Ellen has been gardening with and appreciating native plants for eleven years in north metro Atlanta. She is especially fond of native shrubs and trees but is willing to learn to love herbaceous plants as well. Helping others to see the beauty and versatility of Georgia's native plants, whether it be in the wild or in the garden, is both a passion and a compulsion -- just ask her kids! Ellen is an active member of the Georgia Native Plant Society and the Georgia Botanical Society. She uses her personal blog, usinggeorgianativeplants.blogspot.com, to share seasonal ideas and pictures about native plants in her area.

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Goldenrod - Good for Gardens
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 09/30/12

Goldenrod is the common name for plants in the genus Solidago. Goldenrod is blooming now in north Georgia all along roadsides and in gardens. This bright yellow wildflower is often considered to be a problem for allergy sufferers. One allergy clinic even has it as a picture on their website. But goldenrod is not the culprit - the real allergy plant is ragweed. Here is what goldenrod looks like - nice bright yellow blooms full of pollen. But the pollen is heavy, available only to insects, too heavy to be blown about on the wind to bother humans.

Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensis


Ragweed has green flowers (you hardly even notice the plant) and very light pollen that is picked up by the wind and blown from one plant to another. It is wind pollinated (hence the lack of showy flowers because it has no need to attract insects for pollination). Goldenrod flowers are covered with bees, beetles and even butterflies that benefit from the many nectar and pollen rich flowers that the plant produces.

A monarch butterfly samples some goldenrod


But even those that know that goldenrod is not the cause of allergies might hesitate to put goldenrod in their garden. That's because the goldenrod shown in the first picture is a rhizomatous plant - it spreads aggressively by roots that shoot out from side to side and create new plants. In a field, a roadside or a meadow, such behavior is not a problem. But in a garden, especially a suburban one, such an aggressive plant will cause the gardener to regret choosing that plant. I am here to bring you good news - there are many clumping forms of perennial goldenrod that you can choose to light up your fall garden. Because who wants to be without those wonderful wands of yellow this time of year?


Clumping forms of goldenrod in north Georgia include gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), wand goldenrod (Solidago erecta), anise-scented goldenrod (Solidago odora), and downy ragged goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris). In coastal areas of Georgia, seek out seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens.

Solidago nemoralis

Solidago erecta













Modestly rhizomatous goldenrods for north Georgia include showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), wrinkled leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa, including 'Fireworks'), and dwarf goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata, including 'Golden Fleece'). Restrict rhizomatous goldenrods to drier areas of the garden to discourage spread.


'Golden Fleece'













While most goldenrods require full sun, there are several shade tolerant ones. My favorite is blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia).

Solidago caesia

Goldenrod combines well with other flowers

I hope you can find a place for goldenrod in your garden. The pollinators will like it and you'll appreciate it come fall.



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