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Small But Mighty Golden Alexanders

Several years ago, upon taking a deeper dive into native plants, I kept hearing about a plant named Zizia. Everyone raved about its prowess as a pollinator workhorse in the garden. I decided I must learn more, and I was not disappointed.

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) are one of the first plants to bloom in my native wildflower planting.

Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) are one of the first plants to bloom in my native wildflower planting.
N. Jordan Franklin, ©2022 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Zizia, also known as Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), is an easy-to-grow, spring-blooming perennial native to South Carolina. Golden Alexanders grow in full to partial sun. They mature into a one to two feet tall and wide clump, exploding into yellow clusters of tiny flowers called umbels from April through May.

The umbel-arranged flowers may remind some of Queen Anne’s Lace.

The umbel-arranged flowers may remind some of Queen Anne’s Lace.
N. Jordan Franklin, ©2022 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Golden Alexanders occur naturally in wet, sunny meadows, abandoned fields, and open woodlands. They prefer moist, well-drained soil but will tolerate clay soil and dry summer conditions.

This perennial is easily established in the garden by transplants or seeds. Seeds need a period of cold stratification to germinate. Sow seeds in the fall for plants to sprout in the spring.

Golden Alexanders umbel flowers may remind you of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota), and for a good reason. Like Queen Anne’s lace, they are a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae.

Can you spot the spider patiently waiting for a morning snack?

Can you spot the spider patiently waiting for a morning snack?
N. Jordan Franklin, ©2022 HGIC, Clemson Extension

When few flowers are available for small native bees and wasps, Golden Alexanders provide nectar for these tiny garden helpers. The small flowers are just the right size for insects with short tongues. It is also a larval host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.

Golden Alexanders attract more than just bees, wasps, and butterflies. This lady beetle is searching for aphids.

Golden Alexanders attract more than just bees, wasps, and butterflies. This lady beetle is searching for aphids. N. Jordan Franklin, ©2022 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Golden Alexanders are perfect for a native planting or meadow garden. For more information about wildflowers and native plants, visit Too Much Turf? Think About a Meadow Garden and HGIC 1157, Wildflowers.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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