|Solidago flexicaulis (Zigzag Solidago) blooms on the side of the road in Vermont. Image by Thomas Rainer|
A shade tolerant Solidago? A few years ago, I saw a beautiful clump of Solidago flexicaulis (Zigzag Goldenrod) on the side of the road in Vermont. It was so stunning I stopped the car and pulled out the camera (my wife loves it when I do this—our vacation pictures have more plants in them than people). Initially, I could not identify the flower. The plant’s broad-leaves have sharply serrated edges. That foliage combined with the glowing-yellow racemes reminded me immediately of the ornamental perennial, Ligulara ‘The Rocket’. Was this some kind of native Ligularia I did not know?
|Sharply serrated leaves of Zigzag Goldenrod|
This plant really stumped me, mostly because I never assumed Goldenrods could handle as much shade as this plant was in. But after about 200 Google searches, I finally discovered that this was indeed a native Goldenrod. Solidago flexicaulis loves moist soil on the edge of a woodland—in this condition it masses spectacularly. But it is also highly tolerant of dry shade in high light conditions. It tends not to mass as strongly in dry shade, but it still looks great. The plant’s broad-leaved foliage looks great in a shade garden. The plant can easily be grown by seed and spreads rhizomatically.
‘Avondale’ and ‘Little Carlow’ are nice selections of this species. For best results, plant this combination along the edge of a lawn in an area of the garden that is shady, but gets high light. Neither species looks its best in dense shade. Because the aster grows together in a dense tangle of foliage, don't interplant them one by one. Instead, clump them in pockets of 3-5 plants side by side for the most legible results.
Unlike most shade perennials, both this Solidago and Aster bloom in late summer and early fall, providing interest during a time of year when most shade gardens are just foliage. Pollinators—particularly long and short tongued bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies—love both species. Remember, these insects are a vital source of food to many woodland songbirds. Aster divaricatus (White Wood Aster) would be another great native to mix in combination with these plants.