Wildflower Tale-Joe Pye


You belong among the wildflowers.  You belong somewhere you feel free.  ~Tom Petty

I absolutely adore my wildflowers, and coming into bloom this month is one of my favorites, Joe-Pye weed or Eutrochium purpureum (also known as Eupatorium purpureum) part of the Aster Family (Asteracea).  I just love the look of its large, puckered leaves as they emerge in almost iridescent colors.  The colorful display continues as the purple stems grow and mature from 3-6 feet high, and the flower buds begin to emerge.

Then you are treated to the most gorgeous pinkish mauve (some say even a bit of lavender) flower head.  The vanilla scented IMG_7852flowers emerge from many branches making the display quite magnificent.  And the pollinators just love this plant for later summer nectar.  It is even gorgeous with its seed heads in fall that last throughout winter.

Now I did not always love Joe because of his cavalier way of popping up all over the garden, but this was before I knew about how wonderful native plants could be.  I now welcome him where he lands and only cull him out when he finds a most inappropriate spot at the front of a border.  I am trying to get Joe to spread in the meadow this year.  I may need to give him a hand though.

So I think Joe is a perfect pick for Gail@Clay and Limestone wonderful meme, Wildflower Wednesday.

Joe-Pye goes by many other names.  He has been called:  Kidney-root,  Sweet-scented Joe-Pie or Pye weed, Sweet Joe-Pye weed, Gravel Root, Trumpet weed, Queen of the Meadow, Purple boneset and Purple Joe-Pye weed




Growing Conditions

IMG_8363Joe Pye is happiest with full sun to part shade in moist to wet soils; even in clay soil which is a bonus for me.  It prefers that the soil does not dry out which is why clay works well for Joe Pye.  And deer do not bother this plant.  Actually I have not seen any animal browsing Joe Pye.  And it has no serious insect or disease problems.  Joe Pye just isn’t a fussy or difficult plant to grow.

Joe Pye is said to readily  hybridize with other species of Eutrochium making for some interesting plants you might not have expected though I think you would be hard pressed to know the difference.  If you do not want Joe Pye to spread hither and yon, then cut the seed heads off, but I think that would be a sin since the birds enjoy them so.

If you are propagating by seed  in the fall, then plant thickly as germination is usually low. They say propagation is best from softwood cuttings taken in late spring or by division in fall as they go dormant, or in the spring just as shoots first appear.




Where Are They Found

E. purpureum is native to northwest, eastern and central North America.  It is most often found in moist prairies, meadows, woodIMG_1555 edges and wooded slopes.

Many people think of Joe Pye as a weed found in the ditches along the side of the road.  But is a stunning perennial in the back of a border or cottage garden, and particularly in meadows or native plant gardens.  It just needs space to grow as the stand can reach heights of 10 feet and widths of 4-5 feet.  Joe Pye also works great in rain gardens where I have a lovely stand of it, or even at the edge of ponds or streams.

E. purpureum has been cultivated and escaped in New Zealand.




Benefits to Wildlife

IMG_8883You will discover many butterflies visiting Joe Pye including Zebra Swallowtail, Variegated Fritillary, Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, and skippers.  You will also see hummingbirds, bees and wasps, as Joe Pye is said to be an important nectar source.

Birds also love the seedheads of Joe Pye and they are especially important for birds in fall and winter.




Folklore and Tales

Joe Pye has such a rich history for healing.  This plant is said to get its name from Joe Pye, who was an Indian healer from New England during the time of the Pilgrims.  He is said to have used E. purpureum to treat a variety of ailments including deadly typhus outbreaks. 

The entire plant is still used as an alternative medicine.  The roots are the strongest part of the plant for healing.  If you crush the IMG_7365leaves, they have an apple scent.  Once dried they are burned to repel flies.

Tea made from this plant is used as alternative medicine for fever, urinary tract problems, fever, rheumatism, gallstones, and fluid retention.  The common name gravel root comes from the plant being used as a diuretic used to treat urinary infections and stones.

Hollow stems were used for straws, and roots were burned and the ash used as a salt substitute.

The tops of the plant were steeped and then inhaled to treat colds. Fresh leaves were made into a poultice to treat burns.  The flower tops were even used as a good luck charm.

The word Eupatorium comes from the Greek King of Pontas, Mithridates VI Eupator (132-63BC). He used one species of this plant as an antidote for poison. Purpureum comes from the Latin word for “purple”.

Some Native American tribes still consider Joe Pye Weed to be an aphrodisiac.

In the Language of Flowers, Joe Pye is said to mean Delay.  Maybe that is why I am drawn to this wonderful plant.  As my plans are now delayed, I can still gaze at these beautiful flowers and be reminded of days to come.




May your life be like a wildflower growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.  ~Native American proverb


Check out other posts in the series, Wildflower Tale:



April-Shooting Stars

March-Common Yarrow


January-Virginia Bluebell


Next up on the blog:  I hope to have ready a special post on the 1st about some veering from my path this summer.  As July ends the garden continues through the heat of summer.  I will be wrapping up July next Monday on my Gardens Eye Journal post.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.  Most recent post is up.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


59 Replies to “Wildflower Tale-Joe Pye”

  1. Sadly this plant needs too much water for me to grow in the garden but it grows close by in the irrigation ditches that edge the fields all around me. How I would love to have a ‘ditch’ or better still a small stream where I could indulge in all the plants that need moisture.

    1. Oh Christina what a lovely dream to have that ditch or stream. And how lovely to have Joe growing where you are.

  2. deer occasionally browse my joe-pye. doesn’t stop “the pye”- now I have some taller in the back and those closer to the path are almost “sub shrubs”. I have a false sense of full sun in my garden- meaning I have beaucoup shade (my “fullest sun” is about 4, maybe 6 hrs sun right up against the house). Pye does beautifully here (mainland NY). The wetter ones do grow taller, and they are fabulous companions to my white wood asters.

    1. I love hearing about how Joe does with others. I am in Central NY and apparently my deer so far do not have a taste for Joe although I have plenty to spare so I would not mind. I have Joe in full sun and part sun…they seem to do equally well too! Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. Great feature on Joe Pye. I had one years ago but didn’t have it in the right place. I found it very difficult to move easily. It may still be lurking behind gardenias and camellias awaiting another chance.

    1. Oh I hope it reappears. If you need to move them again, I have found cutting them to about 10 inches in the fall, I can dig them up and plant in the right spot. Let me know if you ever need one. They show up in all sorts of areas in the garden and I end up moving them or composting them.

  4. Joe Pye is a great plant that I often admire when I see the wonderful photos on blogs. It does require too much water for our area so I have to enjoy it in posts like yours. Your detailed writeup was enjoyable too.

  5. I often see it growing wild along the Niagara river, but never reaching 10 feet in height. It must need a longer and more forgiving growing season to attain its full growth potential. I never included it in my city garden, but have in big meadows created for clients. Again, water is the issue with it. Many places near here have had excessive rain this year and it should be doing well. I do love what it does for insects. I took a walk at the Niagara Gorge meadows last week and oddly noticed very few insects. No butterflies and very, very few bees. I wonder if our recent storms have affected them?

    1. Indeed it does need lots of water which is why it does so well in my garden…that is very alarming Donna that there are few insects and no butterflies….I have loads of insects except butterflies. Cabbage whites are always around and the only butterfly we see this summer. I think the drought and then cold and extreme storms with rain have got to have an effect on all insects especially butterflies.

  6. thanks Donna for another interesting post, I love these posts of the native plants and herbs, it sounds like it might grow in my damp meadow I will perhaps try it next year, I like plants that wildlife like and if both butterflies and birds enjoy Joe then though it’s not native here I think I must try it, Frances x

    1. It should grow nicely in a damp meadow…and you will love it Frances…so glad you are enjoying these profiles.

  7. I love this plant too Donna. It grows in clearings in the woods, and down near the river, and is always covered in insects and butterflies. That proverb is lovely too. 😀

  8. A couple years ago i saw a wonderful stand of Joe Pye weed in another garden, and I have been wanting to add to my garden ever since. The owner of a nursery gave me one for free, but my dear hubby thought it was a weed and destroyed it! So now I need another one, with special instructions for Lou. Yours is lovely.

    1. They do look great with swamp milkweed…similar flowers and the pollinators love both especially the monarch.

  9. I planted a Joe Pye last year, and it has come back beautifully this year. I was a little worried, because it’s new shoots showed up quite late, but it has grown tall and is about to bloom. I enjoyed reading about all the folklore associated with it.

    Here in Northeastern PA, by the way, I’ve seen a lot of bumblebees, hummingbirds, dragonflies, and assorted butterflies–swallowtails, Cabbage whites, and skippers, mostly. Now that Joe Pye is about to flower, I’m eager to see who comes to visit!

    1. Kimberley how nice to have you visit, and how wonderful to hear so many pollinators are visiting. We have all but many swallowtails or monarchs. I can count on one hand how many have visited, but the bees, hummers and dragonflies are plentiful along with the skippers and cabbage whites.

      Joe should make them all happy!

  10. My Joe’s are growing in a bit too much shade but have made the best of it by arching their stems to the right. It’s actually very pretty although they’d like more direct sun. The butterflies love them. 🙂

    1. The weeds are outnumbering the wildflowers here….and those wildflowers are acting very wild this year 🙂

  11. I have one of these beauties growing in the middle of our Rain Run off creek bed! Have been meaning to relocate it to the gardens for enjoyment but have yet to get to it. Thanks for the reminder…

    1. Mine have grown in number in the rain garden and now are moving into the garden themselves…the seeds are loved by birds who I think are helping Joe 🙂

  12. I’ve been seeing Joe Pye all over the place lately! Both E. Purpureum and E. fistulosum, as well as Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), which I believe is closely related. the butterflies do seem to be attracted to it!

    1. I planted boneset last year and divided as it grew so well. I hope to move it in other areas. I am hoping Joe will lure more butterflies into the garden.

  13. My newest acquisition in the garden is a Little Joe? the mini Joe Pie weed. I’m so enamored of these plants…almost at the stage where the blooms open.

    Can’t wait. Yours are gorgeous, next on my list is the big guy.


    1. Your Little Joe many not stay little for long. My Joe has expanded and grown small and tall and it all started from Little Joe. But you will love them in any size 🙂

  14. Great post, I wish I had some of the Joe Pye in my yard. The butterflies love it. Lovely photos, have a happy week!

  15. JPW is also one of my absolute favorites. This year it did particularly well… I’m thinking it enjoyed all the extra water. So glad to see someone else out there loves the Big Ones.

    1. You know it….and I agree that all the rain really helped Joe grow tall and spread again. I will be moving him from some tight quarters to the meadow. I hope he spreads and discourages all the invasive weeds trying to take over out there.

  16. Mine are blooming most wonderfully! I took some shots of two different types that have most different leaves but the same bloom. It must be because of its penchant for hybridizing I guess? Very neat. I have a spot for a wildflower prairie on our new farm so plan to move some. Never thought of these in that way but it makes sense.

    1. Tina that sounds wonderful making a meadow on the new land….Joe will be so happy there since he love to move about and grow in clumps.

  17. I’ve always been seeing Joe Pye in blogs, i love its color. Do you know that most names here with Josephine have nicknames as Jopay, as in Joe Pye!

  18. I have two kinds of Joe – the Sweet Joe Pye Weed (E. purpureum) and Joe Pye Weed ‘Gateway’ (E. maculatum). They do seed themselves but are easy to pull up. Sweet JPW has more of a dusty pink flower head. I love them both!

    1. At some point I planted Little Joe, Gateway and a couple others….I have lost track of who is who but they are all just so gorgeous.

  19. I always found Joe Pye to be easy to grow, too, and much loved by butterflies. I was disappointed to see that the people who bought our old house pulled out all the Joe Pye weed and replaced the small native perennial garden near the street with a few boring dwarf evergreens. Sigh.

    1. Oh Sheila that is too bad. I had extensive gardens at the old house and they took it all out, cut down trees and planted grass. People think grass and evergreens are less money and maintenance.

  20. Donna, Your images are lovely. Joe Pye is really quite pretty. We have no Joe Pye, but LOTS of pollinators now. They’re going for the native monarda, echinacea, lythrum, and rudbeckia. I love this time of year in the garden!

    1. As my monarda and coneflowers fades the Joe takes its place with the rudbeckias. I even found an aster blooming. I hope more butterflies will pop over for a visit.

  21. Hi Donna
    Like you, my Joe pye is growing in clay and is doing well. There is a lot of it growing wild in our rural area and it looks pretty along the roadsides in damp areas.

    1. Judith I have just begun to see Joe blooming along the back roads here too. It is so gorgeous with its mauve blooms.

  22. I saw tall Joe Pye growing with a very tall goldenrod at Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, and I was entranced by the combination. I love seeing those tall stately clumps of mauve flowers in August and September. Alas, my sandy Maine soil just doesn’t provide the habitat moisture-loving plants like this need.

    1. That is too bad Jean. They are all over the roadsides and many gardens here. And they are starting to establish in the meadow with goldenrod.

  23. Well…..I can honestly say that I am in love with your containers!!! Your flaunt today is fantastic and I wish I was near enough to tour your garden in person my friend!
    Thank you so much for linking in this week…I appreciate everyone who joins in.
    I am sharing this post on the Tootsie Time facebook page as well….
    Hugs from Wainwright Alberta Canada!
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.www.tootsietime.com

    1. It seems I am having a brain fart this morning…you have no containers…your flowers are wonderful….as I was typing I was thinking that I better get out and water MY containers….WOW, a blonde moment if ever I saw! I hope you will forgive me…I am ashamed ! lol

      1. You are too funny…no apologies necessary. I have those moments all the time. I am so happy when you can visit and glad you enjoy the visits 🙂

  24. I love Joe Pye weed, planted seeds last year and thought I got nothing. I probably would have weeded out the tiny seedlings if I had seen them…..try to stay ahead of the weeds. This year — pow! Three plants popped up, probably in the same area the seeds were scattered. They had a bit of a struggle, I have a lot of flea beetles that destroy the foliage on many of my plants….including Joe Pye weed. Those buggers also make hibiscus and phlox leaves lacey.

  25. I’ve been thinking about growing Joe Pye for a long time now and I actually finally have what I think will be just the right spot for it – so next spring, I will try! I really enjoyed reading the folklore – so interesting! 🙂

    Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

Comments are closed.