Joe Pye weed likes to get adequate moisture in the soil but isn’t picky about soil type or fertility. Established plants can take periods of dryness, although the leaves may looked scorched for a while.
As a native plant, Joe Pye weed is extremely easy to grow and very low maintenance. It rarely suffers from pests or diseases and even deer aren’t very fond of eating it.
Plan to start your seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before your last average frost date in spring. You can use plug trays to seed a lot of plants or small containers if you only want to grow a few.
Planting Joe Pye Weed
These plants will definitely make their presence known in your garden, growing up to 7 or 8 feet tall and blooming with large flower clusters ranging from white to pink to purple. The flowers often give off a lovely vanilla-like scent and typically bloom from mid or late summer into fall.
The cold and wet of winter will give your seeds the scarification they need to germinate next spring. Once your sprouts come up and grow a few inches, you can thin them out to the proper spacing.
Make sure you water your small plants well by soaking the soil around them (not the leaves). Keep them regularly watered for the next few weeks while they get established.
Dig in a circle around the crown of the plant you want to divide, getting as much of the root system as possible. Use a sharp shovel to divide the clump so that there’s one stem per plant.
Joe Pye weed is fairly hardy both to cold and to heat within the climates of its growing zones. Frost will cause the plant to begin dying back to the ground for the winter. Humidity (or lack thereof) typically isn’t an issue as long as the soil remains moist.
These plants grow naturally in sites that have somewhat moist soil, such as near streams. So keeping them well watered will generally be the most extensive part of their care. You’ll also have to remove dead growth from the previous year before the new year’s growth begins. And you might have to apply fertilizer if your soil isn’t rich. Plus, 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 weed grows best in full sun to partial shade. Too much shade can impede growth and cause the plant to flop over. Shady conditions also can make the plant susceptible to disease. However, Joe Pye weed typically will appreciate some protection from hot afternoon sun, especially in the summer months. Too much strong sun can cause yellowing of the leaves.
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 space when you first plant it to accommodate its height and spread. But it can look great planted along borders, in wildflower gardens, and at the back of plant groupings to provide height.
If you are growing Joe Pye weed in its native fertile environment, you generally won’t have to feed it. But if you have poor soil, apply a slow-release granule fertilizer for flowering plants in the spring as soon as growth picks up on your plant. Fertilize again in the midsummer when blooms begin to appear. It also can be beneficial to mix compost into the soil around your plant in the spring.
Once cold weather arrives in the late fall, Joe Pye weed goes dormant and dies back. You can either prune the dead foliage to about 4 to 8 inches off the ground at this time or wait until early spring to do this garden cleanup task. The plant blooms on the new season’s growth. So don’t wait until it’s too late in the spring to prune, or it can be difficult to avoid the new growth.
Division is the easiest way to propagate mature Joe Pye weed plants. To divide a plant, cut straight down into the soil with a sharp shovel in between stems. Then, carefully dig up a stem and its attached roots. Replant it wherever you wish at the same soil depth as it was, and water the soil well.