I have been developing a pollinator garden on top of our septic field-disturbed soil, mostly sandy, drains quickly as this field was created on a steep slope. Goldenrod is really coming along and is also filling in along edge of driveway. Should I cut all plants back in the fall?
Once considered a pesky weed, Goldenrod is now being enjoyed as an excellent choice for a pollinator garden as it is both host and food source to a wide array of insects, moths and caterpillars. It is a native perennial, that spreads by both seed and rhizomes and is much less invasive in sunny, dry locations – plants should not receive supplemental water, except during extreme heat. Clump forming goldenrods, such as Stiff goldenrod (S. rigida) are less quick to spread than rhizome varieties and cutting back any goldenrod during the growth season will encourage more compact plants with less height. Prairie plants such as goldenrod send growing roots the first two years and by their third year, should be established.
The answer to the question of whether or not to cut back the plant in the fall, depends entirely on your aesthetic preference and your gardening goals.
If you want to limit the self-seeding, deadhead the flowers prior to seeding. If you don’t like how they look after this, depending on the cultivars shape, you may wish to cut back to the ground, after the growing season is complete. Some prefer the plants as they dry and leave them as is – the seeds are a food source for wildlife, so in a naturalized setting, you may want to leave them.
Pruning after this to remove any old growth in late winter, will encourage new vigorous emerging plants.
For more details about Goldenrod as both garden flower and pollinator attractor, please see: