13 Terrific Midwest Native Plants

Count on native plants for low-maintenance beauty that’s adapted to local conditions.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of American Beauties Native Plants

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Purple Coneflower

Purple coneflower boasts striking blooms with reflexed purple petals that surround a spiky orange-gold cone. This drought-tolerant perennial is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and native to the Central Midwest. Blossoms beckon butterflies and bees.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flower is a hummingbird favorite and ideal for moist spots that receive sun to part shade. Although plants are hardy in zones 4 to 8, they’re not true perennials in that plants die once they set seed. Look for offset or young plants at the point where lower leaves join the stem. These offsets quickly produce roots and establish themselves.

Prairie Dropseed

This fine-textured grass creates beautiful clumps that are perfect for edging planting beds. Include drought-tolerant prairie dropseed in wildlife gardens. It provides cover for foraging birds, nesting material and abundant seed. Plants are perennial in zones 3 to 7.

Wild Bergamot

Resistant to deer, drought and powdery mildew, wild bergamot thrives in full sun in zones 3 to 9. Lavender blooms open for many weeks in summer, attracting all kinds of pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds. Blooms make a nice addition to bouquets.

Swamp Milkweed

A must in butterfly gardens, swamp milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterfly adults visit blooms, along with many other pollinators. Plants tolerate average to moist soils and prefer full sun. This is a tap-rooted perennial that’s best left undisturbed once planted.

Little Bluestem

‘The Blues’ cultivar of little bluestem grass brings color to the garden with blue-green stems that turn fiery red-orange in autumn. Plants are deer-resistant, drought-tolerant once established and hardy in zones 3 to 9. Include little bluestem to bring skipper butterflies to the garden and provide forage for birds.

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant is known for wandering and quickly spreading throughout a garden. ‘Miss Manners’ is a cultivar of the native plant that forms tidy clumps. Hardy in zones 3 to 9, plants flower for weeks in the summer garden, attracting butterflies. Stems make fabulous, long-lasting additions to garden-gleaned bouquets.

Black-Eyed Susan

This eye-catching cultivar of the native black-eyed Susan, 'Denver Daisy', sports two-tone petals. Cut flowers for bouquets, or let them set seed for birds to nibble. Plants are hardy in zones 3 to 9, but sometimes perform more as a short-lived perennial or biennial.

Tall White Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)

Red-tinted leaves combine beautifully with spikes of white blooms in this beardtongue selection. ‘Husker Red’ is a butterfly favorite, and songbirds flock to feast on the seeds. Full sun coaxes best leaf color. Plants prefer well-drained soil that’s dry or medium-wet.

Blazing Star

Count on blazing star 'Kobold' to introduce vertical interest to your garden with its purple flower spikes. Butterflies and other pollinators mob blooms. Hardy in zones 4 to 9, this blazing star variety tops out at 3 feet.

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Deep-rooted and drought-tolerant, big bluestem is a fast-growing prairie native that soars to 4 to 6 feet. Leaves turn copper-red in autumn and add winter interest to plantings. Big bluestem grows best in full sun in dry to sandy soils. It’s hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Wild Spotted Geranium

It’s tough to beat wild spotted geranium for shady to full sun color. This perennial spreads happily but not aggressively in medium, well-drained soil. Leaves turn pretty hues of red and orange in fall. Plants are hardy in zones 5 to 9. Wild geranium is a great choice for planting in beds beneath trees.

Ox-eye Daisy

Ox-eye daisy unfurls gold blooms with orange-gold centers on plants that tolerate rocky, clay or shallow soil. The variety ‘Tuscan Sun’ is a dwarf type that grows 15 to 20 inches tall. Plants are hardy in zones 3 to 9. Blooms make wonderful cut flowers.