how to harvest joe pye weed seeds

There are a number of different types of Joe Pye Weed for sale in many garden centers. Some of the more popular varieties of Joe Pye Weed include:

The stalk of Joe Pye Weed will vary from light green and smooth for Sweet and Hollow Joe Pye Weed, to purple or spotted for Spotted Joe Pye Weed.

The natural habitat where you will find Joe Pye Weed is typically moist soil in full or partial sun , with some organic matter present in the soil. I’ve observed them in powerline cuts through the forest, deep in the Appalachian Mountains along streams, drainage ditches, and open meadows.

Some smaller birds also eat the seeds of Joe Pye Weed, which further attracts wildlife to your yard.

Hollow Joe Pye Weed can grow in clay to loam soil. Sweet Joe Pye Weed can grow in loam.


[2] – Park, M. et al. 2015. Wild Pollinators of Eastern Apple Orchards and How to Conserve Them. 2nd ed. Cornell University, Penn State University, and the Xerces Society. (

The benefits of Joe Pye Weed are the beauty it brings, the ecological value to pollinators and other beneficial insects, and that it blooms in certain environments where few other species can grow.

In the year 2000 all Joe Pye Weed were removed from the genus Eupatorium and placed in a new genus, Eutrochium . You may see some other online references that still refer to species of Joe Pye Weed in the Eupatorium genus. [1]

Joe Pye Weed emerges later in Spring than many other plants, but earlier than the really late species such as Butterfly Weed. In my own experience, it emerges a week or two after you can see shoots from Golden Alexander ( Zizia aurea ).

Joe Pye Weed is a common name given to 5 species wildflower of the Eutrochium genus that are native to North Americ a. They are perennials that grow from 4-10′ tall in full sun or partial shade, and blooms approximately 1 month in mid-Summer to Fall. An ecologically important plant, it attracts numerous bees and butterflies.

Generally there are multiple panicles forming a flower head that is 3-6″ wide and flat for Spotted Joe Pye Weed. While Sweet Joe Pye Weed is 2-6″ and hemispherical or dome like. And Hollow Joe Pye Weed flower heads can be up to 9″ diameter, and hemispherical by 9″ tall.

To move or transplant Joe Pye Weed to a new location , just follow the above steps. But don’t cut the plant up! The shallow fibrous roots make moving Joe Pye Weed an easy chore.

Very young seedlings of Joe Pye Weed. Seedlings are 3-9 mm across.

Additionally, Joe Pye Weed will attract numerous bees . As a pollen and nectar producer, you will attract numerous species from large bumblebees to small bee flies. [2]

[1] – Kuniaki, ito, Yahara, Kawahara. “Phylogeny and phyogeography in the genus Eupatorium.” The Hokkaido Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, 1998.

Medicinal Uses.

Typically, Joe Pye Weed is not drought tolerant . Sweet Joe Pye Weed can tolerate some drier conditions, but most species like moist, to medium-moist soil.

Our process for moving Joe Pye Weed mimics that of Liatris or Echinacea. This process should only be completed on plants that have lived at least 3 years in the ground,. Here is the process to divide Joe Pye Weed.

Some species of Joe Pye Weed can become aggressive or invasive due to it’s rhizome roots, seed heads, and size . This would primarily be Hollow Joe Pye Weed, and occasionally Spotted Joe Pye Weed. It has been documented as very aggressive in areas that it is not native too. [5]

I have found no actual references that state that Joe Pye Weed, or any member of the Eutrochium genus are toxic to humans or dogs! So, don’t worry about your dog. It will be ok! Remember, this plant is generally deer and rabbit resistant because it tastes bitter!

The three most common species of Joe Pye Weed (Hollow, Spotted, and Sweet) can be differentiated by examining the stalk, leaves, and flower head . In particular, visual inspection of stalk and number of whorled leaves can generally confirm and identify a specific species of Joe Pye Weed .

However, if there is a meadow or open area that doesn’t dry out, it can be interspersed with other taller species. All plants will receive the necessary sun as it tracks overhead. So, a great addition to a wet micro-prairie.

To save seed from Joe Pye Weed , wait about one month after flowers have bloomed and the seed head has turned brown and dry. Cut the seed head off and place in a paper bag. Store for a few days in a cool dry place, then continue to store seed in a sealed container/bag in the fridge until ready to sow .

Moisture Requirements.

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For companion plants that bloom at the same time, here are some that grow great in the same conditions. I’ve seen these side by side, and grow them near my Joe Pye Weed in my own garden.

Joe Pye Weed seeds with their tiny feathers attached.

If you are looking for some mid-to-late season bloomers for your garden that are beloved by butterflies, you MUST consider Joe Pye Weed! This is a pollinator favorite that does great in moist to medium conditions and brings in beneficial insects.

Joe Pye Weed Companion Plants include anything that can grow in moist to medium soil and tolerate full sun or partial shade. I’ve observed a number of species happily growing alongside, and in the vicinity of healthy Joe Pye Weed.

Swamp Milkweed has blooms that are similar in color, and the flower heads are the same general shape. Furthermore they both like the same growing conditions. Although Swamp Milkweed will bloom earlier than some Joe Pye Weed species.

It’s attractiveness to butterflies make Joe Pye Weed a perfect part of a Butterfly Garden. It can be a central focal point planted en mass, or at the back edge.

There are also a number of other insects that will feed on various parts of the plant. Leaf beetles, hoppers, and special aphids all consume parts of this plant. Don’t be afraid of attracting insects to your yard! They are interested in the plants, not you! And they feed larger insects and birds, which help the overall ecosystem.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 flowers were named after a New England man that used the plant medicinally for helping people with typhus fever. In addition to its medicinal properties, both the flowers and seeds have been used in producing pink or red dye for textiles.

Plants die back to the ground in late fall. This dead growth can be cut back or left over winter and cut in spring.

Spring or fall is the most suitable time for when to plant Joe-pye weed. Due to the large size of Joe-pye weed, it makes a great background plant but also needs plenty of room to grow. In fact, they are best planted on 24 inch (61 cm.) centers as they will eventually form large clumps. When growing Joe-pye weed in the garden, group it with similar woodland plants and ornamental grasses.

What are Joe-Pye Weed Flowers?

For those that don’t have this wildflower presently growing on your property, you can usually find them in nurseries and garden centers. However, many of these Joe-pye weed plants are sold as E. maculatum . This type has more foliage and the flower heads as its wild counterpart. ‘Gateway’ is a popular cultivar for home gardens as it is a somewhat shorter variety.

Joe-pye weeds in the garden prefer full sun to partial shade. They also like to be kept somewhat moist in average to rich soil. Growing Joe-pye weed will even tolerate wet soil conditions but not overly dry sites. Therefore, in areas with hot, dry summers, plant these ornamental beauties in partially shaded locales.

Older plants can be divided and replanted in the early spring as new growth starts or fall. When the center dies out of Joe-pye weeds in the garden, then it’s time for division. You need to dig up the entire clump, cutting away and discarding the dead center material. You can then replant the divided clumps.

Eupatorium purpureum , or Joe-pye weed as most people know it, is far from an unwanted weed to me. This attractive plant produces pale pink-purple flowers that last from midsummer through fall. It’s a great addition to nearly any garden and a must have for wildlife lovers, attracting a multitude of butterflies with its sweet nectar. Growing Joe-pye weed flowers is a wonderful way to bring a little bit of nature to your backyard.

In their native environment, these plants can be found in thickets and woodlands throughout the eastern half of North America. The plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4 through 9. They reach heights of anywhere between 3 and 12 feet (1-4 m.), offering great focal interest when using Joe-pye weeds in the garden. In addition, the flowers have a light vanilla fragrance that becomes more intense when crushed.

There’s little maintenance involved with Joe-pye weed care. The plant does enjoy regular, deep watering and will withstand heat and drought fairly well when the soil is kept moist or shade is provided. A layer of mulch will help retain moisture levels too.

Growing Joe-Pye Weed.

Although it’s not the most recommended form of propagation, Joe-pye weed plants can be grown from seeds. They require stratification for about ten days at 40 degrees F. (4 C.). Do not cover the seeds as they require light for germination, which on average takes about two to three weeks. Root cuttings can also be taken in the spring.

Joe-Pye Weed Care.