Joe-Pye Weed, The Overlooked Fall Bloomer

Years ago when we put up our first greenhouse, I wanted to start every herb I could get my hands on from seed. Joe-Pye Weed was agonizing. I could never get it to germinate. Perhaps the seed was old. Year after year I would buy more seed only to fail over and over. On one of our vacations we stopped at a small nursery in Moab Utah on the way home and there it was! Joe-Pye Weed! It was towering out its one gallon pot with its huge pink flower heads. I was in love and of course it come home with us along with many other plants from cute little nurseries on our travels…. And now that I have my specimen, I have no problems starting it from seed.

A little history; Joe-Pye Weeds botanical name is Eupatorium. It is also known as Boneset, Purple Boneset and Gravel Root. The King of Pontus, Mithridates Eupator discovered the use of this plant as a medicinal tonic and it was named after him, “Eupatorium”. Joe-Pye, its common name comes from the name of an Indian name Jopi who used it medicinally as well. It has been used to relief pain of the fever, break-bone fever, to fight typus, to dissolve kidney stones and an affective diuretic. Its quiet bitter to taste.

The roots are the parts used for making tinctures and can be harvested at anytime, but it’s best harvested in the late fall for the strongest qualities. Harvesting should be done after this perennial has been in the ground for two years.

Joe-Pye Weed is easily grown in full sun, moisture-retaining, but well drained soil. When grown in a shady spot it can get floppy. It is an excellent showy fall blooming plant that should be grown in the back of flower beds, reaching over six foot tall. It pairs beautifully with Snow on the Mountain and Goldenrod. Moderate fertility is enough to feed this awesome performer. Joe-Pye Weed does better when the soil isn’t allowed to dry out. It can be become rather scruffy and tattered looking if it doesn’t get enough water. It forms huge flower heads ranging from a light pink to a deeper rose-purple depending on the variety.

This plant is not flashy as a small immature plant in pots. We grow this every year for our nursery and most people snub it off. Perhaps it’s the name that has “weed” in it that turns their noses, but come summer time and they see it in our demo herb bed, most everyone says with great excitement, “what is that plant?”.  It’s not a weed or invasive so even if you don’t have typhus or kidney stones, but have a sunny location, you might want to give Mr. Joe-Pye Weed a spot in your landscape!

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