The Plant Native

Golden Alexander

Highlights

Want something bright, cheery, and filled with butterflies from the spring to early summer? Golden Alexanders are for you. Their yellow flowers can bloom from April to July. After they bloom, their leaves remain to provide garden greenery throughout the summer. Most importantly, Golden Alexanders are host plants for Black Swallowtail butterflies. Every Golden Alexander planted helps feed baby Black Swallowtail caterpillars.

Sun – Part Sun
2-3′ tall
Host plant
Zizia aurea

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Golden Alexander

Table of Contents

If you’re looking for something bright for your garden that helps support butterflies and pollinators, Golden Alexander is a great choice (Zizia aurea is its Latin name). Native to a large portion of the United States, this easy-to-grow flower looks amazing in yards, helps pollinators when in bloom, and feeds birds in the fall. In this article, we’ll explore the wonders of Golden Alexander, including how to grow, its host plant abilities, and its history. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Golden Alexander is a native plant

Golden Alexander has grown in North America for thousands of years, making it a native plant. This beautiful native plant has a lot to offer, from its bright yellow flowers to its ability to support local butterflies.

Native plants are important for any garden. Native plants help give food and shelter to birds, butterflies, and pollinators. Native plants make gardening easy—established native plants just need rain to be happy.

Golden Alexander is a part of the parsley family

(Zizia aurea)

Golden Alexander is a member of the parsley family, and its leaves and stems have a similar appearance to other members of this family. The plant can grow up to 3 feet tall, with yellow flowers that bloom in the late spring and early summer. The leaves are bright green and have a serrated edge. It grows in sunny areas and is commonly found in meadows, prairies, and along roadsides.

Golden Alexanders vs. Queen Anne’s Lace

You’ve probably seen a white version of Golden Alexander on the sides of highways or on hikes, especially in the Northeast or Midwest. The white-flowered version is known by its common name ‘Queen Anne’s lace.’

Sadly, Queen Anne’s lace is not native to North America. (Unsurprisingly due to its fancy English name, it’s native to Europe.)

Queen Anne’s Lace

Golden Alexander

What are the benefits of having Golden Alexander in my garden?

There are many reasons to include Golden Alexander in your garden. Here are just a few: 

A Black Swallowtail caterpillar chows down on some Golden Alexander

Golden Alexanders are host plants for Black Swallowtail butterflies

If you want to help out bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, Golden Alexander is perfect for you. Golden Alexander is a host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly. This means that it is an essential food source for this butterfly’s caterpillars. In addition, the plant’s flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. By planting Golden Alexander in your garden, you can help support local wildlife.

Without host plants like Golden Alexander, there would be no Black Swallowtail butterflies.

What is a host plant?

A host plant is a specific plant that a bug, butterfly, or caterpillar eats, lives on, or lays its eggs on.

Golden Alexander will help your garden look beautiful

With its bright yellow flowers and attractive foliage, Golden Alexander is a beautiful addition to any garden. The plant’s height and texture make it an excellent choice for filling in gaps between taller plants (like Coneflower or Rattlesnake Master).

Golden Alexander saves time (+money)

Golden Alexanders are perennials, which means that the plants come back year after year. Plant once and enjoy for years.

Golden Alexander is a low-maintenance plant that requires little watering or fertilization once established. It also has a long blooming period, which means that you can enjoy its beautiful flowers for several weeks. Planting native plants gives you back time and money, especially compared to lawncare.

In the fall, Golden Alexander seeds are wonderful food sources for songbirds
Map from the USDA

What is Golden Alexander’s native range?

Golden Alexander is native to most of the United States and Canada. You can plant Golden Alexander in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, or the South along with the eastern half of Canada.

How to grow Golden Alexander

Good news—Golden Alexander is a plant that can handle a lot!

  • It likes full sun but can also do well in partial shade. The only light that won’t work is full shade.
  • Golden Alexander can also thrive in a wide range of soils, from loam to clay.
  • Golden Alexander is known for its ability to survive dry summers even though it prefers being consistently watered.

Golden Alexander’s flowers turn into seedheads, which often seed themselves in the garden. Plant a single Golden Alexander and you may have a patch of sunny bright flowers in a few seasons.

Grow it, Build it has a great overview video to give you an idea of its size and the benefits of planting Golden Alexander.

Grow Golden Alexander from seed

Golden Alexanders are easy to plant from seed and will flower the first year. If you’re starting from seeds, plant them in the fall or early spring. 

Here are some online sources for Golden Alexander seeds:

As you pick a seller, a tip for you:

800-mile tip for seeds and planting

A big tip for picking seeds is to try to buy or obtain seeds from places that are within 800 miles (or less!) of where you live—the closer, the better. This ensures that the seeds you’re buying are suited for your area (Golden Alexander seeds from Maine are probably not the best seeds for a garden in Texas.) 

Local blooms, fewer glooms

Try to find plants and seeds from within 800 miles of where you live.

Plants and seeds from within 800 miles are best suited for your weather, water, and sunshine. This also fosters cross-pollination among locally grown plants, enhancing the resilience of seeds and plants for generations to come. Stay local for a happy garden!

Grow Golden Alexander from plants

If you’re using transplants, plant them in the spring or early summer. Space the plants about 12 inches apart to allow room for growth. There are three reliable ways to find Golden Alexander plants:

1

Buy from a local plant nursery

Your local nursery may have Golden Alexander plants to buy, especially at the end of spring / early summer. Whenever possible, buy native plants from local nurseries. To date, Home Depot and Lowes have never carried this plant.

2

Find a local plant swap

Golden alexanders are easy to dig up and give away. Search local gardening groups on Facebook to find local gardeners who often give away plants during the spring and fall.

3

Visit local plant sales in the spring

Almost all local plant organizations and gardens host plant sales in the spring. These plant sales often include plants that are not available at conventional nurseries. Check your local garden websites for dates.

Golden Alexander care

Golden Alexander is a low-maintenance plant, but it does require some care the first year. Water the plant regularly during the first year to help it establish its root system (this is called getting a plant established.) After that, the plant should be able to survive on its own. Deadhead the flowers as they fade to encourage the plant to produce more blooms.

How to use Golden Alexander

There are many ways to use Golden Alexander in your garden. Here are just a few:

Golden Alexander in meadow restoration

If you have a meadow or other natural area on your property, consider planting Golden Alexander to support local wildlife. The plant’s flowers attract bees and butterflies, while the foliage provides food for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.

Golden Alexander in landscaping

Golden Alexander is an excellent choice for adding color and texture to a garden. It works well as a border plant, a filler plant, or as part of a mixed planting. It also pairs nicely with other native plants. Bee Balm, Aster, Coreopsis, Nodding Onion, and Milkweed all grow well with Golden Alexander. Here are some great Golden Alexander companions:

Shrubs and trees to pair with Golden Alexander

mountain-laurel-native-shrub-flower

Mountain Laurel

ninebark-5755860_1280

Ninebark

rosebay-rhododendron-native-shrub-flowering

Rhododendron

A white Sweetbay Magnolia flower blooming, photographed growing on a branch of the Sweetbay Magnolia tree.

Sweetbay Magnolia

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Sweetshrub

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Winterberry

Flowers to pair with Golden Alexander

Looking to make a pollinator garden? Pair these other native flowers with Golden Alexander:

Golden Alexander is a beautiful and easy-to-grow plant that’s perfect for any garden in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, or South. By following the simple care tips we’ve shared, you can enjoy its bright yellow blooms for years to come. To get more ideas on native plant gardening, explore our native plant library.

UPDATED —
03/30/2024
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