It's rare for gardeners to have trouble getting Joe Pye weed to bloom, but the plants sometimes underperform if they don't get enough sun or if they experience extended drought conditions. And very poor soil can sometimes hinder the blooms. But generally speaking, Joe Pye weed will bloom if it gets enough light, enough water, and just a small amount of nutrition.
Staking and timely pruning may also be necessary to keep these towering plants on their best behavior.
Joe Pye weed lives almost indefinietely, as the root crown gradually spreads and sends up new growth stalks to replace the old ones. This is not a perennial you will likely need to replant.
Common Plant Diseases
Though not nearly as common as powdery mildew, rust fungus can also leave brownish-orange spots on the leaves of Joe Pye weed. It's rarely a serious problem, but if the disfigurement bothers you, try treating the plant with a spray fungicide.
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.
Strictly speaking, this is not considered an invasive plant in North America, since it is native. (By definition, invasive plants are outsiders that spread unwanted in a non-native location). But when planted in a garden, Joe Pye weed can easily escape into surrounding areas, so it's wise to carefully supervise it. It will quickly spread, both through underground roots and by casting its seeds.
Joe Pye weed grows best in full sun to partial shade. Too much shade can encourage legginess and cause the plant to flop over. Shady conditions also can make the plant susceptible to disease. However, Joe Pye weed also appreciates some protection from the hot afternoon sun, especially in the summer months. Too much strong sun can cause yellowing of the leaves.
For those that don’t have this wildflower presently growing on your property, you can usually find them in nurseries and garden centers. However, many of these Joe-pye weed plants are sold as E. maculatum. This type has more foliage and the flower heads as its wild counterpart. ‘Gateway’ is a popular cultivar for home gardens as it is a somewhat shorter variety.
Joe-pye weed flowers were named after a New England man that used the plant medicinally for helping people with typhus fever. In addition to its medicinal properties, both the flowers and seeds have been used in producing pink or red dye for textiles.
Plants die back to the ground in late fall. This dead growth can be cut back or left over winter and cut in spring.
Growing Joe-Pye Weed
There’s little maintenance involved with Joe-pye weed care. The plant does enjoy regular, deep watering and will withstand heat and drought fairly well when the soil is kept moist or shade is provided. A layer of mulch will help retain moisture levels too.
Joe-pye weeds in the garden prefer full sun to partial shade. They also like to be kept somewhat moist in average to rich soil. Growing Joe-pye weed will even tolerate wet soil conditions but not overly dry sites. Therefore, in areas with hot, dry summers, plant these ornamental beauties in partially shaded locales.
What are Joe-Pye Weed Flowers?
Older plants can be divided and replanted in the early spring as new growth starts or fall. When the center dies out of Joe-pye weeds in the garden, then it’s time for division. You need to dig up the entire clump, cutting away and discarding the dead center material. You can then replant the divided clumps.
Eupatorium purpureum, or Joe-pye weed as most people know it, is far from an unwanted weed to me. This attractive plant produces pale pink-purple flowers that last from midsummer through fall. It’s a great addition to nearly any garden and a must have for wildlife lovers, attracting a multitude of butterflies with its sweet nectar. Growing Joe-pye weed flowers is a wonderful way to bring a little bit of nature to your backyard.
Eupatorium maculatum ‘Red Dwarf’ – A European introduction of this native species, ‘Red Dwarf’ is a vigorous, yet compact grower. Topping out at about 36 inches in height and 24 to 36 in. in width, it’s still a medium-large plant, but decidedly smaller than the species which can reach 6 ft. in height. The late summer flowers are mauve-pink and are held by burgundy-red flower stems which make a nice combination with the flowers. ‘Red Dwarf’ is a more tightly growing, more rounded form than ‘Little Joe’.
Eupatorium plants enjoy fertile soil and moderate to moist soil conditions; thus are referred to as “mesic” (not xeric) plants. They should be planted with other mesic garden perennials. Joe Pye weed is also a good choice for planting in rain gardens.
Growing Joe Pye Weed
Red Dwarf Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) is shown with Gros Bleu Lavender.
Deam’s Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida v. deamii) is an outstanding wildflower that blooms in mid-summer with a profusion of large, golden flower petals surrounding a black cen.
Planting Joe Pye Weed
The genus Eupatorium*, commonly known as Bonesets or Joe Pye Weed, are a large group of wildflowers valued in the garden for their large size, robust growth, attractive foliage and large, showy displays of summer through fall flowers. Widely distributed across the northern hemisphere, they can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. However, the Bonesets most commonly in cultivation in the US are native species.