FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' is a bushy compact goldenrod cultivar with toothed heart shaped foliage. From late summer until autumn, plants bear profusions of golden yellow flower sprays. This lovely goldenrod variety prospers in sunny moist or dry well-drained sites.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species Solidago speciosa occurs in the eastern United States from Virginia west to Illinois south to northern parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The species is indigenous to open calcareous woods, rocky slopes, bluffs and rocky pastures.
This cultivar was discovered by Dr. Dick Lighty in 1985 as a volunteer seedling in a garden in Eden, North Carolina. Lighty was Director of Delaware’s Mt. Cuba Center at the time. The seedling was propagated and trialed at Mt. Cuba before being introduced by the Center. ‘Golden Fleece’ is recognized as a compact and very floriferous cultivar.
This variety is hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' is a compact spreading perennial with semi-evergreen rosettes of dark green toothed heart shaped foliage.
The rosettes provide an attractive mat-like groundcover. Stiff slender multi-branched stems rise to a height of about 18”
The basal leaves are about 4” long with an equal width and long petioles. Blades have pointed tips and are pubescent beneath. Stem leaves are much smaller and sessile with alternate arrangement.
Flowers are borne in narrow spike-like panicles. They are produced in abundance – almost covering the plant from late summer to early fall.
Each panicle contains many small bright yellow flowerheads. Each head contains 4-7 disc and ray florets that mature into small achenes crowned by tufts of hair.
Plants grow 1-2’ tall with a 2-3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' thrives in sunny well drained, sandy or loamy soils. Plants tolerate light shade, drought, poor infertile soils and rocky or clay soils
This cultivar proliferates slowly from rhizomes eventually forming large beefy clumps. Plants occasionally self-seed. If seedlings are an issue, deadhead to remove spent flower before the seed ripen. Deadheading may also encourage plants to rebloom.
‘Golden Fleece’ is relatively pest free except for an occasional bout with rust.
LANDSCAPE USES: Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' creates an exceptional display when used as a Groundcover or planted as an Accent, Grouping or Mass in Wildlife Gardens, Meadows or Perennial Borders. This goldenrod functions as a Butterfly Nectar Plant, aids in Erosion Control and is appropriate for Containers, Cottage Gardens, Cut Flower Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings and Rock Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' with Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome', Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’, Eryngium yuccifolium, Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Liatris aspera, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ or Sporobolus heterolepis.
Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is a worthy substitute if another showy goldenrod cultivar is needed.
TRIVIA: The blooms are particularly attractive to bees and butterflies (including Hairstreaks, Monarchs, Sulphurs and Skippers).
In 1994 Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' won Switzerland’s Internationale Stauden-Union’s Award for outstanding new plant.
This cultivar is considered to be a dwarf form. The species can rise to 4’ height but this cultivar is usually around 18”.
In 1993 Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' was rated in the top 5 in the Chigago Botanic Gardens goldenrod trials.