Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Three Eupatorium

Eupatorium altissimum

With the exception of the roses, the odd phlox and some sedum, just about everything has finished flowering in my garden. A few of my Eupatorium, however, are just coming into their own. Here we are in early October and the smallest of the three (Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate') has only recently begun to flower.

Eupatorium is members of the large Asteraceae family. This large genus of plants contains as many as 60 species depending on the classification system used.

I grow a number of different Eupatorium, but in this post, I am going to focus in on three of my favourites.

Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe'

Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe' 

To be honest, I don't think this plant has particularly attractive flowers, but there is something about the way the flowers catch the light that transforms them into something quite lovely. Bees and butterflies seem to appreciate them too.

The species Eupatorium dubium is native to Eastern North America. The hybrid, 'Baby Joe', is more compact than the original native plant.

Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe'

Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe'

One of the many reasons I like 'Baby Joe' is its strong, upright, deep red stems. Overall the shape of the plant is tall and vase-like.

In full sun, 'Baby Joe' would require moist soil. My plant is in part-shade. Generally its happy with average moisture conditions. If we haven't had rain for a week or so in mid-summer, and the leaves are beginning to look a bit droopy, I will often water 'Baby Joe'. Last year we had a summer-long drought and it was one unhappy plant. 

'Baby Joe' prefers soil with lots of organic matter, but it is pretty adaptive to average, sandy or quite gravely soils.

Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe'

The moment the flowers show signs of going to seed, I cut them off. Plants grown from these seeds may revert to the native species rather than the hybrid form.

Height: 70-75 cm (27-29 inches), Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Deer resistant.

Tall Boneset, Eupatorium altissimum

Eupatorium altissimum

Eupatorium altissimum is one of my favourite fall plants. It sprawls a bit wildly and leans on other plants, but I look forward to that cloud of white flowers every autumn.

Tall Boneset, Eupatorium altissimum is native to eastern and central North America where it can be found along stream banks and in damp meadows. This tall perennial has lance-shaped green leaves and clusters of white flowers in late summer/early fall.

In full sun, it needs consistent moisture. I have one plant (actually Eupatorium altissimum 'Prairie Jewel') in sun and somewhat dry conditions. It can look wilted if a week passes without rain. I really must move it if I can (reputedly they don't like to be moved). In light shade (some rest from the afternoon sun)Eupatorium altissimum will tolerate average moisture conditions much better. 

It is not super fussy about soil and will do fine in both clay and sandy soils. 

Eupatorium altissimum

One reason to grow this plant is the insects it attracts. Bees, wasps and butterflies all love this plant.

Eupatorium altissimum

Again it is important to note that this plant is a liberal self-seeder. If you don't deadhead the flowers, you may have a weedy problem on your hands!

Height: 1.2- 1.8 m (4-6 feet), Spread: 1-1.2 m (3-4 feet). USDA zones: 3-8.

Deer resistant.

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'

There's a long wait for Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' to bloom, but the plant itself is so attractive you won't mind.

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' has attractive maroon-brown foliage in spring. The tops of the leaves turn olive-green as the summer progresses, but the plant's stems and the undersides of the leaves remain a nice contrasting shade of chocolate.

In full sun, 'Chocolate' will need moist soil. In part-shade, it will tolerate somewhat drier conditions (once established).

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'

'Chocolate' has flat clusters of starry white flowers in late summer/fall. It is important to deadhead the flowers to avoid self-seeding. 'Chocolate' will not come true from seed. 

Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches). USDA zones: 5-9.

Deer resistant.

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'

A Quick Comparison of all Three Plants


Of the three Eupatorium featured in this post, Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' is the shorter, smaller, bushier plant. 
'Baby Joe' is tall and fairly narrow. It would still be fine in a small garden. 
Both tall and bushy, Eupatorium altissimum requires the most space.

Shade Tolerance:

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'  will tolerate the most shade.


In an ideal world, all three plants prefer moist conditions. Eupatorium altissimum will survive some dry weather. Just don't ask it to be happy about it. 
Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' is reputed to be the most tolerant of drier soil (once established).

Best for Insects:

Eupatorium altissimum positively hums with insects! Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' seems to be the least popular of the three plants (based on my observations).


  1. Beautiful photographs, Jennifer, and how nice to still have some things in flower.
    I think this one is just as pretty after it goes to seed, as it is in flower.
    Have a wonderful week!

  2. Jennifer, your photographs are wonderful. I never knew so much about the varieties of Eupatorium. I will add some to the garden here, too.


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