Little Joe Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium asteraceae Little Joe) grows to only 24-30″ tall.
*Note on botanic nomenclature: Recently botanists have broken up the genus Eupatorium into three new genera. Many of our most familiar Joe Pye weeds are now in the genus Eutrochium. But for the sake of familiarity and to avoid confusion, I have used Eupatorium in this blog. Most commercial growers are continuing to use the old genus as well.
Growing Joe Pye Weed
In more arid Western climates, be sure to give them some afternoon shade, plant them in compost-enriched soil and give them regular irrigation during dry weather. Supplement their water needs by planting in a low spot that collects extra water or near a roof downspout. Mulch generously to maintain even soil moisture.
Use other late summer/fall bloomers, especially larger growing ones to match Eupatorium in size. Recommended companion plants for Joe Pye Weed include:
Planting Joe Pye Weed
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.
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.
Growing Joe-Pye Weed
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.
What are Joe-Pye Weed Flowers?
Spring or fall is the most suitable time for when to plant Joe-pye weed. Due to the large size of Joe-pye weed, it makes a great background plant but also needs plenty of room to grow. In fact, they are best planted on 24 inch (61 cm.) centers as they will eventually form large clumps. When growing Joe-pye weed in the garden, group it with similar woodland plants and ornamental grasses.
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.
Mature plants can handle short droughts, but too much dry soil for too long will cause Joe Pye weed to shrivel and scorch. Make sure the plant is getting enough moisture in the heat of summer.
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.
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.
Orange Spots on the Leaves
Staking and timely pruning may also be necessary to keep these towering plants on their best behavior.
The plant derives its common name from Joe Pye, a Native American from New England. One academic study suggests that "Joe Pye" was the Christianized name taken by a Mohican chief named Schauquethqueat, who lived in Massachusetts from 1740 to 1785. White settlers are thought to have attached his name to a medicinal plant used by the indigenous tribe.
Fill starter cells or 2-inch pots with moistened seed starter mix. Press the seeds into the soil and just barely cover them with additional mix. Place the container in a location with bright indirect light at 70 degrees Fahrenheit until they sprout, usually about 4 weeks. Continue to grow the seedlings in a bright location until outdoor planting time.
How to Get Joe Pye Weed to Bloom
By far the most common problem for Joe Pye Weed is powdery mildew, Although it is rarely fatal, powdery mildew's dusty covering of the leaves can hinder their ability to photosynthesize, sometimes causing the leaves to dry up and die.
These wildflowers require no special winter protection, but it's a good idea to cut the stalks back to just above ground level when frost kills the plants, or after the flowers have faded. Doing this work in the fall will simplify your spring cleanup chores.