Eupatorium sp. (Bonesets or Thoroughworts)

Zone: 4 to 8

Soil: sand to clay

Light: Full sun to part sun

Bloom colour: White

Bloom period: Late summer to fall

Height: 3 to 6 feet

Moisture: Usually medium to moist

Attracts: A variety of bees and butterflies.

Notes: The bonesets are now separated from the Joe-Pye Weeds, but they still remain a fairly large genus on their own. While the plants are not particularly stunning, they are of interest to a wildlife gardener as they are attractive to a range of insects, especially E. perfoliatum.

They flower for about 4 weeks starting in August and like the Joe-Pye Weeds, they have atypical white composite flowers that lack ray florets. The flowers grow in flattened flowerheads at the top of the plant.

E. perfoliatum has the most promise as a garden plant because it has interesting perfoliate leaves while attracting a great deal of wildlife. In the wild, this plant is found in habitats with moist soils, but in a regular garden, you will find it to be quite versatile and easy to grow. It spreads by reseeding but compared to asters, it is easy to keep under control. This plant likes plenty of sun and grows to about 4 - 5 feet high. It also the easiest boneset to manage in a small garden. The other bonesets mentioned below can spread fairly rapidly by both rhizomes and reseeding.

E. rugosum is a useful plant in dry shade and is one of the last plants to flower in the garden. It is a somewhat weedier plant than E. perfoliatum but en masse it will brighten up the shade garden at the end of the growing season. It spreads readily by seeding, so be prepared to pull plants before they flower. In Toronto, this plant flowers in September/October and is therefore an important late season nectar source for bees.

If your garden conditions are too dry for Eupatorium perfoliatum, you might try Eupatorium altissimum instead. This boneset is also native to Ontario. It does well in dry and sunny sites and combines well with Big Blue Stem due to its height, which is typically 5-6 feet. Pull the plants as soon as the vegetation emerges to keep it under control.


Eupatorium perfoliatum - Boneset
Eupatorium rugosum
Eupatorium rugosum
Eupatorium altissimum
Eupatorium altissimum
Boneset with locust borer
Common boneset with locust borer
Common boneset with Polistes fuscatus
Common boneset with Polistes fuscatus
Eupatorium altissimum
Tall boneset