Native from Massachusetts to Mississippi and Georgia. This meadow plant is a handsome choice for the back of a border or for a contrasting color scheme with goldenrod (Solidago) and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). Clumps of leafy stems to 68 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide are topped in late summer by broad, flat clusters of fluffy, bright purple, 12-in. flower heads. These should be clipped off before they develop into the rust-colored seed clusters that give the plant its name (unless you want plants to naturalize). Grows in wet or fairly dry soils and needs no coddling. Resists deer. 'Albiflora' has white flowers.
V. gigantea (V. altissima) is a similar species, somewhat taller and with longer leaves. Its selection 'Purple Pillar' produces 10-ft.-tall stalks topped with large clusters of clear purple flowers in midsummer. 'Jonesboro Giant' can reach 12 ft. tall; very strong stems resist toppling under the weight of the large flower clusters.