Nine Bright and Easy Native Goldenrods to Add to Your Atlanta Naturescape (Natural Landscape)
Updated: Dec 3, 2022
OR Add Biodiversity to Your Native Plant Habitat with More Goldenrod` OR Can You Ever Really Have Enough Goldenrod? (Edited 12.3.22 to reflect correction of information I've learned about since publishing this) 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.
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. It blooms in late fall.
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).
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.
4) Euthamia graminifolia - flat-top or grass-leaved goldenrod (also known as solidago graminifolia): 3-4 feet, dry to wet soil, sunny to partial sun, rhizomatous Although it prefers wet soils in full sun, grass-leaved goldenrod will thrive in drier soils and partial shade. It grows in a partially shady, a dry sunny area, and a damp partially sunny area of my yard just fine! It is not considered a true goldenrod but is in the same family, resembles goldenrod, blooms in early fall, attracts pollinators, and is a host plant for a handful of moths.
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.
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.
7) Solidago rugosa ‘fireworks’ wreath 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.
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.
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.