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growing joe pye weed from seed

Joe Pye Weed Seeds 6935 (Eupatorium maculatum). This is one of our showiest native plants. Joe Pye Weed is another Carolinian Canada species that’s a bee, butterfly and hummingbird favourite. Tall single stemmed plants average 120 cm (4′) height and are loaded with fluffy, vanilla scented, showy purplish-white blooms for several weeks in July and August. Flowers form in terminal domed clusters up to 30 cm (12″) wide. A good wetland meadow plant as it tolerates constantly moist soils – also found along stream banks and marsh edges. Best in full sun but it will tolerate part shade. Perennial hardy to Zone 3.

4,400 seed/gram. Start seed indoors in a soil-less medium any time in late winter. Barely cover seed, moisten the growing medium and then place the container in a fridge or freezer for 3-4 weeks before bringing it back into the warmth. Keep at 15 C (60 F) for the 20 to 30 day (sometimes longer) germination period. After germination, grow on under lights at the same temperature then harden off and transplant outside to a sunny site with moist soil. Better yet, sow directly outdoors in mid-October in the site where it is to grow. This will allow dormant seed to be naturally stratified during the winter. This plant is slow growing and requires two years to flower when grown from seed.

How to Grow

Use other late summer/fall bloomers, especially larger growing ones to match Eupatorium in size. Recommended companion plants for Joe Pye Weed include:

In more arid Western climates, be sure to give them some afternoon shade, plant them in compost-enriched soil and give them regular irrigation during dry weather. Supplement their water needs by planting in a low spot that collects extra water or near a roof downspout. Mulch generously to maintain even soil moisture.

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.

Planting Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium maculatum ‘Red Dwarf’ – A European introduction of this native species, ‘Red Dwarf’ is a vigorous, yet compact grower. Topping out at about 36 inches in height and 24 to 36 in. in width, it’s still a medium-large plant, but decidedly smaller than the species which can reach 6 ft. in height. The late summer flowers are mauve-pink and are held by burgundy-red flower stems which make a nice combination with the flowers. ‘Red Dwarf’ is a more tightly growing, more rounded form than ‘Little Joe’.

Eupatorium plants enjoy fertile soil and moderate to moist soil conditions; thus are referred to as “mesic” (not xeric) plants. They should be planted with other mesic garden perennials. Joe Pye weed is also a good choice for planting in rain gardens.

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.

Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’ PP# 16,122 – This cultivar of coastal Joe Pye weed was selected for its light purple flowers, stiff upright growth habit and compact size. Topping out at between 3 to 4 ft. and forming a 2 – 3 ft. wide clump, the plant is suitable for both large and small yards. Top rated in the Chicago Botanic Garden Eurpatorium trials, it is recommended for its superior flower production, non-floppy habit and overall vigor.