Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nebraska Wildflowers Day 5 -- Joe Pye Weed

This is Nebraska wildflower week. Each day I'll feature a native wildflower that grows well for me in my fickle clay AND brings in butterflies. Hopefully, you'll find something you've never seen before.

To end the week, on Saturday, June 9 at 10am, I'll be giving a presentation on Nebraska wildflowers at Finke Gardens and Nursery. And don't forget, I do run a native prairie garden coaching business. Ahem.

Also, check out Bob Henrickson's (NE Statewide Arboretum) fantastic advice on planting a mini prairie in your landscape.


Eupatorium includes several species and tons of cultivars. If you're a native purist, the 6-8' tall and 2' wide E. purpureum will do you well. They all will though. Insects and butterflies galore. In winter on taller species birds love to perch and look for seeds, and in March you can cut down the hollow stalks into 6" long bundles, hang them on the fence, and wham bam you have a native bee house (native bees are solitary, super reluctant to sting, pollinate earlier than honeybees, and pollinate far more blooms and crops than honeybees).

Two of my taller Joe Pyes--8-10' front right, 7' middle back
I think they smell awful, but butterflies disagree
White-blooming 'Prairie Jewel'
E. coelestinum
I have a joe pye weed that is 1' tall, and one that is 10' tall, and one that has mottled cream and green leaves ('Prairie Jewel'). Do some research and you'll find the perfect one. They tend to like moist to medium clay and full sun, though again, I have a taller variety in part sun that as a result gets a bit smaller and blooms a bit less, but it still thrives.


Mary Pellerito said...

I have Joe pye weed growing in my Michigan garden. It blooms later in the summer here adding nice color to the garden. And yes, the butterflies really like the flowers. I am enjoying this series on native wildflowers.

Fred and Red said...

I tried one last year and didn't think it would be back, but I see it poking up again! Very pleased. Love this series.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Mary--Yeah, mine bloom July to September, a nice succession based on species / cultivar. The taller the plant, the more I think bugs like it.
FR--Oh, they're hard to kill I think--and also hard to divide (for me).

UrsulaV said...

That last one--E. coelestinum--will grow like a racehorse if you give it relatively good soil. It's about the only thing holding back the bee balm in one of my beds. It uproots easily, but it's a helluva spreader.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Ursula--Yes, you're certainly right. I find the bee balm to be even more a spreader, but not by much. If I have another garden, I probably would not plant bee balm, and certainly not a loosestrife cultivar called 'Firecracker.' But I'm make allowance for this eupatorium simply because of the time of year it blooms and the insect numbers on it. I do divide it by hand, by yanking it out of the ground, and it establishes well wherever I put it. Which probably doesn't bode well for 3-4 years from now.

UrsulaV said...

Oh, I'm with you! I've transplanted the eupatorium into various nothing-is-really-happy-here chunks of the garden myself, because it's a heckuva plant.

If I had to do the garden over, I might still do bee balm--on a good year, there is simply nothing else in the garden to compare--but I'd either do half-whiskey barrels in the middle of the bed or run the sort of edging they use to contain bamboo around it. And I wouldn't put any plant I loved anywhere near it.