Growing Joe-Pye Weed

Growing Joe-Pye Weed
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Growing Joe-Pye WeedJoe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum, is an amazing plant that is an herb, a wildflower, a butterfly plant and an ornamental for the flower bed.

It obtained its name after a Native American herbalist, named Joe-Pye, cured fevers using the Eupatorium plant. Though we tend to think of it as a wildflower in the U.S., it's long been an ornamental plant in England where cottage gardens are so popular. 

Joe-Pye is perky and full of blooms when many other plants are finished and it lasts until hard frost. Place it in the back of the border or give it a corner all its own in a sunny, fertile position. Joe-Pye does best when it's placed in a moist location, but it will adapt to a dryer location, even though it won't do its best. If you enrich the soil with organic matter and keep it watered, it should do fine.

If you have a butterfly garden, then Joe-Pye a must-have plant! The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Great Spangled Fritillary, Pearl Crescent, Monarch, and the Tawny-edged Skipper are just some of butterflies known to love Joe-Pye. It's a perennial that can be divided every 2 years. The stalks are hollow and will fall over if not sheltered from the wind. They will look neater if they are staked early. Pinch back Joe-Pye plants in the early summer it will help them grow a little shorter and bushier. They bloom July through October or till frost.

Joe-Pye can be started from seed indoors 8-10 weeks prior to the last spring frost. Sow on seed starting mix, lightly covering so light can reach the seeds. Moisten the mix and place the pot or container in a plastic bag. Place the covered container in the refrigerator for 8-10 weeks, then remove it and set in a room where it's 68-70ºF. The seed should germinate in 3-7 days. You can also direct seed in any season into the soil if you are growing it as a wildflower. If you want to collect seeds from the plant, they will be very very thin, and tiny--at the base of the cluster of flowers. The seeds for Joe-Pye can be found here.

Joe-Pye is known by the common names Queen of the Meadow, gravel root, kidney root, mist-flower, snakeroot and purple boneset. There are quite a few varieties of Eupatorium to choose from. The smallest is a dwarf variety, E. maculatum (Gateway) that grows to about 4 foot tall, and has reddish stems, more blooms and larger flowerheads. It's very cold hardy, and will grow even in Zone 3. It can also be grown in large containers, as long as it watered regularly. The Gateway variety of Joe-Pye is carried by Nature Hills.

Other varieties are E. aromaticum; E. perfoliatum, E. rugosum, E. coelestinum, and E. purpureum. Some will grow to 10 foot tall! They range from darker purples, wine, lavender and white. The purple shades seem to attract butterflies better than the white. Be SURE to check when buying as to the height of the variety so you won't be surprised. Some varieties are more fragrant than others, and they have a vanilla-like fragrance. If you aren't growing it for butterflies, it also makes a lovely cut flower and they can be dried as well.

Joe-Pye will combine beautifully with butterfly bush (buddleia), Liatris, bee balm (Monarda), yarrow, and anise hyssop. It really is unfortunate that this lovely plant was labeled with the word "weed" because it's nothing of the sort, and is beneficial to our planet in so many ways.

Image: Creative Commons License


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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