Add exotic brown foliage to your late-summer perennial border with chocolate Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium rugosum Chocolate). The plant features maroon-brown stems, brown-tinged green leaves and airy white flower panicles that bloom in September and October, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The shrubby plant grows from 3 to 5 feet tall. While University of Illinois Extension noted that chocolate Joe Pye weed has no major pests or diseases when the plant was named Illinois Nurserymen's Association Perennial of the Year for 2003, you must meet certain care requirements for Eupatorium rugosum to thrive.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Bypass pruners
- Garden hose
Plant Eupatorium rugosum in a site with partial shade. If you've tried to grow other varieties of sun-loving Joe Pye weed in a shady location with no luck, chocolate Joe Pye has better shade tolerance than other Eupatorium varieties, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Heritage Perennials notes the plant will even grow under deciduous trees, once established.
Provide chocolate Joe Pye weed with well-draining soil and plenty of water. The Missouri Botanical Garden says the plant performs best in "humusy" soil--soil rich in organic material--and if kept fairly wet, will grow easily. Fine Gardening magazine online notes in its profile of the plant that in richer soil, the chocolate Joe Pye will grow taller and require staking to keep its flowers from becoming floppy.
Deadhead the chocolate Joe Pye weed (remove spent flowers) as they fade to prevent the plant from going to seed. Use bypass pruners or remove by hand. Volunteer seedlings will not be true to the parent plant, says Washington State University's Clark County Extension, and the seedlings can become invasive.
Divide the plant approximately every three years, advises Fine Gardening. On a cool day, dig up the entire clump and divide into several sections. According to Fine Gardening, Joe Pye weed can develop a woody crown and you may need to use a hand saw to cleanly divide the clump. Dig holes for each division at least as wide as the spread-out roots of each section. The crown should rest at the same level in the soil as it was previously. Backfill with soil and water well.
Tips and warnings
- The plant is also known as Ageratina altissima Chocolate and by the common name white snakeroot.
- All parts of the plant are highly toxic.
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- University of Illinois Extension: 2003 Plants of the Year
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Plant Finder-Eupatorium Rugosum 'Chocolate'
- Heritage Perennials: Plant Profile-Eupatorium Rugosum 'Chocolate'
- Washington State University Clark Co. Extension: Chocolate Plants
- Fine Gardening: 10 Tips on Dividing Perennials