• ljmarkson

Nine Bright and Easy Native Goldenrods to Add to Your Atlanta Naturescape (Natural Landscape)

Updated: Jan 6

OR Add Biodiversity to Your Native Plant Habitat with More Goldenrod` OR Can You Ever Really Have Enough Goldenrod? My last post of 2020 and this first post of 2021 is about goldenrod for a reason. It’s a keystone native plant that belongs in every yard in Georgia. To know what goldenrod to add to your yard, it's best to research the varieties native to where you live to maximize the value they add to your ecosystem.

Tall goldenrod (solidago altissima) is the most common goldenrod, but there are dozens of other varieties that grow well in Georgia. I let this fast growing variety spread in my right of way strip where the road is a natural boundary.

Of the 77 to 100+ varieties of goldenrod in the U.S, 30 to 35 grow in Georgia. I couldn't nail down the exact number and wonder if it varies so much because goldenrod hybridizes easily. The main considerations I have when adding a goldenrod variety to my naturescape are:

  • Is it clumping or rhizomatous? If it’s clumping it will grow slowly from a clump of basal leaves and stay where you plant it. If it’s rhizomatous, it will spread by roots and assertively spread beyond where planted so it's best planted by itself, with other more assertive plants, or with natural boundaries.

  • What is the moisture range? When adding a goldenrod to my yard I want to match where a native plant would naturally grow as much as possible. Some varieties are found in moister riparian habitats (e.g. along streams) and some naturally grow in a drier field habitat.

  • What is the light range? Atlanta summers are so hot that often full sun plants do fine and even prefer a little more shade than they might north of us. I'm always on the lookout for shade tolerant varieties for my yard where sunny areas are a precious commodity.

The following is a short list of goldenrods that grow in the Georgia Piedmont region which includes Atlanta where I live. I’ve included some basic information and anecdotal observations about how they grow in my yard. Things like bloom time or growth rate for example may differ depending on factors such as the amount of sun and moisture they get or the make-up of the soil they are growing in. The exact same plant will grow differently if planted in different parts of my yard…sometimes only yards away from each other! Nine Bright and Easy Goldenrods to Add to Your Atlanta Naturescape (natural landscape)

1) Solidago caesia – bluestem goldenrod 2-3 feet, average to dry soil, part shade, clumping. This is one of the few goldenrods that will grow in dry shade.

This picture was taken in October when it became harder for sweet little bumblebees like this one to find nectar. I'm sure he was glad to find this late blooming wreath or blue stem goldenrod (solidago caesia) in my yard! If you live in Atlanta and don't have this variety of goldenrod, consider adding it to your landscape!

2) Solidago juncea – early goldenrod

2-4 feet, dry soil, sun, rhizomatous. This does well with other assertive native plants including echinacea (coneflower) and rudbeckia (brown-eyed susan).

Early goldenrod (solidago juncea) grows well with other assertive native plants in my right of way strip...it's great for erosion control and has to stop growing at the sidewalk!

3) Solidago nemoralis – grey goldenrod 1-2 feet, dry soil, sun to partial sun, rhizomatous. Insects love flowers on the compact vase shaped form if this late blooming goldenrod.

Grey goldenrod (solidago nemoralis) and mountain mint's rhizomatous roots battle it out in a sunny area of my yard (if you look closely at the top of the picture you can see the mountain mint leaves intertwined with the grey goldenrod)

4) Solidago odora var. chapmanii – chapman’s goldenrod 3-4 feet, dry soil, sun to partial shade, rhizomatous. One of my favorite goldenrods for dry partial shade areas where it blooms a bit later than it would in full sun. Solidago odora is clumping, but this variety is rhizomatous.

Super pollinating carpenter bees love all goldenrod, including chapman's goldenrod (solidago odora var. chapmanii)

5) Solidago patula – rough leaf or swamp goldenrod 3-4 feet, average to moist soil, sun to part shade, rhizomatous. The leaves are the largest of any goldenrod and it thrives in a difficult partially shady damp area of my yard.

Swamp or rough leaf goldenrod (solidago patula) brown-eyed susan (rudbeckia triloba), and cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalis) are great companions in a damp, partly sunny area of my yard

6) Solidago petiolaris – downy goldenrod 2-3 feet, dry soil, sun part shade, clumping. The bees fight over this slow growing goldenrod when it blooms. It would be a great native plant to add to a traditional garden area.

When blooming, downy goldenrod (solidago petiolaris) is covered in native bees

7) Solidago rugosa ‘fireworks’ wreath or blue-stem goldenrod 3-4 feet, average to wet soil, sun to part shade, clumping. This is a slow spreading cultivar with radiating flower sprays. I planted it before I knew about native plants. I haven’t evidenced as many pollinators on it as some of the other varieties in my yard. I would strongly suggest growing the straight species solidago rugosa instead; which is what I'm doing this year.

This picture of a native bee on a solidago rugosa 'fireworks' cultivar was taken in 2016 before I became a native plant purist. This year I'm adding solidago rugosa straight species to my naturescaped yard.

8) Solidago speciosa – showy goldenrod 2-3 feet, dry soil, sun, clumping. This early blooming, slow spreading variety lives up to its name. There are so many insects on it when it blooms that it practically moves! It may be my personal favorite. Showy goldenrod would make a fabulous native plant addition to a traditional garden area.

Showy goldenrod (solidago speciosa) attracts both human and insect admirers

9) Solidago ulmnifolia – elm-leaved goldenrod 3 feet, average to moist soil, shade to part sun, rhizomatous. Sun is at a premium in my yard so I value any plant that grows well in shade. I started this from seed last year and planted it in both dry and moist partially shady areas. It only flowered the first year in the moist area.

This elm-leaved goldenrod (solidago ulmnifolia) thrives in a moist, partially sunny area of my yard. It's such a pretty variety, I hope it spreads far and wide!

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