Flat Top Goldenrod Plants – How To Grow Flat Top Goldenrod Flowers

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Flat top goldenrod plants are variously identified as Solidago or Euthamia graminifolia. In common language, they are also called grass-leaf or lance leaf goldenrod. It is a common wild plant in parts of North America and can be considered a nuisance in a few regions. While the plant itself is not particularly spectacular, the pretty flattened clusters of golden yellow flowers that bloom all summer are a treat.2>

What is Flat Top Goldenrod?

On a nature hike in many eastern states, you might come across this native goldenrod. What is flat top goldenrod? It is a tall, sprawling, fall-over-itself mess of a plant with beautiful flowers. Growing grass leaved goldenrod can help tempt pollinators to your landscape. Several bees and butterflies are drawn to the lovely flowers and their nectar. Combined with other native wildflowers, flat top goldenrod plants will pack a powerful golden punch.

Flat topped goldenrod can become invasive due to its deep taproots. It is an upright, branched perennial that grows 1 to 4 feet (.31-1.2 m.) tall. The top of the plant is bushy due to the sub-branching of numerous stems and the slender leaves. The leaves have no petioles and taper to a point, narrowing towards the stem. Leaves have a strong scent when crushed.

Each bright yellow flat-topped flower cluster contains 20-35 tiny starry flowers. The outer flowers bloom first with a slow inward wave of opening. For those wondering how to grow flat top goldenrod, it is propagated through seed or division of the root ball and rhizome material.

Growing Grass Leaved Goldenrod

Whether started by seed, vegetative material or purchased mature plant, this goldenrod establishes easily. Choose a location in full sun with moist but well-draining soil. The plant is usually found growing wild in wetlands but can tolerate slightly drier sites.

Take rhizome divisions when the plant is dormant and plant immediately. Seed germination may benefit from stratification and can be planted in fall in a cold frame or directly into soil in spring when soil temperatures warm.

Grass Leaved Goldenrod Care

This is an easy plant to grow but can be a bit of trouble to manage. It is recommended to remove flowers before they seed or erect a native plant barrier to prevent the spread of seed.

Keep plants moderately moist, especially in summer. In addition to pollinators, the flowers attract two species of beetle. The goldenrod soldier beetle produces larvae that are beneficial partners, feeding on the likes of maggots, aphids and some caterpillars. The other beetle that likes to hang out with this goldenrod is the black blister beetle. Its name comes from the poisonous substance cantharidin, which can harm animals that eat the plant.

For best appearance, cut back plants at the end of the season to 6 inches (15 cm.) from the ground. This will produce thicker, more lush plants and more of the blooming stems.

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Do You Prune Goldenrod?

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The appearance of goldenrod (Solidago spp.) flowers usher out the long days of summer and take us into cooler fall weather. Wild goldenrods are mostly native to North America, growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2a through 8a. A number of cultivars resulted from selecting or hybridizing different species, with most varieties smaller and more compact than the parents. Golden plumy flowers make a showy display. You can control how bushy the plants are, how tall they will grow, and the time of blooming by selective pruning.

It’s not necessary to prune goldenrod, but if you do, cut back old growth in late winter.

Several kinds of goldenrod

I should make clear before we go any further that there are many species of goldenrod. I’ve found three growing in my beds, and all three have a reputation for being “aggressively weedy.”

This goldenrod is most prevalent in our area. September 2008

Arrows point to rough-stemmed goldenrod. It has the widest leaves of the common ones. September 2008 (click on image to enlarge)

The very thin leaves give rise to the name grass-leaved goldenrod September 2008

Fireworks in the Garden

Fireworks are plentiful this time of year, but not only in the night sky. Many sparklers, firecrackers, and other aptly named plants are available to add sizzle, pop, snap, and crackle to your garden.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 4, 2011. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)

Impatiens 'Sparkler Rose' - a colorful double impatiens that adds sparkle to any garden. Roselike flowers bloom reliably throughout the spring and summer in shady gardens. Look for butterflies and hummingbirds among these colorful blossoms. The 'Sparkler' impatiens are part of the Fiesta series and are available in a wide range of vivid colors that are perfect for lighting up shady landscapes, baskets, and patio planters. (Impatiens walleriana, annual)

Cleome ‘Sparkler Blush' - a dwarf selection of a familiar summer-flowering annual reaching 3½ to 4 feet tall and bearing 4- to 6-inch spidery blooms throughout the summer in all the usual cleome colors of white, lavender, rosy-red, and blush. Expect loads of flowers in hot, sunny locations enough to decorate the garden as well as add a sparkling element to cut bouquets. Not only do they hold well as cut flowers, but the nectar-laden blossoms delight the hummingbirds and butterflies, as well. (Cleome hassleriana, annual)

Carex ‘Sparkler' - an ornamental, deer-resistant, clump-forming, evergreen sedge with whorls of dramatic green and white-striped foliage that sparkles atop 12- to 15-inch stems. Plant this showy plant in damp to moderately moist soil in a shady to partly shady woodland gardens or among green groundcovers where it will add its unique sparkle to your garden. ( Carex phyllocephala, Zones 7-10)


Many plants have ‘Firecracker' as a cultivar name. For example, Penstemnon, Acer palmatum, Lilium, Plumeria, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, crape myrtle, Leucadendron, Kalmia, Rosa, Anisacanthus, Caladium, Hemerocallis, Geranium, Lysimachia, Impatiens, Mimulus, and many others have a cultivar named ‘Firecracker'. However, some plants are simply called "firecracker plant." An internet search revealed at least three "firecracker plants."

Firecracker plant (Cuphea ignea) - also known as cigar plant, produces fiery, bright reddish-orange, tubular flowers on 2- to 3-foot tall plants. Grow this perennial in bright sun and moderately moist soil. Expect a parade of hummingbirds when the plant is in bloom. (root hardy Zones 8, 9 evergreen Zones 10-11 annual elsewhere)

Firecracker plant or firecracker flower (Crossandra infundibuliformis) - a small, evergreen tropical shrub growing 1 to 3 feet tall and bearing yellow, red, salmon, or orange flowers with asymmetrical petals spreading out into a 3- to 5-lobed circle at the end of inch-long corolla tubes. Grow the compact plants as annuals in beds and borders outdoors in sunny to partially shady locations, or grow in containers and move indoors in bright light during cold weather. Provide fertile, well-drained, moist soil. Zones 10-11.

Fireworks Fountain Grass - an ornamental grass that grows about four feet tall and sports red-burgundy foliage striped with an unusual combination of green, white, pink, and cream. Showy purple, foxtail-like blooms appear during the summer adding color and motion to the landscape. Place this fireworks-like plant in full sun. This tender perennial is grown as an annual in most areas, being root hardy to about 20°F. ( Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks', Zones 9-10)

Hosta ‘Fireworks' - bears long, slender, erect, delicately rippled leaves on 10-inch tall plants. Leaves are a pale creamy cucumber green in center and edged with light green in spring turning to dark green as the season progresses. This hosta is an excellent choice for containers, and it combines well with miniature hostas and other groundcovers. As with other hostas, grow ‘Fireworks' in shade to partial shade. (Hosta ‘Fireworks', Zones 3-8)

With all these selections nobody need go without fireworks for the Fourth of July or any other day of the year. Too many plants are available that are capable of adding sparkle, crackle, and pop. Why not include a few of these loud plants to your garden for an extra bit of sizzle?

My Top 10 Native Plants

I have spent 19 years growing native plants in my yard, a little over 5 years of which has been in northeast Tennessee. So I thought it would be fun to post a list of my favorite plant species in case they will be helpful to someone else. My favorites are those plants that are dependable, good on a modest budget, and easy to grow from seed applied on bare ground. They give me quick results that make me feel like I know what I am doing and that I don’t look back on with regret, thinking I should have known better.

As a preface to the list, I should mention that I like to grow natives in a meadow-like setting as a replacement for lawn. So I am not necessarily recommending these plants for use in a groomed, formal flower bed, which is a whole different creature. I like to do larger areas from seed for a natural setting that draws lots of birds, butterflies and bees.

Here are my dependable favorites and why:

Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea)

1. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). This is my top pick. It is spectacular en masse, blooms for a long period, reseeds well on its own, and beloved by butterflies. It is also a favorite food of goldfinches, who are so impatient to eat that they start checking for seed ripeness as soon as flowers appear. When fall arrives, a flock of goldfinches hangs out in my yard for about two weeks while they stuff themselves. The seed is also inexpensive. You can get it for $2 an ounce (6,600 seeds).

Smooth Penstemon/Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

2. Smooth Penstemon/ Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis). This is a charming, white flower that is a very strong re-seeder so you need to be a bit careful in the amount of seed you use. For such a tiny seed (130,000 per ounce), it has an amazingly successful germination rate. You can depend on it to quickly cover bare ground (perhaps a little too quickly). But again it is spectacular en masse, and a large, mass bloom comes alive with the hum of hundreds of bees. It is also an inexpensive seed at only $5 per ounce.

3. Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). This is an easy coreopsis from seed and gives quick bloom in the first year. I like its bright dependable color. It makes a good nurse crop while other plants are getting started. I find it does tend to decline after a few years.

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)

4. Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea). This is a dependable, bright yellow flower for spring. Seed has a high germination rate, and plants re-seed readily so it is easy to get too much of it. However, it is a favorite food of swallowtail caterpillars, so I don’t mind if I have a solid field of it in April and May. (Even though prolific, it doesn’t seem to crowd out other plants.) Seed is only $5 per ounce (11,000 seeds), but be careful how much you use.

Nodding Pink Onion (Allium cernuum)

5. Nodding Pink Onion (Allium cernuum). Personally I love the cute nodding heads of pink flowers. Its dainty height and shape is a nice contrast to the large plant species. Given its small size, it is better placed along the garden edges. This is another bee plant, and as far as the bees are concerned, you can’t have too much. It is more expensive at $10 per ounce (7,600 seeds) but you can buy a ¼ oz. and depend on just a few plants to nicely reseed themselves over time.

6. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). This plant is the old-fashioned native from which many cultivars have been produced. Unfortunately it has a bad, and in my opinion undeserved, reputation for mildew. I find the bees like it better than the cultivars, and the flowers are unique and beautiful. It is a little on the coarse side, but I wouldn’t be without it. When you plant the seed, be forewarned that it will feel like every single seed that you planted germinated. $10 per ounce (70,000 seeds), which is definitely an amount I do not recommend, so simply adjust the amount according to your needs.

7. Bradbury’s Monarda (Monarda bradburiana). If Wild Bergamot is too coarse for you, this is a tamer and smaller species that is easy from seed and spreads well. It has lovely flowers and deep green leaves. The bees and butterflies like it too. Very expensive seed at $50 per ounce (35,000 seeds), but you only need a small fraction of an ounce and some patience.

Slender Mountain Mint ( Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

8. Slender Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium). This is a mid-summer bloomer with many, small white flowers with purple-tinted edges. It is not a spectacular flower from a distance but extremely pretty close-up. It is very easy from seed, re-seeds readily, and very popular with butterflies and bees. It will provide a mass bloom just after the Alexanders have finished. Expensive seed at $30 per ounce (378,000 seeds), but you are better off with a fraction of an ounce.

9. Side-oats Gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula). This is a charming 2 foot tall grass that I have been told is a not a strong survivor in Tennessee. Granted it will never replace Little Bluestem as a “backbone” grass species for a meadow garden, but I love the ease of growth, the cute teeny red flowers that line the grass stalks, and its simple charm. So far mine are hanging in there for their 3rd succeeding year. Cheap seed at only $2 an ounce (6,000 seeds).

Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

10. Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). This is my “surprise plant.” It has very small seeds, at 500,000 per ounce. I have planted seed off and on over several years with very modest results. But it only takes a few plants, and once you have them, Blue Lobelia will move quickly into the areas that it likes. Although the books specify that it tends to be a wetland plant and likes wet to average moisture, it has planted itself on the steep, rather dry slope behind my garage. When things are turning brown and straggly in the fall, the bright blue of this lobelia is most welcome. After about 3 years, I have it scattered here and there across the entire slope. When I went back and looked at my original seed mix for this site, I found that it didn’t even contain Blue Lobelia. Although the seed is more expensive, you can buy 1/4 oz for $8, which is 125,000 seeds.

P.S. With all these quoted prices and amounts, I anticipate questions on where I buy my seed. I get it from Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, Minnesota. While I am very happy with their quality and service, I am sure there are also other outlets with competitive prices.

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