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Goldenrod is an umbrella term for a large number of plants in the genus Solidago, which all have characteristic sprays of golden flowers in various configurations. In addition, all have toothed to irregularly oval shaped leaves. While this plant grows wild as a weed all over the northern hemisphere, it is also cultivated as an ornamental, and is used in many gardens to create bright blocks of golden color in the fall, when it blooms. With a wide assortment of goldenrods to choose from, gardeners can pick the best plants for their gardens.
When growing goldenrod, check to see how high the variety you have selected will grow. Some have been known to reach heights of 7 feet (2.1 meters), and will spread out quite a bit if given a chance. Other types are more compact, suitable to smaller gardens which cannot sustain giant plants. Whichever variety is planted, plant it in the sun in well drained soil, keeping it well watered, especially in the summer when soil tends to dry out. Cut it back when it gets ragged or you want to dry the flowers, and separate the roots every other year to prevent them from clumping.
There are two basic forms of goldenrod: lacy sprays of delicate yellow flowers and large clusters of disc shaped flowers. Both can be used to make a block of color in the garden or for individual splashes of color in a fall garden, and have rich neutral green foliage when they are not blooming in the summer. This plant has also been shown to repel some garden pests and weeds, and contrary to popular belief, it does not cause hay fever, although it blooms at the same time as other plants known to cause allergic reactions. When planting goldenrod in the garden as an accent plant, be aware that it can be very invasive and determined, so try to keep it away from delicate plants and stop it before it takes over.
Both fresh and dried bouquets can be brightened with this plant, especially the lacy varieties. When selecting goldenrod for bouquets, cut large, well formed specimens which can be trimmed if necessary. If drying it, hang it upside down in a cool dry place, and store it carefully so that the flowers do not break off. Goldenrod can also be used medicinally: Native Americans made tea out of it for sore throat and fatigue, and some Europeans use it for urinary tract infections and to flush the kidneys.
There are somewhere around 60 native varieties of goldenrod. Some grow in arid areas while others thrive in moist, rich soil.