How to Grow and Care for Goldenrod

goldenrod

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Of the more than 100 species of goldenrod in the Solidago genus, roughly eight species are commonly cultivated as perennial garden plants. Goldenrod plants are tall and slim with fluffy golden flower spikes in various shades of yellow. They're attractive when in bloom in the late summer to fall, but otherwise, the medium green foliage has a fairly unremarkable appearance. Once regarded mostly as an invasive weed, goldenrod is increasingly valued by North American gardeners, thanks to cultivars that offer better performance and more attractive flowers. Most goldenrod species are native to North America and are valuable pollinator plants.

Goldenrod can be planted in the fall or spring, either from potted nursery starts or seeds. It has a rapid growth rate and is an aggressive spreader. The plant will reach its full size in just a couple of months.

Common Name Goldenrod
Botanical Name Solidago spp.
Family Asteraceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 1.5–5 ft. tall, 1-3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 2a-8b (USDA)
Native Area North America

Goldenrod Care

In general, goldenrod species require very little maintenance and will grow well in any sunny location with average or even poor soil. They rarely have pest or disease problems and can tolerate a variety of growing conditions. You might have to stake the taller varieties, so the plants don't flop over.  

Warning

The term "invasive" is technically applicable only to foreign plant species that naturalize in a new environment in a manner that displaced native species. Because most goldenrod species are North American natives, they aren't usually described as invasive. But many are extremely aggressive spreaders that can take over a garden and naturalize into surrounding areas with ease. Choose cultivars that are known to be less aggressive than the species forms.

goldenrod in a field
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
closeup of goldenrod
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
closeup of goldenrod
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
bee on a goldenrod flower
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Light

Goldenrod craves full sun for optimal flowering. The plant will tolerate a bit of shade, though this can reduce its blooms.

Soil

Goldenrod is not overly picky about its soil, as long as there is good drainage and the soil pH is in the acidic-to-neutral range. It can even tolerate sandy, rocky, and clay soils. Very rich soil can cause the plant to get leggy and potentially flop over.

Water

Water new goldenrod plants weekly to maintain damp, but not soggy soil. Mature goldenrod plants are drought tolerant and rarely need supplemental watering unless you have a long stretch without rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

The hardiness range varies a bit depending on the species, but most goldenrods thrive in USDA zones 2 to 8.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing goldenrod is typically not necessary, as the plants do well in lean soil conditions. However, if you have very poor soil or wish to give your plants a boost to increase their height, you can add a layer of compost in the spring.

Too much fertilization often leads to floppy green growth and reduces flower production.

Types of Goldenrod

The many goldenrod species vary somewhat in size and appearance. Some popular species—all native to North America—include:

  • Solidago caesia (blue-stemmed goldenrod) has arching purplish stems. It is not an aggressive spreader and produces good cut flowers.
  • Solidago odora (sweet goldenrod) is a 2- to 4-foot plant with anise-scented leaves and yellow flowerheads. It does not spread aggressively and has a good tolerance for poor, dry soils.
  • Solidago rugosa, also known as rough goldenrod is a 3- to 5-foot plant with a fondness for moist conditions. A popular cultivar is 'Fireworks', with arching golden-yellow flowerheads.
  • Solidago speciosa, often called showy goldenrod, grows 1 to 3 feet tall, with dense clusters of tiny yellow flowers.
  • Solidago sphecelata is a 12- to 24-inch species with arching stems holding plumes of yellow flowers. Two notable cultivars are 'Golden Fleece', a short 15- to 18-inch plant with arching cylindrical flowers, and 'Wichita Mountains', a 30-inch plant with rich gold flowers.
  • Solidago bicolor (white goldenrod): This plant is noteworthy simply because it does not display the typical yellow goldenrod blooms. Instead, it features white blooms.

Some hybrid cultivars to consider include:

  • 'Baby Gold' (Solidago canadensis hybrid) is a 2- to 3-foot plant that produces its bright yellow flowers a little earlier from mid- to late summer.
  • 'Little Lemon' (Solidago hybrida 'Dansolitlem') is an excellent compact variety (8 to 12 inches), with pale lemon flowers.
  • 'Peter Pan' (Solidago virgaurea) has very large spreading flower clusters on 2-foot plants.
  • 'Solar Cascade' (Solidago shortii,) is a 2- to 3-foot plant that produces plentiful golden flower heads.

Pruning

Early season pruning of stem tips can help goldenrod plants become fuller and bushier, and can lead to more flowers later in the season. Deadheading spent flower heads can help prolong the bloom season well into fall, and if you remove the flower heads before they go to seed, this also can help prevent rampant self-seeding. At the end of the season or in late winter, cut the plant stalks back to a few inches above ground level.

Propagating Goldenrod

Goldenrod can be propagated by division in the spring, using this process:

  1. When new growth has just started, lift the entire plant out of the ground with a shovel. If it is too big to move in a single piece, do it in sections. Every section should have at least a couple of growth tips. 
  2. Shake off any excess soil, which helps to separate the rhizomes into smaller sections.
  3. Replant each section at the same depth as the original plant and water it well. Keep the division watered until you see new growth.

You can also propagate goldenrod from cuttings:

  1. In the early summer, cut four-inch shoots from the base of the plant with clean shears and dip the cut ends in rooting hormone. 
  2. Plant them about one inch deep in a four to six-inch pot with potting mix and slowly water until it is evenly moist and water starts to drip out of the drain holes.
  3. Place the pot in a protected location out of sunlight and drying winds. Keep the soil moist at all times. When you see new growth, transplant the goldenrod into garden soil.

How to Grow Goldenrod From Seed

Growing goldenrod from seed is easy; the only requirement for most Solidago species is a 60-day cold stratification period. This can be naturally achieved by sowing the seeds outdoors in a weed-free location in the late fall or early spring so the seeds are naturally exposed to prolonged cold, moist conditions. Alternatively, you can artificially stratify the seeds by placing them in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for 60 days at 33 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit together with a damp paper towel, sand, or vermiculite. After the stratification period, sow the seeds outdoors in the early to mid-spring.

Sow the seeds shallowly, no deeper than the width of the seed, and keep them evenly moist until seedlings emerge.

Potting and Repotting Goldenrod

Because goldenrod is a vigorous spreader, gardeners sometimes grow it in pots where it can be contained better than in garden soil. Use a container at least 12 inches in diameter with large drain holes. Unglazed clay is ideal because it lets excess moisture evaporate.

Fill the pot with a quality potting mix, place the plant in the pot, and backfill with soil. Water it slowly and thoroughly until the soil is evenly moist. Like all container plants, even established goldenrod needs to be watered regularly, unlike in a garden setting.

When roots grow out of the drain holes, or the plant becomes root-bound, transplant it to a larger pot, or divide it and replant a section of it in a pot of the same size with fresh potting soil.

Overwintering

Goldenrod is a hardy plant up to USDA zone 2 and does not need protection unless grown in containers, in which case it is recommended to winterize the containers to insulate the roots against freezing temperatures.

In the garden, the stems can be cut down to a few inches above ground level after frost kills the foliage. Removing the stems, including seed heads, will reduce self-seeding in the garden.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Goldenrod is not bothered by serious pests or diseases but it can get rust fungus, powdery mildew, and leaf spot. These fungal diseases are usually just tolerated, though spraying with fungicide is an option. Most species prefer dry soils, and root rot is a possibility in dense, damp soils.

Goldenrod can be attacked by beetles, aphids, and gall-forming insects, though the results are rarely fatal.

How to Get Goldenrod to Bloom

Goldenrods are late-season bloomers, producing their flowers from mid or late summer into fall, though the precise bloom period varies somewhat depending on species and cultivar. When these plants fail to bloom, it's usually because they don't get enough sun. And like many native plants, excessive fertilizer can have a counterproductive effect, stimulating green growth but reducing flower production.

Deadheading spent flower clusters can extend the bloom period right up to killing frost.

Common Problems With Goldenrod

The most frequent issue arising with goldenrod is how to prevent it from spreading where you don't want it. Mature plants can spread via reseeding and underground rhizomes, potentially outcompeting other plants in the garden. To prevent this, grow goldenrod in containers or in a garden bed with barriers to contain the underground spread.

Another way to control the spread is to divide your goldenrod often, at least every two to three years, so it doesn't have the chance to expand. Plus, you should cut off the spent flower heads promptly to stop them from spreading their seeds if you don't want new plants to pop up. Or better yet, cut the flowers to use in floral arrangements.

FAQ
  • How can this plant be used in the landscape?

    Goldenrod is most often used in naturalized settings, such as meadow and prairie gardens and wildflower areas. It is widely known as a plant that attracts butterflies, making it the perfect addition to any butterfly garden. It also attracts other insects, including bees. Deer rarely feed on goldenrod.

  • How long does a goldenrod plant live?

    Goldenrod that colonizes in a naturalized area can live indefinitely as the rhizomatous roots gradually spread and the plant self-seeds itself. Left undisturbed, a clump of goldenrod may live for decades. In garden settings, it's more common to divide the clumps every two or three years to keep the plant from spreading too vigorously.

  • What is the difference between ragweed and goldenrod?

    Goldenrod is often confused with ragweed because it is also a late-season bloomer that grows along roadsides. The plants are roughly the same size and are often found growing side-by-side, but while some ragweeds have yellowish flowers, they lack the bright hues of goldenrod. Ragweeds are virtually never planted as garden plants, as they are rather unattractive plants. Ragweed pollen has high allergy potential, while goldenrod, despite its reputation, does not.

  • Why do farmers plant goldenrod?

    Goldenrod attracts migrating butterflies and bees which are needed for crop pollination. Having lots of goldenrod around is crucial for fruit production.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Solidago hybrida 'Dansolitlem'. Missouri Botanical Garden

  2. Solidago virgaurea. NC State University Extension Plant Finder

  3. Solidago shortii. Missouri Botanical Garden