivea, Melissodes ilata, and Melissodes menuachus. Other bees that may use Solidago as a host plant include the Sunflower bee (Svastra obliqua), the Cellophane Bee (Colletes compactus), and the Spine-shouldered Cellophane bee (Colletes simulans).

Ants, beetles, leafhoppers, and lace bugs are also visitors of Showy Goldenrod. Gall fly larvae form spherical galls in the stems and overwinter in them. This provides excellent food for Chickadees and woodpeckers during winter.

Seeds are abundant. Most of them are consumed by insects before dispersal but birds also love the seeds. Eastern Goldfinches particularly relish the seeds, perching on the sturdy and rigid stems, to nosh away and enjoy their meal. The Wisconsin Threatened-listed Greater Prairie Chickens will also eat the seeds.

This is not a comprehensive list by any means. Suffice it to say, do not underestimate the importance of the genus Solidago in our native habitat.

Maintenance Tips

Goldenrods in general reseed readily, and this one is no exception, although the spread is less aggressive than other varieties. Remove seed heads if control of spread is a concern.

Do not fertilize. Overly fertile soil will cause the stems to flop over.

There is no need to cut Goldenrod down in autumn, as wildlife uses the seeds for nourishment.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Powdery mildew may occur if planted in an area with poor air circulation. While impossible to eliminate all overhead watering (rain), minimizing the amount as much as possible will help with this issue, too. Periodic thinning to increase airflow will also help reduce mildew.

Native plants are meant to look wild. Many insects will benefit from the leaves, flowers, and stems, which may leave marks, holes, or galls. This is part of the native aesthetic and should be embraced rather than looked at with a discerning eye.

Leaf Lore

The genus name Solidago is from the Latin word solidus meaning “to make whole” or “to heal” and ago in reference to the medicinal healing properties of some species of plants. The specific epithet speciosa means “showy.”

Mistakenly associated with hay fever, Goldenrod is not the bane of allergy sufferers (blame ragweed) and is unfairly considered a weed by many.

Indigenous peoples used Solidago in different ways. The Meskwaki used Showy Goldenrod for burns or scalds. The Chippewa used the root/stalk of Showy Goldenrod combined with bear grease as an ointment for hair, to ease difficult labor, for lung hemorrhages, and as a stimulant. The Chippewa, among others, used different species of Goldenrod as an external application to treat cramps, fever, burns, pulmonary issues, toothaches, and colic, and as an anti-convulsive. Meskwai used Goldenrod as a smudge directed up the nose to revive unconscious patients. The goldenrod served the Omaha as a mark or sign in their floral calendar. When they were on the summer buffalo hunt, the sight of the goldenrod indicated to them that their corn was beginning to ripen at home.”

Companion Plants

Plant alongside other native prairie plants that enjoy similar conditions including Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Sweet Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Stiff Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata), Wild Senna (Cassia hebecarpa), Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Blue Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum), and Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum).

Add contrasting textures and complimentary colors by combining Showy Goldenrod with Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Willowleaf Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana), Heavy Metal Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’), Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Kodiak Orange Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla x ‘G2X88544’ PP27,548), Delphiniums (Delphinium spp), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and Blackhawks Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii ‘Blackhawks’).

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Written by Beth DeLain