Zig Zag Goldenrod

Solidago flexicaulis

Description & Overview

This native woodland perennial is a boon to wildlife and to someone with a shady yard. Zig Zag Goldenrod prefers part-shade and fertile soil but is also tolerant of heavy shade and clay soil. Once established it will also tolerate dry soil. Oblong leaves with sharp teeth set it apart from other goldenrods. The stem is topped with a yellow-flowering inflorescence that matures into hairy tufts that are carried away in the wind. You may also know this plant as Broad-leaf Goldenrod.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 1-3 feet
Mature Spread: 2 feet
Growth Rate: Perennial
Growth Form: Perennial
Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade
Site Requirements: Moist Well Drained, Tolerant of Dry Soil.
Flower: Yellow
Bloom Period: July- September
Foliage: Green, Serrated Leaves
Fall Color: N/A
Fruit Notes: Achene

Suggested Uses:

Great for use in a large shade garden, or a native shade garden, as well as in a butterfly garden, or in a native, shaded butterfly garden! The larger the area the better as goldenrod will spread under the right conditions.

A wonderful flower that can be used to naturalize a yard that is heavily populated by trees yet has a sparse understory.

Works beautifully in a cut flower arrangement.

Wildlife Value:

All parts of Zig Zag Goldenrod are useful to a wide variety of wildlife. Deer forage on the foliage. Butterflies, bees, wasps, and flies drink the nectar, and bees also collect the pollen. The seeds are eaten by sparrows. Many types of moths, stink bugs, fruit flies, and aphids feed on flowers, seeds, or roots. There are too many species to name that depend, in part, or even in whole, on Solidago plants.

This genus may be plentiful in our landscape, but a lot of things depend on this late bloomer, and it really should not be taken for granted.

A word on bees. Some bees of the genera Andrena and Colletes focus solely on collecting the nectar and pollen of goldenrods. The less-dependent species will use goldenrod exclusively while it’s in bloom and then simply switch to a different plant when they are out of bloom. Other species within these genera of bees are so dependent upon goldenrod that proper larval development depends upon their receiving pollen from Solidago spp.

Maintenance Tips:

Low maintenance. Aside from watering during establishment from initial planting, not much other care is needed. Does spread in moist, fertile soil under part shade. This may result in the need to thin out after time.


This plant doesn’t suffer from any major diseases. Some aesthetic issues such as rust, powdery mildew, and leaf spot can occur during seasons with high humidity but they are not fatal and at worst would force the plant into an early fall. The best treatment would be to clean up the leaves in the fall. The plants will start fresh again in the spring.

This is not the same goldenrod that you may have noticed taking over roadsides. Zig Zag Goldenrod can be told apart from Canadian Goldenrod by its broader leaves. That said, it will spread in part shade and should be planted with this issue in mind.

Leaf Lore:

The term “Zig Zag” in the common name refers to the way that the stem twists on its vertical axis between leaf nodes.

The genus name, Solidago translates to, “to make whole,” likely in reference to its healing properties. Native Americans used dried leaves to treat headaches and nosebleeds.

Many people mistakenly think that they are allergic to Goldenrod when the true culprit is likely Ragweed. Ragweed blooms at the same time as goldenrod and generates a large amount of pollen that is released into the air. Goldenrod pollen is sticky so that it attaches itself to the many insects that take advantage of it.

Companion Plants:

As a woodland perennial Zig Zag Goldenrod would be content under trees like Sugar Maple, any of the Oaks, or Basswood.

Among shade-tolerant shrubs like American Elderberry, Summersweet, or Bottlebrush Buckeye.

Companion perennials might include Anemone, Canadian Columbine, and Elm-leafed Goldenrod. Bees and butterflies are attracted to most of these suggestions.

Due to its tendency to spread in the right conditions, Zig Zag Goldenrod would pair well with other aggressive growers that also do well in part shade such as, Bee Balm, Ironweed, and Little Bluestem.

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