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growing joe pye weed from seed

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.

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.

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 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.

If you wish, you can limit the overall size of your Joe Pye weed by cutting the stems back by half in June. This will cause the plant to send out more stems and encourage shorter, bushier growth. Consequently, you’ll get even more flowers on those new stems.

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.

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) is a late-blooming wildflower that’s native to eastern and central North America. It generally grows in upright clumps that reach several feet tall. Its thick stems have lance-shaped, serrated dark green leaves that can be up to a foot long. And in the midsummer tiny mauve flowers bloom in large clusters atop the stems. These flowers have a sweet vanilla scent and are especially attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Joe Pye weed is best planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. The plant has a fast growth rate.

You can prevent excessive spread of the rhizomes by digging them up and dividing them regularly to keep them in their place. You can also keep the stray plants under control by simply mowing them down where you don’t want them before they get too big.

Sweet Joe Pye Weed with its vanilla scented leaves is the best choice for making medicinal and relaxing teas.

You can also purchase Joe Pye Weed potted plants at your local nursery. You’re most likely to find the cultivated version (E. maculatum) which appears a bit bushier and produces more flower heads than the wild variety. It also differs from the native plant in that it does not grow quite as tall.

Preventing Joe Pye Invasion

Dig up the whole clump and remove the dead material from the center. What remains will be new growth, which you can separate and plant in pots or directly into the ground.

If you struggle with damp, low spots in your yard, Joe Pye Weed serves as the perfect choice. It prefers average-to-rich soil and consistently moist, and it does quite well in areas of full sunlight to partial shade.

On the other hand, its flowers look pale pink or purple. This variety grows naturally in open woods and thickets.

The foliage and sturdy stems, also known as “purple bone set” repel mosquitoes when burned. It can be gathered and dried and bundled be burned as a natural mosquito repellent.

Mulching around your plants is one way to keep moisture in and will help to keep weeds down as well. You can use a typical shredded bark mulch or go with something lighter like pine needles or straw.

Once seeds start to germinate, remove the covers and keep your seedlings under lights. Harden them off outside about a week before you plan to plant them in your garden.

Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are attracted to the pollen-rich flowers of Joe Pye weed. You’ll also draw songbirds later in the year when they come to snack on the seeds that form. This plant is great for growing in a butterfly garden or native wildflower area.

How to Plant

Most gardeners opt for one of the newer hybrids when it comes to using Joe Pye weed as a landscaping plant. If you’re more interested in growing native varieties, here are the main ones found in North America:

If you want to sow seeds directly in your garden, you can put them in the ground in the fall and let Mother Nature do the work of germinating them for you.

Joe Pye weed is an herbaceous perennial, which means it will die back to the ground in the winter and pop up again in the spring.

Pruning is optional, but it can help with the shape and size of your plants. You can do a hard prune in mid-spring (cut back to 4-8 inches) to renew plants and keep their growth habit a little shorter.