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joe pye weed growing conditions

Joe pye weed growing conditions

Joe Pye weed is a fairly low-maintenance plant, and it’s quite rewarding to grow due to its notable size and fragrant blooms. It does need plenty of space to accommodate its height and spread. These plants grow naturally in sites that have somewhat moist soil, such as near streams or in drainage ditches. So keeping them well watered will generally be the most extensive part of their care. And you might have to apply fertilizer if your soil is very poor. If your Joe Pye weed becomes quite tall, it might need staking to keep it upright, especially when it’s heavy with blooms.


Joe Pye weeds have thick stems with lance-shaped, serrated dark green leaves that can be up to a foot long. And in the midsummer, tiny mauve or pink-purple flowers bloom in large clusters atop the stems. Although it’s often considered just a roadside week, Joe Pye weed has a sweet vanilla scent that is especially attractive to butterflies and other pollinators, and it has become an increasingly popular plant for native gardens. Joe Pye weed is best planted from potted nursery plants in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. It has a fast growth rate, usually flowering in its first season.

Joe Pye Weed Care

Joe Pye weed grows best in full sun to partial shade. Too much shade can encourage legginess and cause the plant to flop over. Shady conditions also can make the plant susceptible to disease. However, Joe Pye weed also appreciates some protection from the hot afternoon sun, especially in the summer months. Too much strong sun can cause yellowing of the leaves.

Joe pye weed growing conditions

Red Dwarf Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) is shown with Gros Bleu Lavender.

*Note on botanic nomenclature: Recently botanists have broken up the genus Eupatorium into three new genera. Many of our most familiar Joe Pye weeds are now in the genus Eutrochium. But for the sake of familiarity and to avoid confusion, I have used Eupatorium in this blog. Most commercial growers are continuing to use the old genus as well.

Growing Joe Pye Weed

Most species of Eupatorium can grow to large size and are best used at the back of the perennial border, or in meadows and other wildland plantings where they form an impressive backdrop for other summer and fall blooming perennials and ornamental grasses. In general, these large growing plants prefer fertile soils and sun, although some species are fine in partial shade. Our native species are herbaceous (die back to the ground in winter) and should be pruned back hard in mid-spring to give the new stems room to push out from the crown. Flowers can be deadheaded to reduce re-seeding should it become an issue, although this is usually not required.

Because of these are typically large growing plants, they were used mainly in large gardens. In recent years, however, plant breeders in both North America and Europe have been selecting for more compact growing selections of Eupatorium to make them more useful in smaller gardens. Here are a couple of our High Country Garden favorites.

Planting Joe Pye Weed

The genus Eupatorium*, commonly known as Bonesets or Joe Pye Weed, are a large group of wildflowers valued in the garden for their large size, robust growth, attractive foliage and large, showy displays of summer through fall flowers. Widely distributed across the northern hemisphere, they can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. However, the Bonesets most commonly in cultivation in the US are native species.