Which Goldenrod Should You Plant?

By Sarah Wilson,
Healthy Planet Staff Writer

According to author/entomologist Doug Tallamy, Goldenrods are a top Keystone Plant supporting 100+ species of butterflies and moths and 40+ species of specialist native bees. A versatile plant, there is a goldenrod for nearly every light, soil, and moisture variation. And, drumroll, they are deer-resistant. 

With over 100 species of this fall-blooming workhorse in the USA, which are the best bets for gardens? I asked two local native plant experts for suggestions.

PSA: Goldenrods do not cause allergies. Only plants that use wind for pollination have pollen floating around. Any plant that goes to the trouble of producing noticeable flowers has pollen designed to stick to the pollinator, not waft off on a breeze. So, while Goldenrods may be blooming while you are sneezing, the wind-pollinated ragweed is to blame. 

Our first suggestion is from Laura Walther Schaefer, owner/operator of the brand-new Little Sky Wildflowers. Laura taught Biology and Botany at Southwestern Illinois College for 16 years and is a generous, knowledgeable, and contagiously enthusiastic advocate for native plants.

Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)
If you want some fall color, but you have a shady garden. It’s also adaptable to a wide range of soil moisture levels. — Laura

Height: Around 3′
Blooms: July – September
Light: Part Shade – Shade
Will spread via roots and seed. 
Handles shade and clay.

Our next suggestion comes from Allison Azmy, Horticulture Programs Coordinator at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center. She designs and maintains the formal landscape areas at LREC and is a delightful person, as are so many people in the native plant community

Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago ridiga)
With its dense, flat-top clusters of flowers, stiff Goldenrod can add both beauty and ecological function to native plantings. Like many other goldenrods, it readily reseeds, but a quick snip to spent blooms can prevent it creeping into unwanted areas.— Allison

Height:Runs 3-5′ tall, upright
Blooms: August- September
Light: Full Sun – Shade
Handles poor soil, dry conditions, clay to sand.
Our final suggestion is my favorite Goldenrod (so far).

Cliff (Drummond’s) Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii)
I have fast-draining, no-organic-matter dirt (it dreams of being soil someday). The only tool I can dig holes with is the claw end of a hammer. Cliff Goldenrod is growing and flowering here. — Sarah

Height: 3′ tall and wide, with branches that arc out from the center.
Blooms: August-September
Light: Full Sun – Medium Shade
Clumping plant – does not spread via roots.
Handles poor soil, dry conditions, clay to sand, and around here, rabbits.