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The species name Eupatorium derives from the Greek name Mithridates Eupator, King of Pontus about 115BC who is said to have discovered an antidote to a commonly used poison in one of the species.
The species name maculatum means spotted, referring to purple splotches on the stems.
The sub-species name atropurpureum means ‘very dark purple’, The word ‘atro’ is a prefix conveying the sense of ‘blackish or very dark,’ and purpurum means the colour purple. It is often used in species names, as in atrocaeruleus, ‘dark blue’ or atrococcineus, ‘dark scarlet’
Eupatorium maculatum (Spotted Joe Pye weed) and Eupatorium purpureum (Sweet-Scented Joe-Pye weed) are similar to each other in character and often confused or treated interchangeably in the gardening world.
It is marketed in American as Eupatorium maculatum atropurpureum ‘Glow’
Given that many species grow naturally in damp or wet habitats, the plants may need additional water in the hottest periods of the summer to avoid wilting. While normally sturdy-stemmed, plants may bow a bit under the weight of the large flower heads, especially after overhead irrigation or a heavy rainfall. Deadheading not only keeps plants looking neat after flowering but also deters self-sown seedlings.
Larger selections can be given the ‘Chelsea chop’ and cut back to 60cm (24in) or so in late spring or early summer to reduce their ultimate size. Plants that are cut back typically bloom at or near the regular time but the flower heads are usually a little smaller.
Division is necessary only when plants outgrow their location.
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Eupatorium maculatum atropurpureum is a subspecies native eastern North America. In the wild it can be found in pastureland and at the edges of woodlands and streams. It thrives in garden soils that are reasonably fertile and not too dry. The plants are also useful for planting in damp areas, they are naturals near ponds, streams, and pools.
Eupatorium maculatum is a tall plant that needs a little space, when used in a border it is best located near the back. In good growing conditions plants may grow 120 to 150cm (4 to 5ft) in height and reach half as much across, but thanks to its strong stems, it does not need staking.
Sowing: Sow seed in cool weather in autumn or early spring.
For spring sown seedlings sow from January to late June, early sowings will flower the same season. Sowing in autumn is best done in September or October once the heat of summer has gone.
Sow the seeds very finely onto the surface of trays or pots containing moist seed compost. Just cover with a sprinkling of sieved compost or vermiculite. Place in a plastic bag or cover pots or trays with perspex and place in a position to maintain an optimum temperature of 20°C (68°F)
Keep the compost moist but not saturated, water from the base of the container and drain thoroughly. Germination usually takes 21 to 40 days at 18 to 24°C (65 to 75°F). Remove the cover once the seedlings begin to germinate to allow air to circulate, otherwise they may suffer from damping off disease.
Thin (prick out) seeds as they become large enough to handle into 7cm (3in) pots, leaving the seed trays intact for other seedlings that may germinate later. Harden off young plants gradually for 10 to 15 days before planting out.
In poor soil it is worth incorporating some organic matter before planting. Plant out 100cm (39in) apart into moist but well drained soil in sun or part shade.
Water deeply to encourage roots to grow deeply, resulting in a healthier, more drought tolerant plant. Avoid overhead watering if possible.
In North America, Eupatorium species are commonly called Joe Pye weed, with Eupatorium maculatum being Spotted Joe Pye weed in reference to the maroon markings on the stems.
There are multiple versions of how it got its name. One common story says that Joe-Pye, or possibly named Jopi was a Native American medicine man who used Eupatorium to treat a variety of ailments. Common names can be colorful, folkloric, and often regional in nature, and may be misapplied to a whole group when they actually refer to one species. For example, referring to all of the species as Joe-Pye weed is inaccurate, Joe-Pye weed needs the appropriate descriptor attached, such as Spotted, Hollow, or Sweet-Scented, to ensure the right species is being referenced.
In the wild Eupatorium can be found in pastureland and at the edges of woodlands and streams, where it forms dense colonies. This might explain the inclusion of the word ‘weed’ in its common name, Joe Pye weed. In a garden setting it is far better behaved, forming decent clumps but never straying.
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This perennial dies back to below ground level each year in autumn, then fresh new growth appears again in spring.
Superb architectural perennial with huge heads of dark pink-purple flowers in late summer held above strong burgundy stems. Perfect for the back of a border, it is a magnet for butterflies, and the fluffy seedheads look good well into winter.
Make this a centrepiece of a mixed herbaceous border and in prairie-style planting schemes – they don’t have to be huge and extensive schemes, it’ll work beautifully in smaller gardens and at the back & centre of mixed flowering & grass schemes, and it extends the flowering & foliage colour season deep into autumn as it catches the lower autumn sunlight perfectly.
- Position: full sun or partial shade
- Soil: any moist soil
- Rate of growth: average
- Flowering period: July to September
- Hardiness: fully hardy
I also bought 2 Cork Planters. They look most attractive and are much admired – on my front doorstep.