And the diversity doesn't end there. One species, with a paler color, is actually called "Silverod."
Goldenrod in Gardens? Absolutely! You can transplant the common natives into your perennial garden, but if you do, they'll take over in no time, so it's better to buy a few of the fancier hybrids at the garden center or by mailorder. Did I hear someone gasp, "Goldenrod Hybrids?" That always happens. But yes, the Solidagos are one of the best examples of how the Europeans have made much of many of the North American wildflowers we ignore as weeds. Years ago, European hybridizers, mostly in Germany, became fascinated with our tall late-blooming goldenrods, and took them home and changed them. Cultivars like "Golden Fleece" and "Fireworks" have been around a long time, and there are newer ones like "Little Lemon", only about 12-16" tall. All the nursery hybrids are "well-behaved", which means they won't take over your whole yard like their country cousins. Instead, they'll add brilliant color late in the season when all your fancy perennials are finished.
Of course, if you're talking about a wildflower meadow, you must have them--either the natives or the hybrids, depending on how much work you want to do. Their fall color, along with perennial sunflowers plus the blues and whites of native asters is essential to a fall wildflower display.
Magnificent for cutting. Last but not least, goldenrods are not just a flower that is "good for cutting." They are spectacular for cutting. Here's why. Most of them decorate themselves with plume-shaped sprays of tiny flowers when they bloom. And as you notice along the roadside, these pointed plumes bend elegantly this way and that in a healthy stand of the species in bloom. Well, it'll be the same in your vase. Collect an armload of these big wild beauties when they're fresh and new (Nobody will mind, and they're even easy to pick. Even the tallest ones snap off with your hand. No shears needed.) and put them in a vase.
Then put in some cosmos, late roses, lilies, purple coneflowers (like in the arrangement at the top) or any other colorful blooms you have in fall, and you'll see. Lush, glowing goldenrod is probably the best "filler" there is for flower arrangements. Unlike baby's breath or others, it doesn't just add body to the arrangement. It adds elegant plumes, pointing left, right, and straight up in the middle. The big floppy pyramids of color literally arrange themselves. And in no time, you'll have a big beautiful arrangement everyone will love.
So the next time you notice a whole roadside turing yellow with goldenrod, don't ignore them. Notice the beauty and elegance of the individual flower heads. You'll be looking at one of the grand groups of native American flowers.