Harvesting Joe Pye Weed Seeds

Joe Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus) is a wildflower native to the eastern half of the United States in USDA horticultural zones 3 to 9. It grows to 6 feet tall and has a hollow stem with large oblong leaves up to 10 inches long. The plants can form dense colonies if grown in the right conditions–damp or wet … Joe-Pye weeds (Eutrochium spp.) are early fall blooming wildflowers that colonize roadside ditches in sunny, moist sites. These native perennial plants…

How to Gather & Sow Seeds From Joe Pye Plants

Joe Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus) is a wildflower native to the eastern half of the United States in USDA horticultural zones 3 to 9. It grows to 6 feet tall and has a hollow stem with large oblong leaves up to 10 inches long. The plants can form dense colonies if grown in the right conditions–damp or wet rich soils. The flowers are attractive to a number of butterflies, and the plant can produce flowers during most of the growing season if conditions are suitable. Several improved varieties are available with brighter or darker blooms than the wild version.

Collect Joe Pye weed seeds by finding flower heads that are faded and dry and you can plainly see the tiny thin seeds still attached to the base of the flower heads. Each seed has a tiny bit of fluff attached to it so the wind can carry it away from the mother plant. Carefully cut the stem below where the seeds are attached to the old flower head with hand shears and place the old flower head in a paper bag. Seeds are usually available for harvest in late summer and early fall.

  • Joe Pye weed (Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus) is a wildflower native to the eastern half of the United States in USDA horticultural zones 3 to 9.
  • The flowers are attractive to a number of butterflies, and the plant can produce flowers during most of the growing season if conditions are suitable.

Shake the seed from the flower heads and store the seeds in the paper bag in a cool (60 to 75 degrees F) location. Store for as long as four weeks without refrigeration if you are planning on planting the seeds in the fall. If you are planting the seeds in the spring and holding them over the winter, store in an open paper bag in the refrigerator for at least six weeks. The cold temperatures increase the sprouting or germination rate.

Locate an area of the garden that stays moist and receives up to six hours of sun each day. Good air circulation around the planting bed is encouraged as Joe Pye weed is susceptible to mildew diseases. Joe Pye weed does not like weed competition, so make your planting area no deeper than 2 feet if planting against a wall or fence or 4 feet wide if planting in beds that have access on both sides. The reason for this is so you can reach into the beds and pull the weeds with damaging the tall, spindly plants.

  • Shake the seed from the flower heads and store the seeds in the paper bag in a cool (60 to 75 degrees F) location.
See also  Horny Goat Weed Seeds

Remove all weeds and grasses from the planting area. Enrich the planting area with as much as a 3-inch layer of compost worked into the top 3 or 4 inches of soil. Rake the area smooth.

Spread the seeds over the planting area and slightly cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. It is OK if some of the seeds can still be seen on the surface of the soil. Lightly water the seeds so they will adhere to the compost soil mixture and not blow away. If planting in the fall, they should not need any extra moisture until the next spring or summer when the plants need to be watered regularly. If planting in the spring, do not allow the soil to dry out until the plants are actively growing, then water regularly to keep the soil moist, but not wet.

Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-Pye weeds (Eutrochium spp.) are early fall blooming wildflowers that colonize roadside ditches in sunny, moist sites. These native perennial plants grow to 4 – 6 feet tall and bloom along with goldenrods (Solidago spp.), ironweeds (Vernonia fasciculata), and our native grasses to make a beautiful autumn display. The flowers are mildly fragrant and very attractive to butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Joe-Pye weed was originally classified in the genus Eupatorium but was recently (2000) placed into the genus Eutrochium. Five species of Eutrochium naturally occur in the Southeast, and all are referred to as Joe-Pye weeds:

  • E. dubium – Three nerved Joe-Pye weed. (common in the lower portion of SC and uncommon in the Upstate),
  • E. fistulosum – Hollow stem Joe-Pye weed (common in the Upstate of SC, but uncommon in the lower half of the state),
  • E. maculatum var. maculatum Spotted Joe-Pye weed (does not naturally occur in SC),
  • E. purpureum var. carolinianum – Carolina Joe-Pye weed (occurs rarely in the Upstate of SC),
  • E. purpureum var. purpureum – Purple node Joe-Pye weed (common in the Upstate of South Carolina, but uncommon in the lower half of the state),
  • E. steelei – Appalachian Joe-Pye weed (does not naturally occur in SC).

Although not all Eutrochium species are naturally found in South Carolina, all of these species should grow well over the majority of the state, and improved cultivars of the first four species listed are also found in the nursery trade. Joe-Pye weeds are cold hardy plants and grow well in USDA Zones 4 to 8.

See also  Hawaiian Weed Seeds

Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum var. purpureum) flowers are fragrant and attract many pollinating insects, especially butterflies.
Joey Williamson, ©2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Cultivars

There are a number of cultivars of the various Eutrochium species, where many are shorter than the original species, have better powdery mildew resistance on the foliage, and have better flower production. Approximately 13 cultivars of E. dubium, E. maculatum, and E. fistulosum are currently on the market. The six cultivars below were rated highest 1 for best green leaf color, stem color (often purple), superior flower production and color, powdery mildew resistance, winter hardiness, and attractive growth habit (such as, compactness and stiffer upright form).

  • E. dubium ‘Baby Joe’ PP#20,320; plant trial size: 60 x 54”; good powdery mildew resistance; excellent flower production & light purple flower color.
  • E. dubium ‘Little Joe’ PP#16,122; plant trial size: 60 x 36”; excellent powdery mildew resistance; excellent flower production & purple flower color.
  • E. fistulosum ‘Carin’; plant trial size: 80 x 42”; good powdery mildew resistance; excellent flower production & pale pink flowers.
  • E, fistulosum ‘Bartered Bride’; plant trial size: 90 x 43”; good powdery mildew resistance; excellent flower production & white flowers.
  • E. maculatum ‘Phantom’; plant trial size: 54 x 64”; good powdery mildew resistance; excellent flower production & purplish-pink flowers.
  • E. maculatum ‘Purple Bush’; plant size: 64 x 50”; good powdery mildew resistance; excellent flower production & purple flowers.

The ultimate height of these cultivars is directly influenced by the amount of sunlight received, how consistent the soil moisture is, and the degree of soil fertility. For example, in a trial study ‘Baby Joe’ Joe-Pye weed grew to 5 feet tall, but nursery descriptions of this cultivar’s height are often listed as 3 – 5 feet, 3 – 4 feet, or as low as 2 – 3 feet tall. The same is true for the other cultivars. However, if a Joe-Pye weed species or cultivar grows too large for a specific landscape plan, the stems can be cut halfway down by mid-June. The plant will then re-sprout and be shorter, but more full and with more flower heads.

Landscape Use

Joe-Pye weeds need a soil that is consistently moist the first year for establishment and that contains at least some organic matter. They can tolerate more drought in subsequent years, but do thrive in drainage ditches that are more moist than the typical surrounding soils. Joe-Pye weeds are generally tall plants and most effectively are planted toward the rear of landscape gardens. They combine well with ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), which is also equally tall and with dark purple flowers; goldenrods (Solidago spp.), with golden yellow blooms; and native asters (Aster novae-angliae and A. laevis), with lavender petals and yellow centers.

See also  Can You Drown A Weed Seed

Propagation

Seed: Joe-Pye seed heads can be collected in late September. Cut a seed head, place it upside down in a large, brown paper bag, and hang the bag in a well-ventilated room for the seeds to finish maturing and drop into the bag. The seeds can be planted directly in the soil during the fall, or they can be stored in a sealed bag or jar in the refrigerator until sown. If planted in the fall, young plants will appear in the spring. Keep seedbed moist for both germination and growth of seedlings, which will flower the second season.

Division: Mature plants are best divided in the fall after they go dormant. Each plant will have numerous stems arising from a wide crown with a fibrous root system. To divide the crown, place a sharp shovel between the stems and force it downward to cut, and then separate pieces of stems along with their portion of the crown and roots. Replant the separated piece at the same depth as it was originally, and then mulch and water to settle the soil.

Problems

Powdery mildew (the grayish-white fungal coating on the foliage) is a common problem on many Joe-Pye weeds, such as on this roadside Eutrochium purpureum var. purpureum.
Joey Williamson, ©2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Joe-Pye weeds are relatively free of disease or insect pest problems, except for powdery mildew on the foliage. This is especially more of a problem on the straight species, i.e., when it is not an improved cultivar. Powdery mildew reduces the photosynthetic ability of the foliage (i.e., the ability to manufacture carbohydrates), as well as causes the leaves to desiccate (i.e., to dry up and die). Several fungicides will control powdery mildew on Joe-Pye weed, as well as on other perennials. For examples of both cultural controls that reduce disease incidence and fungicides with specific products, please see HGIC 2049, Powdery Mildew.

Originally published 02/17

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.

Author(s)

Joey Williamson, PhD, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.