Joe Pye Weed

(Eupatorium purpureum)

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Photo: Mark Herreid

There are forty species of Joe Pye Weed and five that are found in North America.

The top three we are most likely to see are:

  • Sweet, E. purpureum. The most common of these 3 we are likely to come across. 

    Leaves on this plant have a distinct vanilla smell if crushed or bruised.

  • Spotted -
    Eupatorium maculatum.

  • Eastern -
    Eupatorium dubium.

Providing plenty of nourishment attracting birds and many pollinators, weeds also is create flowers that attract hummingbirds too.  Butterflies that one is likely to see enjoying nectar include the Large Wood Nymph, the Spicebush and Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.

These are a low maintenance, durable perennial flower that blooms late in the growing season.  There are multiple flower heads that average 12-18 inches wide but can grow bigger while creating a pinkish-mauve purple color.

Lancet leaves grow on a green, sturdy, course stem and can be 12 inches long.  Growing in clumps, Joe Pye weed likes moist soils, including clay.  Plants are deer resistant

This tall medicinal herb was once used extensively to lower fevers and was named after the Indian who discovered it, Joe-Pye.  It grows in planting zones 4-9 preferring full sun and part shade. 

Because the average height can be anywhere from 4-7 feet (can get as high as 12 feet), it's best to use them as a border plant.  There can be a downside, however.

Plant propagates easily by seed, division and cuttings.  Many gardeners do find themselves removing the plant all together in time.  The large flower heads produce a lot of seeds that spread easily and underground is a fast growing rhizome root system.

Rather than refer to Joe Pye weed as invasive,
it is better to say it can grow out of control.

Photo: Easy Butterfly Garden

There are dwarf varieties of Joe Pye weed available that grow up to 4 feet.  These include:

  • Eupatorium purpureum 'Gateway'

  • Eupatorium purpureum 'Baby Joe'

Personally if you have a cottage or natural garden setting, this is where plant belongs.  It is not for the more formal gardens.  The flower heads can be heavy and the stem can bend with the weight.  Bending in different directions, seeds can easily drop outside of garden boundaries.

Because there are 5-9 flower heads that sit on top of a stem, there can sometimes be confusion between this and Ironweed (Vernonia altissima, Vernonia noveboracensis, Veronia gigantea), which I really like.  Indigenous to Ohio is the 'Tall' species.

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Photo: Easy Butterfly Garden

It's from the Daisy family (Compositae) and the little purple flower looks similar to an Aster without the yellow center.  Aster flower is easier to maintain, however. 

I can't call the wildflower invasive but once established it definitely needs to be controlled.

I learned the hard way how careful we have to be with understanding non-native and native first hand.  I also like to experiment with wildflowers too.  If you are a beginner gardener check out the following pages:

Back to Flowers to Attract Butterflies

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