Pity the plant that has “weed” in its common name. It doesn’t hold a good connotation; regardless of any admirable qualities it may have, the word definitely typecasts that plant. Such is the case with Eupatorium purpureum, also known as Joe-Pye weed. The fact that it grows along roadsides right across the country doesn’t help. Despite these two strikes against, Joe-Pye weed deserves a place in larger flower beds. It is a butterfly, bee and bird magnet, with its large clusters of pink to light purple blooms loaded with nectar for weeks on end in midsummer. Given the right growing conditions this plant will thrive at the back of the border, towering above lower plants and humming with activity.
Nuts and Bolts
It comes down to soil and moisture in determining how tall Eupatorium purpureum will grow. In rich ground, fed with ample moisture, heights of eight to ten feet are not out of the realm. In average soils that dry out on occasion the plant might grow to half this size, still pretty impressive. Flower buds form in June and open in July. Full sun will promote full development of foliage and flowers. Eupatorium will tolerate winter temperatures to -40 deg. C.
Plant it with…
Eupatorium is a compliment to so many perennials-asters, rudbeckia, daylilies and Shasta daisies to name but a few. It also looks great when combined with finer textured ornamental grasses such as Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) or Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass). If you lack the space for the large species, look for more compact hybrids. Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’ and ‘Phantom’ both top out at around three feet tall, perfect for the middle of the border.