A few years back, I started focusing my gardening efforts on native plants of New England and specifically Northeastern Connecticut where I live. One of the native plants I have added to both my native medicine garden and my native pollinator garden is Joe Pye Weed. I just love this plant!
As you have probably guessed, it is used both as a pollinator plant and has some medicinal properties that my Nipmuck ancestors likely used. The focus of this article today is to discuss what Joe Pye Weed is and to highlight the top 6 reasons that you’ll want to plant in your yard or garden.
What is Joe Pye Weed?
Joe Pye Weed might have an uninspiring name, but it’s a hardy plant that can grow well in many North American gardens. Legend has it that this wildflower got its moniker from a traveling Native American medicine man who sold colonists herbal tonics for fighting typhoid fever.
Joe Pye Weed is the common name for plants in the genus Eutrochium. These perennials grow to be about seven feet tall and have distinctive clusters of pink flowers at the tops of long stems. It is a NATIVE plant in the United States and Canada, so it is perfect to plant in your yard!
I love that the bloom time for Joe Pye Weed is generally around August when many of my other garden perennials have finished blooming. I have mine planted at the edge of our woodland in partial shade and it seems very happy there, where it spreads a bit more each year. Some gardeners dislike that it spreads so much, but I love it. It also does well in moist areas.
The 5 species of wild Eutrochium found in North America:
- Eutrochium dubium: Also known as Coastal Plain Joe Pye Weed, it’s located in the eastern USA and Canada, and its range extends from Nova Scotia to Georgia.
- Eutrochium fistulosum: This species is known by many names, including Hollow Joe Pye Weed, Trumpetweed, and Purple Thoroughwort. It grows from southern Canada to the eastern and southern USA, from Maine west to Ontario, Wisconsin, and Missouri and south as far as Texas and Florida.
- Eutrochium maculatum: Commonly called spotted Joe Pye weed, this plant grows in much of the United States and Canada. It’s the only wild Joe Pye species found west of the Great Plains.
- Eutrochium purpureum: This species is commonly known as Purple Joe-Pye Weed, Kidney-root, Sweetscented Joe Pye Weed, and Sweet Joe Pye Weed. It is native to eastern and central North America.
- Eutrochium steelei: This Joe Pye Weed species is commonly known as Steele’s eupatorium and is found only in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
When you shop for Joe Pye Weed at your local garden center, you’ll probably find a variety of options. Most of these cultivars were developed from wild species.
Top 6 Reasons to Grow Joe Pye Weed
1. Ornamental Interest
- Late Summer Bloom — When other flowers have finished their flowering, this beautiful wildflower is just beginning. The flowers add lots of colorful garden interest and will continue to bloom from August until the first frost.
2. Attracts Wildlife
- Attracts Butterflies — is an important food source for wildlife. It attracts bees and butterflies with its nectar-rich blooms. The butterfly species you can expect to see include skippers, fritillaries, and swallowtails.
- Attracts Birds — This plant attracts birds to your backyard. In the summer, you may see hummingbirds sipping nectar from the flowers. Come fall, many birds—like the American Goldfinch—feed on the seeds. Also, adding tall plants like Joe Pye Weed can provide shelter, cover, and protection—all of which may encourage more songbirds to visit your garden.
- Attracts Bees — As a pollen and nectar producer, this wildflower is loved by many types of bees, making them a must for any wildlife and pollinator garden.
- Host Plant — it is a host plant for the caterpillars of several moth species.
- Deer and Rabbit Resistant — Joe Pye Weed is generally deer-and rabbit-resistant because of its bitter taste. However, younger leaves and stems may be eaten by these animals.
- Soil and Drought Tolerant — This wildflower will grow in many soil conditions. It is tolerant of clay soil and wet soil, and mature plants even have some tolerance for short periods of drought. It is notable as a plant that tolerates nearly all soil pH levels.
4. Easy Care
- Low Maintenance — Native plants are your best bet for a healthy garden. They’ve evolved to grow well in your area, so you don’t have to worry about them dying from too much or too little water, or from poor soil. You’ll also save money on weeding, watering, and fertilizing.
5. Versatile Uses
- Meadow Garden – Joe Pye Weed can grow in areas that don’t dry out, such as meadows or open areas; it pairs well with other taller species. All plants will receive the necessary sun as it tracks overhead.
- Rain Garden – Joe Pye Weed is attractive and tough. It does well in rain gardens, which are areas designed to handle some of the water that runs off your roof and property. All you need is a small depression in your yard where water collects.
- Massing – Joe Pye Weed looks striking when it’s planted in groups, creating a notable display and architectural height in the back of a border garden or along water margins. It’s also good to fill drainage ditches and other low-lying areas.
- Naturalized – Joe-Pye weeds can be used formally or informally in perennial borders, wildflower gardens, or naturalized landscapes.
- Specimen –The Joe Pye Weed grows to be about 4-7 feet tall, making it a great specimen plant–it can easily become the focal point of any garden
6. Medicinal Value
Joe Pye weed, a plant that’s as intriguing as its name, holds a special place in the world of herbal remedies. This plant, which graces my native botanical sanctuary, has been a trusted ally in traditional medicine for generations. Its medicinal value is deeply rooted in history, offering a natural solution to a variety of ailments.
Primarily known for its diuretic properties, Joe Pye weed is a go-to herb for promoting kidney health and urinary tract wellness. It gently encourages the body to eliminate excess fluid, which can be a blessing for those struggling with water retention or kidney stones. I’ve often recommended it to friends and readers who are seeking a natural way to support their urinary system.
But the benefits of Joe Pye weed don’t stop there. It’s also known for its effectiveness in easing joint stiffness and the discomfort of gout. As someone who spends a lot of time tending to my garden and sanctuary, I understand how joint health is crucial. This herb’s anti-inflammatory properties can offer relief, making it easier to enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening and nature walks.
Furthermore, Joe Pye weed has been traditionally used to address reproductive issues. It’s fascinating how our ancestors relied on this plant for such intimate health concerns, and it’s a testament to the wisdom inherent in nature. Whether it’s menstrual irregularities or other reproductive challenges, this herb has been a gentle yet powerful aid.
In recent times, there’s growing interest in Joe Pye weed’s potential in managing diabetes. This is particularly close to my heart, as I believe in the power of natural remedies to complement modern medicine. While it’s not a substitute for professional medical advice, incorporating Joe Pye weed into a holistic approach to health can be beneficial.
- A Grower’s Guide. bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf2615.pdf. Accessed 21 Nov. 2023.
- “Joe-Pye Weed.” Medicinal Herb Info, 30 Aug. 2021, medicinalherbinfo.org/000Herbs2016/1herbs/joe-pye-weed/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2023.
- “Herbal Medicine.” American Botanical Council, https://www.herbalgram.org/search/29fc80db4a6be01abc29cf38a52d2c24?search=joe%20pye. Accessed 21 Nov. 2023.
The bottom line is that Joe Pye Weed is a beautiful, useful plant for the garden. It’s a plant that provides many visual benefits to any garden, is easy to grow, requires little maintenance, and will tolerate some neglect, so you won’t have to devote too much time to it. It attracts pollinators, helps prevent erosion of soil, and provides numerous other benefits—so if you want to put the extra effort into growing a native plant, give Joe Pye Weed a serious look.
Interested in other articles about gardening for wildlife or pollinators? Check these out:
Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional. All information shared here is for information and entertainment only. Do your own research and consult your health care provider before treating yourself with any product, plant or mixture.