This was once a flower of the roadside, sort of wild, tall and rangy-looking. That was fine in the natural environment, but not quite the right look for a nice flower bed. Now, modern named goldenrods, bred for flower gardens, can be as short as 18 inches, such as Cloth of Gold, or 2 to 3 feet tall, such as Crown of Rays. Fireworks, which produces a long stretch of flowers along the arching stems, grows about 3 feet tall, and is one of the varieties that I see more often in garden centers. It doesn’t require staking even at that height. I have found it very reliable and quite good looking.
Clumps tend to develop densely over several seasons in light shade to full sun. A young plant set out this summer or fall may look quite thin at first. But the robust nature of goldenrod will let it develop into a good clump that will bear many stems from late summer into fall.
Russian sage also can be quite tall, 3 to 4 feet or so, and may require a little staking after stormy weather.
But it has a beautiful shape, with arching stems covered in small flowers all along the stems. The soft effect is very pretty, especially when combined with the golden-yellow flowers of goldenrod and perhaps a dash of blue, purple or white asters that also bloom from late summer. Some named varieties such as Blue Sprite are in the marketplace.