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Solidago velutina ssp. californica

Welcome to floral sunshine in the native garden! Solidago velutina ssp. californica, or California goldenrod, is not well known among the species, perhaps in part due to a misconception that they are terrible for hay fever. Sunset claims allergies to this species are actually caused by other plants, which suggests its residency in a larger plant community may need examination (2012 p. 606). After having this native reside at a cabin we once owned on the side of Mt. Shasta, I decided it needs more attention, which is one reason why I am discussing it here. The second reason, is that I successfully planted it in my own garden and am appreciative of its benefits.

California goldenrod, similar to its eastern siblings, is a wonderful addition to pollinator gardens. The California Native Plant Society notes numerous insects attracted to it but highlights bees and various colorful moths in their plant profile. As much as I would like to observe the insect activity around this plant, I instead can attest to its attractiveness when in bloom.

Yellow paint on upright paint brushes. That is what I think when its at peak bloom. The so-called paint brushes, the erect limbs terminating and countless showy, tiny flowers, tend to topple every which way. When dense, they support each other; its the outliers that need additional support. If readers have not seen already, I combined this mass planting with another native, Aster chilensis 'Purple Haze' that blooms at the same time. Their habits are similar, too.

Both are dormant during the winter but will soon regrow with late winter, early spring rains. They become a mat of foliage covering the soil, spreading by underground rhizomes. Once summer has set in, they spike upright in preparation for their floral display. Unfortunately, I skimp on their water in our fast draining, rocky soil, so their bloom cycle is all too brief. Of the two, the goldenrod is more showy but brief; the aster will continue to bloom but the color recedes, sometimes undetectable. The yellow turns to light brown producing countless seeds ready for dispersal, but it has not popped up in other places except by rhizomatous expansion.

Our native S. velutina ssp. californica is not quite as showy as its eastern counterparts, which have more open and seemingly larger bloom spikes. This makes sense if they are receiving more water; our Mt. Shasta cluster was quite lush and showy as well. While goldenrods can be used as cut flowers, florists will more frequently carry x Solidaster luteus, possibly a cross between Solidago canadensis and Aster ptarmicoides, though this should be verified. Solidasters have similar flowers but branch outward lending to more showy displays. Altogether, goldenrods, asters, and something of a mix offer color to perennial borders late in the season, providing opportunities for succession from spring to summer bloomers.



Botanical Name: Solidago velutina ssp. californica

Solidago: Latin, solidus, and ago, for whole becoming, respectively, or for us, becoming whole, attributed to its medicinal value

Velutina: Like velvet, as in the texture of the leaves

Californica: Associated with California

Common Name: California goldenrod

Family Name: Asteraceae

Origin: Native; throughout California, particularly in meadow conditions

design considerations

Positioning: Foreground, interspersed, slopes

Garden Themes: Pollinator, perennial, native, drought, meadow/prairie, cottage, rain

Uses: Accent, border, mass, container, floriculture, erosion control, green stormwater infrastructure

identifying characteristics

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Form: Mat, erect

Texture: Medium

Size: 6" tall when young to up to 3' in right conditions and spreading

Outstanding Feature(s): Flower

Stem: Red-green, pale


  • Type: Simple

  • Arrangement: Alternate

  • Shape: Oblong to oblanceolate

  • Margin: Entire to slight serrate

  • Color: Gray-green, yellow-green

  • Surface: Slightly pubescent

Flower: Summer to Autumn. Tiny, daisy-like bright yellow flowers in terminal clusters. Showy.

Fruit: Autumn. Aerial seeds

cultural requirements, tolerances & problems

Sunset Zones: 1-9, 14-23

USDA Zones: 6-10

Light: Sun

WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Moderate


  • Texture: Sand, loam, clay

  • Moisture Retention: Well-drained, performs best with even moisture

  • pH: Highly acidic to neutral

Tolerances: Deer


  • Branch Strength: N/A

  • Insects: Not observed at time of posting

  • Disease: Not observed at time of posting

citations & attributions

Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.

Blogger. (2014, September 1). "Plant of the Month (September) : California goldenrod – Solidago velutina ssp. californica (Solidago californica)." Mother Nature's Backyard: Water-wise and life-friendly gardening, (Unknown location). Accessed on October 12, 2021 from

Calscape. "California goldenrod." California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. Accessed on October 12, 2021, from

Cut Flower Exports from Africa. "X Solidaster Wehrh." United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspections Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine Division, Identification Technology Program, Washington D.C. Accessed on October 12, 2021, from

Extension Gardener. "Chrysanthemum x morifolium." North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Accessed on October 9, 2021, from

Home and Garden Information Center. "Chrysanthemum Diseases and Insect Pests." Clemson Cooperative Extension, Clemson. Accessed on October 9, 2021, from

Native Plants. "Solidago californica." Las Pilitas Nursery, Santa Margarita. Accessed on October 12, 2021, from

Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.

Taxon Report. "Solidago velutina DC. ssp. californica (Nutt.) Semple." Calflora, Berkeley. Accessed on October 12, 2021, from

Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on October 12, 2021.

Water Wise Plants for Santa Barbara County. "California Goldenrod." The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara. Accessed on October 12, 2021, from


  • All photos by TELCS.

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