the Sky with Joe-Pye
weed, Eupatorium spp., is a conspicuous late summer bloomer
that grows naturally in wet or damp meadows, thickets and along
roadsides. Luckily, it's a natural for gardeners. A showy plant,
few perennials can compare with Joe-Pye weed's ability to create
an imposing presence in the landscape. A member of the aster family,
the plant is sometimes called feverweed, queen of the meadow and
numerous other common names.
A tall wildflower, the unbranched stems of Joe-Pye weed usually
grow 5 to 6 feet, but under good conditions can reach heights
of 10 to 12 feet. Its large, rounded clusters of pink-purple fuzzy
flower heads, large size and whorled leaves that come out from
the stem like the spokes of a wheel make it easy to recognize.
The showy flower clusters are invariably covered by a variety
of insects including butterflies, bees and various wasps feeding
on the sweet nectar.
In the garden, Joe-Pye performs best in full sun and moist soil,
though the plant is tolerant of a wide range of soil types and
moisture levels and is even considered drought-tolerant once established.
Propagate by division.
Several Joe-Pye weed cultivars are available, including E.
purpureum ssp. maculatum 'Atropurpureum.' At up to 9-feet
high, this Joe-Pye stands up for attention. Its purple spotted
and mottled stems don't require stakes and it makes a great show
at the back of a border with its violet-purple flowers.
Eupatorium purpureum ssp. maculatum 'Gateway,' at 4- to
5-feet tall, is more compact and bushy. 'Gateway' has graceful,
dusky rose-pink flower heads in summer and fall. The stems are
wine-colored and put out large green leaves. 'Alba' produces white
Joe-Pye weeds are easy to spot at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Stroll
the sidewalks that edge the long Perennial Border and the shorter
opposing Elizabeth Lawrence Border. Grab a map at the end of the
border to help you identify the plants, but Joe-Pye will stand
out for sure!
All photos by Robert E. Lyons