Story by Peggy Hill
Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) was chosen as the featured native plant for the 2018 Birmingham Botanical Gardens spring plant sale, and Gail Snyder, Native Plant Group chairperson, explains why: “Zizia aurea is one of our lesser-known native plants, and therefore it is sadly underutilized. We hope that featuring Zizia will encourage more people to add this valuable plant to their gardens. It is a host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly and a great early season pollen and nectar plant.”
Zizia aurea is a member of the parsley family (Apiaceae) and can handle a variety of growing conditions. It prefers moist, sunny to partly sunny locations, where it may reseed heavily; yet the babies are easy to remove or move around. Less seeding will occur when planted in shady, dry, thin soil of natural woodlands.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens will have plenty of these at their spring plant sale, and the other botanical gardens may also offer them at their spring sales. Check the calendar of events page for dates and times. Online sources include Izel Plants (izelplants.com).
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Golden Alexanders
Botanical Name: Zizia aurea
Blooming Period: Late spring to early summer
Type: Native perennial
Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
When to Plant: Spring or early fall
Soil: Prefers moist, adapts to dry
When to Fertilize: Spread organic material, such as compost or cow manure, yearly.
In Your Landscape: Purple phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) is another southeastern native perennial that blooms at the same time and, as you can see in the accompanying picture, it makes a lovely companion for golden Alexanders.