joe pye weed plantfiles

Identifying The Plant

Eutrochium is a North American genus of herbaceous flowering plants belonging to the sunflower family. Commonly called Joe-Pye weeds, they're native to the United States and Canada.

The genus includes all purple-flowering North American species of Eupatorium. Now divided into smaller genera, Eupatorium consists of about 42 species of white-flowering plants from the Northern hemisphere. It is a close relative of Eutrochium which has mostly whorled leaves. Eupatorium has a majority of opposite leaves.

tiger swallowtail butterflies on joe pye weed blossoms

butterfly nectaring on joe pye weed

Joe-Pye weed is a tall perennial plant widely known for attracting butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. Colloquially, it's known by many names, including purple boneset, gravel root, kidney root, mist flower, queen of the meadow, and snakeroot. Native to eastern North American, the plant is also very popular in Great Britain where it is used in garden borders.

The plant is a food source for several butterfly species including orange sulphur, pearl crescent, painted lady, giant swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, variegated fritillary, and red admiral.

This plant will grow in sun or partial shade in mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soil. It does require a lot of water and will thrive in wet spots where other flowering species don't succeed. Planting sites should be carefully chosen since some varieties can reach 12 feet tall.

Flower color ranges from white, to pink, to purple, depending on the variety. The blooms attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Honey made from Joe-Pye Weed is a dark orange-amber color with a fruity flavor.

Who Was Joe Pye?

Joe-Pye (Jopi), an Indian herbalist and healer from New England, used E. purpureum to treat a variety of ailments, especially fevers. Folklore says that American colonists used this plant to treat typhus outbreaks. Indians used Joe Pye Weed to treat kidney stones and other urinary tract ailments. It's thought that the Joe Pye of plant fame was a Mohican chief named Schauquethqueat who lived in the mission town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts from ca. 1740 to ca. 1785 and had taken the Christian name, Joseph Pye.


The cultivar 'Little Joe’ is a patented plant growing approximately 4 feet tall. It does not not come true from seed.

joe pye weed with other perennials

'Baby Joe’ is a more compact cultivar than the species. It typically grows in a clump 2-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Patent information shows the origin of the plant as a cross-pollination of two unnamed selections of Eupatorium purpureum (now Eutrochium dubium) discovered as a single plant grown in a controlled greenhouse environment in The Netherlands in 2003. The unique characteristics of ‘Baby Joe’ are upright and relatively compact plant habit, moderately vigorous growth, freely flowering habit, large gray-purple inflorescences and strong, upright peduncles.

Joe pye weed in a perennial bed

Starting Plants From Seed

Sow seeds directly in fall or start seeds indoors before last frost; sow directly in the ground after last frost. The rootball can be divided in autumn or spring.

Plant Characteristics

Joe-Pye Weed is covered with small pollinators and butterflies every year. It's tall height allows it be be easily seen by the pollinators. It is a Monarch migration plant for northern regions. The plant is easy-care in consistently moist soils and has no serious pest issues.

joe pye weed plantfiles

Some Considerations

This plant is sometimes past its prime during the Monarch butterfly migration. Small pollinators will occasionally take over the blooms. It's a prolific seeder in wet conditions. Although disease-resistant, it can have problems with powdery mildew. Leaves may scorch if the soil dries out.

Uses In The Garden

Joe-Pye thrives in moist areas in borders, cottage gardens, meadows, native plant gardens, wild and naturalized areas, rain gardens, or near water features.

You can visit the Dave's Garden Plant and Seed Trading forum here.

joe pye weed in the landscape

(above: one of my Joe-Pye plants)