Erigeron Philadelphicus Info: How To Grow Philadelphia Fleabane

Erigeron philadelphicus L. [er-Ij-er-on, fil-uh-DEL-fee-kus] is a flowering perennial from the daisy or aster family, Asteraceae

The scientific name of the genus ‘Erigeron‘ comes from Greek words eri and geron, which mean “early” and “old man” respectively. 

This is possibly a reference to the early bloom time and the resemblance to an old man’s white beard. 

Flowers of the Erigeron Philadelphicus - Philadelphia Fleabane
Image: D. Gordon E. Robertson [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The specific epithet refers to the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

The most popular common name “Fleabane” reportedly was given in a time when people believed the plant to have flea-repelling qualities. 

But this is not all as this species has other common names including:

  • Poor robin’s plantain
  • Skervish
  • Common fleabane
  • Frost-root
  • Marsh fleabane
  • Robin’s plantain

The plant is widespread in North America and is found in almost all of the United States and Canada. 

Varieties such as Erigeron philadelphicus var. provancheri are specifically found in Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, and New York. 

However, it has been introduced into some Asian and European countries and is known for its pretty daisy-like flowers.

Erigeron Philadelphicus Plant Care        

Size & Growth

These showy plants can grow up to 2’ – 2.5’ feet tall under the right conditions. 

It has a spectacular spread between 1’ – 1.5’ feet wide.

Beside its showy flowers, the plants produce spatula-like basal leaves and lower stem leaves. 

These leaves are around 2” – 6” inches long, stalked, lobed, and toothed.

Flowering and Fragrance

The bloom season for Erigeron philadelphicus lasts from May to June when daisy-like flower heads are produced. 

Flat on the top, these disk flowers are borne in clusters of 3 to 35 on the top. 

Each flower is ½” to 3/4″ of an inch across.

The flower heads have 150 or more thread-like ray flowers or petals with a yellow center disk. 

Behind the pink to white rays are 2-3 rows of light green bracts or phyllaries which will be hairy, non-hairy or minutely glandular. 

The corollas are 2-3 mm long with pappus surrounding them.

Some varieties of the North American biennial daisy fleabane produces as many as 400 ray florets. 

You will find them growing in thickets, open woods, fields, and roadsides.

Light & Temperature                         

Poor Robin’s plantains are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 2 to 7 where temperatures are somewhat warmer. 

As for light exposures, these plants grow well in full sun. 

However, some plants can tolerate some light shade, especially when the summers get too hot.

Light shade from 10 am to 4 pm when the sun is at its most intense should be optimal.

Watering and Feeding

The plants like medium moisture and thus have average watering requirements. 

In the hotter months, water the plants enough to keep the soil moist but not wet. 

Erigeron philadelphicus plants don’t do too well in waterlogged conditions and are susceptible to root rot.

As for feeding, plants like soils with medium fertility. A layer of organic matter or compost during the growing season may help. 

Don’t overfeed the plants as it may lead to leggy growth.

Soil & Transplanting

Moist soil is the preference of these plants. They grow well in most average soils including heavy clay mixes. 

The plants also tolerate dry to medium moisture levels when given enough water. 

Drainage is an important part of the soil mixture as it ensures excessive water doesn’t stay around the roots.

When transplanting plant divisions, dig a hole as deep as the root ball. 

Place the plant so the top of the root’s crown is even with the surrounding soil. 

Fill the hole with native soil and pack it down lightly with your hands.

Grooming and Maintenance

Deadhead the flowers of the plant as soon as they wilt. 

This encourages further flowering, extending the bloom time. 

Once the flowering season is over, cut back the foliage by 1/3rd to ½ of its total height. 

This may produce a second round of flowers.

If your fleabane daisy has leggy growth due to insufficient sunlight, cut the plant to the ground in fall. 

The tall thin stems won’t stand upright properly in the coming season and may fall over.

Other Popular Erigeron ‘Fleabane’ Family Varieties

How To Propagate Philadelphia Fleabane Plant

The Common Fleabane plants are propagated with seeds and by dividing the root ball.

  • Sow the philadelphicus seeds in the soil in the springtime. 
  • It takes up to four weeks for the seeds to germinate, after which you wait for the seedlings to be long enough and then transplant to their permanent locations.

When dividing the plant:

  • Use a spade to dig up a clump out with the root ball intact. 
  • Divide the ball into four parts with your hands, keeping the soil intact around the roots. 
  • Plant the divisions where you want them to grow.

Philadelphia Fleabane Plant Pest or Diseases

These plants are relatively free of most pest and disease conditions. 

However, there is some susceptibility to common perennial problems such as powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spots. 

Keep an eye out and consult a gardening expert at your local nursery.

In hardiness zones prone to experiencing hot and humid climates in the summer, the plant may not thrive as well.

Erigeron Philadelphicus Plant Uses

Native plant and wildflower gardens are well-suited for E. philadelphicus species. 

They also look great accented in cottage gardens, meadows, rock gardens, flower bed borders, and other naturalized areas.

The lovely disc flowers of the marsh fleabane are not only pretty to look at but also attract pollinators like butterflies and hence are used in pollinator gardens.

The leaves and other parts of the plant are used to make a tea. 

This concoction has diuretic, astringent, diaphoretic, and emmenagogue properties. 

It is used to treat various ailments. 

Experts recommend pregnant women to not consume this plant.