Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is a native perennial that grows readily in moist areas and forms clumps of tall sturdy plants that can grow up to six feet tall. In August the flowers start to open, the clumps become a mass of color, and the sweet vanilla-like fragrance of the flowers becomes an irresistible attraction for bees and butterflies.
From our experience, Joe Pye Weed will grow almost anywhere, but it really thrives in sun and rich, moist soil. The dome-shaped compound flowers are made up of five to eight florets and range in color from very light (almost white) pink to a deep purple. The leaves are about six inches long and are lance-shaped with serrated edges. Some of the flowers will produce seeds with five ribs and long bristles. Collected or purchased Joe Pye Weed seed can be direct sown outside in the fall. If you are planting the seeds inside for transplanting in the spring, the germination rate will be higher if the seeds are stratified first.
If we left our small meadow unmowed it would be almost covered with Joe Pye Weed. We compromise by mowing the center area and allowing the Joe Pye Weed plants free reign in the areas bordering all three sides of the meadow… and the clumps of Joe Pye Weed there are so dense and so close together they make a wonderful living fence.
Joe Pye Weed is named after a Native American herbalist named Joe Pye, who is said to have used the herb to lower fevers and as a cure for typhus.
Other common names for this hardy perennial are Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Gravel Root, and Trumpet Weed.