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Fall Color - Goldenrod

Updated on January 20, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Goldenrod should be one of the classic flowers of fall but it gets a bad rap instead because it blooms at the same time that hayfever sufferers begin sneezing. Ragweed flowers, which are the real culprits, are insignificant so it is the showy goldenrod that gets blamed for the suffering. Ragweed pollen is spread by the wind. Billions of tiny particles are released into the air in search of flowers to pollinate. Goldenrod, on the other hand, has larger, sticky pollen that adheres to visiting insects that fly on to pollinate other goldenrod flowers. The only way to get a noseful of goldenrod pollen is to actually stick your nose into the flowers. Ironically, it is florists who suffer from goldenrod allergies because they handle the pollen-filled flowers indoors when creating fall arrangements.


Goldenrod has an interesting history thanks to the intrepid British plant collectors and breeders. A native wildflower that still blooms in our meadows, it was transported to England where plant breeders took over and converted it from an invasive weed to a more mannerly garden flower with showier flowers and varying heights which lends it versatility in the garden. These “new” plants were then transported back to North America where they are now sold in nurseries and catalogs. Because of the deep-seated bias against goldenrod, it did not become popular here in the US until the 1980s. Prior to that, it was only used in wildflower gardening.

Fun Facts about Goldenrod

  • It is the state flower of Kentucky and Nebraska
  • It is the state wildflower of South Carolina
  • It is the state herb of Delaware


Goldenrod is a perennial that is native to North America. The domesticated plants are hardy in growing zones 4 through 9. The wildflowers are hardy from growing zone 2 in Canada to zone 8 in the southern US. It prefers full-sun but will tolerate some shade. Both the wild and domesticated plants are drought tolerant, preferring well-drained soil. The new cultivars range in height from 1 to 3 feet depending on the variety. The wildflowers range in height from 4 to 5 feet. Regardless of height, all bloom in the fall. The flowers attract both beneficial insects and butterflies. After the plants die back in the fall, you should cut them down to the ground and remove the dead plant material from your garden to prevent insects and disease from overwintering in the debris.


Propagation is by runners, seeds and division. Even the more mannerly domesticated varieties spread rapidly via runners known as underground rhizomes, so you might want to treat them like you treat bamboo and surround them with a 3 feet deep barrier to keep them under control. You should also deadhead the flowers to prevent them from developing prodigious amounts of seed. Their stiff stems make them ideal for flower arrangements. Goldenrod can be divided in either the spring or the fall.

A word of warning

Don’t be tempted to dig up some wild goldenrod and transplant it into your garden. These wildflowers are aggressive spreaders and will crowd out domesticated garden plants.

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Ruby, I'm sorry to hear that you don't have enough sun for this "sunny" golden flower! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 3 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Such a beautiful flower. Not sunny enough to grow here. Great information.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Rebecca, I'm so glad to find another goldenrod lover. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Jackie, I didn't know that they are edible. I'll have to look into that. Thank you for bringing it to my attention and for reading and commenting.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I love goldenrod. Thanks for giving it the Okay!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I love these and wouldn't care if they did take over! lol

      I read somewhere here at HP that they are also edible! ?

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      In the past, goldenrod has been used to heal wounds. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Goldenrod does evoke the colors of fall. Even though it can cause allergies, I wonder if there are also some good or medicinal uses. Maybe one of our resident herbalists has an answer.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Elsie, your tree must be gorgeous! I'm so envious that it is spring in NZ. Spring is my favorite season. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      It's a nice color for Autumn. It's spring here in NZ and that is the color of my Kowhai tree now, and the Tui (bird) is fighting every bird that come near it.

      You mention Ragwort at the beginning of your article, our farm when we brought it in 1968 was covered with it and nearly fifty years later still having to spray every year, so that was a nice warning about the Goldenrod, nice to know.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I love the color too, Wiccan Sage. It adds so much to the brilliant colors of fall. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I love goldenrod, the color is so beautiful-- especially for this time of year. Great hub, thanks for sharing.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Good decision, Pawpaw. I planted these in my garden and they tried to take over. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 3 years ago from Kansas

      I wasn't aware of it being the state flower of Kentucky and Nebraska. I guess I don't need them in the garden, if they are that aggressive.


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