Let me introduce you to Joe-Pye weed. I know, the “weed” in Joe-Pye weed may trouble you, but know that it’s in good company with other native herbaceous perennial “weeds,” notably milkweed and sneezeweed. Depending on the species, you can find spotted Joe Pye weed along roadsides and ditches in the North Carolina mountains or spotted hollow-stem Joe-Pye weed and coastal plain Joe-Pye weed across the unmanaged scenic areas of the Carolinas.
Joe-Pye weed is also called “queen of the meadow” for good reason: it remains unnoticed all season long until mid-summer to fall when these neglected beauties burst into bloom with dome-shaped to flat-topped flowers that come in a range of colors, from purple to lavender to pink and white.
The flowers act like pollinator magnets for bees, butterflies, and wasps. In the fall, gold finches feast on the seeds.
Admittedly, some species of Joe-Pye weed can reach heights of 7 to 10 ft.; they often splay-open due to the size and weight of their flowers. You can cut back these vertically enhanced types to 3 ft. in late spring or early summer, but it will result in smaller flowers that can be enjoyed at eye level.
A better alternative is to purchase cultivated selections of Joe-Pye weed that are shorter and more compact, such as ‘Little Joe,’ ‘Baby Joe,’ and ‘Phantom.’
Joe-Pye weeds thrive in full sun to light shade; some may require supplemental watering during dry periods.
Joe-Pye weed is an underrated native wildflower that deserves to be enjoyed when you’re on the road and at home in your garden.