Complete Guide to Showy Goldenrod (Solidago Speciosa)


Do you love the brilliant yellow colors of Goldenrod in the Fall? But perhaps you’ve heard (or know) just how aggressive Goldenrod can be? Well, what if I told you that there was a species of Goldenrod that isn’t as aggressive? Yup. I said it. You can have that brilliant yellow blooms in your garden in fall, without risk of it taking over! In this article I’ll tell you all about a species of beautiful brilliant yellow Goldenrod that is less aggressive – Showy Goldenrod, Solidago Speciosa.

Look – I like driving by fields of yellow Goldenrod for beauty, but most of those are Canadian and Giant Goldenrod, & I don’t want those plants anywhere near my gardens. There are numerous species of Goldenrod, and many are aggressive. But Showy Goldenrod is mostly well-behaved enough for most gardens. So, why don’t you stick around and let me tell you about this species of kinder, gentler Solidago.

I’ve been growing this plant for several years in my gardens. And I originally bought it based on seed retailers telling me it wasn’t aggressive, or online commenters saying it didn’t spread via rhizomes. I want to provide nectar/pollen to late season pollinators, and goldenrod and asters are just about the best plants to do that. Well, after several years I noticed a large number of mature looking plants that weren’t there previously. And after some investigation, I discovered that Showy Goldenrod will actually spread via rhizome.

But, based on my extensive experience with this plant, I can share my knowledge with you. From germinating seeds, saving seeds, to landscaping – I’ll teach you all you need to know to grow Showy Goldenrod in your garden.

In this article:

What is Showy Goldenrod

Showy Goldenrod is a herbaceous perennial wildflower native to Eastern North America. Scientifically known as Solidago speciosa, it will grow 3′-5′ tall in full sun and well draining soil and bloom spikes of yellow flowers for a month or more in late Fall, attracting pollinators. Unlike most species of Goldenrod, Showy Goldenrod is not aggressive[1][2].

Showy Goldenrod in a flowerbed. These plants are approximately 4′ tall.

Native Range of Showy Goldenrod

Showy Goldenrod is native to many areas in the Eastern half of North America and South Ontario, Canada.

References:[2][3]

Showy Goldenrod Reference Table

Scientific NameSolidago Speciosa
Common Name(s)Showy Goldenrod, Noble Goldenrod
Native Range, USDA ZoneEastern North America, USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8
Bloom TimeAutumn, Sep-Nov
Bloom Duration, Color4 weeks, tall yellow spikes covered in small flowers
Height3-5′ (0.9-1.5 m)
Spacing / Spread2′-3′ (60-90 cm)
Light RequirementsFull Sun, Partial Sun
Soil TypesSand, Loam, Rocky
MoistureSlightly moist to Slightly dry
Fauna Associations / Larval HostsBees, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds.
References:[1][2]

What are the Benefits of Showy Goldenrod

Showy Goldenrod is good for several things. It provides a late season ‘pop’ of color to your garden, it feeds numerous pollinators and butterflies. And, Showy Goldenrod isn’t as aggressive as other species of goldenrod!

Speaking of the benefits of Goldenrod to pollinators, it can provide much needed nectar to migrating Monarchs. Further helping their recovery and keeping them from going extinct! Nectar providing flowers are just as important as milkweeds to help the Monarch Butterflies survive[4][5]!

Identification and Characteristics of Showy Goldenrod

Stalk / Height

On average, Showy Goldenrod will grow 4′ tall and the stalk will not have any branching. The central stalk will be round, green to reddish, and hairless[1].

Leaf and stalk of Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa

Leaf

Showy Goldenrod has alternate leaves 6″ long by 1.5″ wide will follow the stalk and oblong-elliptic to lanceolate in shape. There is often tiny leaves at the base of the primary leaves that will occur in the upper half of the plant[1][2]. Also, as the image below shows, sometimes there will be small leaflets on Showy Goldenrod at the base.

Flower

Flowerhead of Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa

Flowering of Showy Goldenrod lasts for approximately 4 weeks in Autumn. The flowers will occur in the upper 6-12″ of the stalk with a panicle of small 1/4″ diameter flowers. Each lower will have roughly 6-10 petals (ray florets) surrounding a central disc flower[1].

Individual flower of Showy Goldenrod

How to save seed from Showy Goldenrod

The process for saving Showy Goldenrod seed is very similar to how you save Liatris seed.

About 3-4 weeks after flowering is complete small seedheads will form where the flowers once were. You will know the seed is ready by pinching some off. If the feathers are white, and the seed comes right out, then it is time to harvest the seed.

To save the seed, just cut off the stalk below the seed heads and carefully place it in a paper bag. Let this bag sit in a cool dry place for another week or so to let the seed is fully dry. Then, just take the stalk back out, and run your hand along the stalk to release the seed.

Showy Goldenrod in Fall / Winter. The white tufts are seed heads.

Root

Root of Showy Goldenrod

The root system of Showy Goldenrod is fibrous with short rhizomes. Contrary to what many references and retailers state, Showy Goldenrod will spread via these rhizomes! Don’t believe me? See the images below. But, I must say that it is not extremely aggressive – nothing compared to Canadian Goldenrod.

This plant has sprouted via a rhizome. So yes, Showy Goldenrod will spread via rhizomes.

Is Showy Goldenrod aggressive?

When it comes to the different species of goldenrod, Showy Goldenrod is not too aggressive. It is often touted as a non-aggressive species of goldenrod by various seed retailers. But I must tell you, it can self-seed if not deadheaded. But also, it will spread via rhizome, but not in an overly aggressive manner.

That being said, you should budget at least 20-30 minutes each spring to remove unwanted sprouts and seedlings.

Showy Goldenrod versus Canada Goldenrod versus Tall Goldenrod

It can be somewhat difficult to distinguish them from one another. The biggest difference between Showy Goldenrod and Canada (Solidago canadense) or Tall Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) is in the flowers. The flowers of Showy Goldenrod are erect, or curve up towards the top. While Canada and Tall Goldenrod flowers curve downward.

See our info-graphic below to clearly see the difference between Showy Goldenrod and Canadian Goldenrod:

Grow and Care for Showy Goldenrod

Sunlight Requirements

Showy Goldenrod will grow in full sun (six plus hours of direct sunlight per day) or partial sun (4-6 hours of sun). It does not tolerate full shade[2].

Soil Requirements

For soil, Showy Goldenrod is fairly flexible in that it can grow in most loams as well as sandier soils. But it will not grow as well in clay[2].

In overly fertile soils Showy Goldenrod can flop over and may require staking.

Moisture Requirements

Showy Goldenrod has ‘average’ moisture preferences in that it doesn’t like soils that are overly moist nor dry. The plant may lean or flop over in overly wet soils[2].

Maintenance

In Winter or Spring, Showy Goldenrod can be cut back to ground once the plant is dormant and brown in color. If you don’t want volunteer seedlings, you should consider deadheading the flower before seeds form.

Fertilizer

Do not fertilize or amend Showy Goldenrod soil. It grows best in poor soils. In rich, fertile soil it may lean or flop over to the ground.

How to Grow Showy Goldenrod from Seed

Showy Goldenrod seed requires a two month period of cold moist stratification to break dormancy[6]. This can be achieved by cold stratifying the seed in the refrigerator (see our guide) or by Winter Sowing (detailed guide & video).

Seeds of Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa

The planting depth of the seed should be on the surface of the soil. In fact, you should just sprinkle the seed on top of moist potting soil, and press it firmly into the soil to ensure good contact. This is because in addition to the cold moist stratification, the seed also needs exposure to sunlight to break dormancy. [6]

Process to germinate Showy Goldenrod Seeds

The following is the steps you should take to plant Showy Goldenrod seeds either for Wintersowing, or seed that has been stratified for a period of two months.

  • Fill a container with moist potting soil. Tamp the soil firm, but leave a 1/2″ gap (12 mm) at the top of the container.
  • Sprinkle 5-10 Showy Goldenrod seeds on top of the potting soil.
  • Press the seeds into the soil with your thumb. But, take care to not bury them!
  • Place the container in a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. This step is of great importance. The morning sun gets the seed exposed to light, and the afternoon shade will help lessen the chance of seed drying out.
  • Keep the seeds moist. Use a pump sprayer or mist the seed with a spray bottle. Misting the seed helps ensure it doesn’t get covered by dirt. Remember, Showy Goldenrod needs exposure to sunlight to break dormancy!
  • Seeds will germinate once Spring temperatures begin to warm up.
Showy Goldenrod seedlings. Solidago speciosa

How to direct sow Showy Goldenrod Seed

To direct sow Showy Goldenrod seed, in Autumn or Winter just sprinkle or broadcast seed in a disturbed area. Then, walk over the seed to help press it into the soil. The seed needs to have good contact with the soil, but still be exposed to direct sunlight to break dormancy.

The seed will germinate naturally in Spring as temperatures begin to warm up.

How to transplant Showy Goldenrod from the container into the garden

  1. Dig a hole 50% wider than your container that has your plant.
  2. Fill the hole with water and wait for it to drain. If the soil does not drain well, then consider planting it in a different location. Or, make sure the plant is planted is several inches higher than the surrounding soil.
  3. Place your seedling into the hole, and back-fill with dirt. Make sure the top of your plant is slightly higher than the surrounding soil.
  4. Water the plant.

Time to establish

You can expect Showy Goldenrod to bloom the first year, but it will not be full height yet. By the second year, Showy Goldenrod should be approaching full height, produce multiple flowering stalks, and will look wonderful.

Showy Goldenrod blooming in a container. It was germinated the same year.

Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases associated with Showy Goldenrod

Pollinators

The flowers of Showy Goldenrod attract numerous bees such as honeybees and bumblebees. This nectar of this flower is also visited by ants and beetles, as well as moths and butterflies[1][4][5].

Wasp on Showy Goldenrod

Birds

Seeds of Showy Goldenrod are eaten by finches and other birds.

Deer and Rabbits

Deer and rabbits will occasionally browse the leaves of Showy Goldenrod. It doesn’t seem to be a ‘preferred’ food source though.

Disease

Powdery Mildew will sometimes infect the foliage of Showy Goldenrod. Although this normally happens after flowering, limiting the negative cosmetic effect (so close to Winter).

Where you can buy Showy Goldenrod

Showy Goldenrod is not typically sold in nurseries, as it isn’t a typical ‘garden friendly’ plant. But it can be purchased at specialty nurseries that deal in Native Plants. You can find native plant nurseries near you on our interactive map.

Where to buy seeds

We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)

Uses of Showy Goldenrod

Garden Uses

Showy Goldenrod can look great in a wildflower garden, microprairie, meadow, or border garden. It’s tall height can give it a commanding presence and really provide your yard with a late season ‘pop’ of color.

For formal flower beds, Showy Goldenrod may want to lean over and may require staking. To counteract this, In that case you should give it the ‘Chelsea Chop’. What this means is that in late June or early July, you cut the plant back by half. This will encourage branching, and reduce the overall height of the flower.

A first year plant of Showy Goldenrod.

The key thing to remember about using Showy Goldenrod is that you need more than one plant! This flower doesn’t branch, and a single spike of color will look quite isolated. So, plant in groups of at least 3 or 4 to give it a mass of color. Trust me, it will look better.

Companion Plants

For some companion plants that bloom concurrently with Showy Goldenrod, look to Asters and other similar flowers. Some suggestions are below:

Medicinal Uses

Showy Goldenrod has nine different medicinal uses documented by two tribes. The root and stalk were the primary parts used[7].

Infusion of root was used by the Meskwaki to treat burns. The Chippewa had several uses of the plant:

  • A decoction of roots were taken to help with lung problems/hemorrhaging, or as a stimulant or tonic.
  • Infusion of root was used to help with child birth
  • They would combine root or stalk with bear grease for a hair ointment
  • A warm poultice of boiled root or stalk could be applied to sore muscles or sprains

Find more Native Plants here

References:

[1] – Semple, John C., Cook, Rachel E.; Solidago speciosa Nuttall [family COMPOSITAE], Gen. N. Amer. Pl., 2: 160. 1818. Flora of North America (FNA) Volume 20. Accessed 15JAN2022.

[2] – Solidago Speciosa. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Accessed 15JAN2022.

[3] – Semple, JOHN C., et al. “Solidago pallida (Asteraceae: Astereae) new to Ontario and Canada.” Phytoneuron 106 (2012): 1-5.

[4] – Monarch Nectar Plants of the Southeast. Xerces Society. Retrieved 15JAN2022.

[5] – Monarch Nectar Plants Great Lakes. via University of Minnesota IPM and Pollinator Conservation. Accessed 15Jan2022

[6] – Simpson, Lorae T. “The Success of Reproductive Mechanisms in Solidago speciosa var. speciosa, A Threatened Pennsylvania Plant.” (2008).

[7] – North American Ethnobotany Database for Solidago speciosa. Accessed 15JAN2022.

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over 10 years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! You may have seen some of my videos I create on our YouTube channel, GrowitBuildit (more than 10 million views!). You can find my channel here: https://youtube.com/@growitbuildit Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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