Iron and Purple Fuzz
I planted Prairie Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata) all the way back in 2010, but it wasn’t until the last couple years that it started to be a real presence in the Driveway Boarder.
To be honest, I’m only pretty sure that it’s V. fasciculata. I ordered it from Prairie Nursery, which also sells the taller V. altissima, and I can’t find the invoice online. So for the purposes of this post let’s just call it Ironweed.
Ironweed is a prairie native that likes sun and moist soil, though it will tolerate average soil. It’s got stiffly upright stems topped by fuzzy purple flowers. In our garden it grows to about 7′, which is a little taller than the normal height for V. fasciculata (3′ to 6′) but plants tend to grow extra tall in our rich soil. V. altissima grows 5′ to 8′.
Our Ironweed started to bloom towards the end of July. The flowers are very attractive to pollinators, especially bumblebees and other long-tongued bees, and butterflies.
It’s also a host plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly.
Ironweed is considered pretty aggressive, and some would say it is too aggressive for the home garden. I’m beginning to see its expansionist tendencies this year. I have the straight species of Ironweed, but there may be some cultivars that are easier to manage.
In the driveway border, Vernonia has some tough neighbors that it won’t be able to push around – Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis). So there’s that.
Also, Ironweeds are supposed to have a very bitter taste, so deer and other herbivores tend to leave it alone.
Ironweed stems are unbranched, so a single plant has a fairly narrow profile. Some have described it as torch-like when in flower. The thing is, you’re not likely to have just a single plant – not for long, anyway.
Have you tried growing Ironweed in a garden? And do you have any idea if I have V. fasciculata or V. altissima?
That’s all for now.