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The Quiet Giant—Eutrichium purpureum

black swallowtail, tall perennials, native perennials, butterfly plants

Joe Pye Weed is sometimes called the queen of the meadow, and yet it gets about as much respect as a roadside weed. Place Joy Pye Weed at the back of the flower border where it will have plenty of room or along a fence where it will have some support. It grows taller than a person, and will sometimes grow over other plants. It can be messy, growing nine or ten feet! Fall blooms are your reward for growing Joy Pye Weed. The flowers are intoxicating to butterflies, bees, and any other small creature that flies. It is cold hardy to Canada, which is incredible for a perennial flower. Great garden designers will tell you Joe Pye Weed is an under-used gem. Travel across the Atlantic, and you will hear loud praises for its colossal impact as a background plant in European perennial borders.

In America, Joe Pye Weed hangs out in right-of-way thickets and along natural stream buffer woodlands, with a reputation of a weedy plant. Some people think perennials should grow to only three feet or so, to fit into a refined flower border. There is a dwarf cultivar called ‘Little Joe’ that stays under three feet. I love it, but it will not flower quite as large or profusely as the original. The parent plant is associated with the old Eupatorium family (bonesets and thoroughworts), a group of wayside volunteers of mixed refinement.

Joe Pye Weed is a strong, tall, midsummer floral background plant that butterflies love, which takes heat and drought, and is native to the eastern two-thirds of the United States. It is the ultimate cottage garden plant, and grows on incredibly strong stems. That means no staking required for a nine-foot flower! It smells like vanilla, and the blooms pop out at nose height. The flower color is a mauve-pink-lavender mix. If you want a most sophisticated floral arrangement on a grand scale, this is a dramatic choice. The blooms last for several weeks in the garden. It is easy to grow and a tough survivor during challenging weather—cold, moist, hot, and dry. Celebrate it on a grand scale by using it is a grand garden design.

Joe Pye Weed