How to Grow Joe Pye Weed

joe pye weed

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

In This Article

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) is a late-blooming wildflower that’s native to eastern and central North America. It generally grows in upright clumps that reach several feet tall. Its thick stems have lance-shaped, serrated dark green leaves that can be up to a foot long. And in the midsummer tiny mauve flowers bloom in large clusters atop the stems. These flowers have a sweet vanilla scent and are especially attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Joe Pye weed is best planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. The plant has a fast growth rate.

Botanical Name Eutrochium purpureum
Common Names Joe Pye weed, gravel root, trumpet weed, kidney root
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 5-7 ft. tall, 2-4 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Mauve pink
Hardiness Zones 4-9 (USDA)
Native Area North America
Toxicity Nontoxic
closeup of joe pye weed
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
joe pye weed
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
joe pye weed
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
joe pye weed in the back of a landscape
Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Joe Pye Weed Care

Joe Pye weed is a fairly low-maintenance plant, and it’s quite rewarding to grow due to its notable size and fragrant blooms. It does need space when you first plant it to accommodate its height and spread. But it can look great planted along borders, in wildflower gardens, and at the back of plant groupings to provide height. 

These plants grow naturally in sites that have somewhat moist soil, such as near streams. So keeping them well watered will generally be the most extensive part of their care. You’ll also have to remove dead growth from the previous year before the new year’s growth begins. And you might have to apply fertilizer if your soil isn’t rich. Plus, if your Joe Pye weed becomes quite tall, it might need staking to keep it upright, especially when it’s heavy with blooms. 

There are no serious issues with pests or diseases. Powdery mildew is the most common problem that arises, a fungal disease that causes the foliage to become discolored with white splotches. Warm, dry climates and poor air flow can trigger it. Apply a fungicide promptly to prevent the powdery mildew from spreading, and remove infected portions of the plant.

Light

Joe Pye weed grows best in full sun to partial shade. Too much shade can impede growth and cause the plant to flop over. Shady conditions also can make the plant susceptible to disease. However, Joe Pye weed typically will appreciate some protection from hot afternoon sun, especially in the summer months. Too much strong sun can cause yellowing of the leaves.

Soil

This wildflower is adaptable to different soil conditions. A fairly rich, well-drained soil is ideal. The plant is tolerant of clay soil and wet soil, and mature plants even have some tolerance for drought.

Water

Maintaining consistent soil moisture is key for growing robust Joe Pye weed. During your plant’s first growing season, keep the soil evenly moist at all times but not soggy. And even once the plant is mature, try not to let the soil remain dry for more than a few days at a time, especially during hot weather. A layer of mulch around your plant will help to retain soil moisture and keep the roots cool.

Temperature and Humidity

Joe Pye weed is fairly hardy both to cold and to heat within the climates of its growing zones. Frost will cause the plant to begin dying back to the ground for the winter. Humidity (or lack thereof) typically isn’t an issue as long as the soil remains moist.

Fertilizer

If you are growing Joe Pye weed in its native fertile environment, you generally won’t have to feed it. But if you have poor soil, apply a slow-release granule fertilizer for flowering plants in the spring as soon as growth picks up on your plant. Fertilize again in the midsummer when blooms begin to appear. It also can be beneficial to mix compost into the soil around your plant in the spring.

Pruning

Once cold weather arrives in the late fall, Joe Pye weed goes dormant and dies back. You can either prune the dead foliage to about 4 to 8 inches off the ground at this time or wait until early spring to do this garden cleanup task. The plant blooms on the new season’s growth. So don’t wait until it’s too late in the spring to prune, or it can be difficult to avoid the new growth. 

If you wish, you can limit the overall size of your Joe Pye weed by cutting the stems back by half in June. This will cause the plant to send out more stems and encourage shorter, bushier growth. Consequently, you’ll get even more flowers on those new stems. 

Propagating Joe Pye Weed

Division is the easiest way to propagate mature Joe Pye weed plants. To divide a plant, cut straight down into the soil with a sharp shovel in between stems. Then, carefully dig up a stem and its attached roots. Replant it wherever you wish at the same soil depth as it was, and water the soil well. 

Joe Pye Weed Varieties

There are several species and varieties that use the common name Joe Pye weed, including:

  • Eutrochium dubium: This species sometimes has purple stems and features dark purple blooms.
  • Eutrochium fistulosum: This species has green stems with muted pink-purple flowers.
  • Eutrochium maculatum: This species has purple-speckled stems with light to dark purple flowers. 
  • Eutrochium steelei: This species has greenish-purple stems and pink or purple flowers.