Grow Low-Maintenance Midwest Wildflowers

Fill your garden with the tough-as-nails beauty of native wildflowers.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Photo by Julie A. Martens

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

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 www.PerennialResource.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com

Plains Coreopsis or Golden Tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria)

Cheery yellow blooms sport a ring of russet around the center. Although this beauty thrives in full sun and medium moisture, well-drained soil, it also tolerates sandy, clay or rocky soil. Plants grow 24 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Flowers make an excellent addition to bouquets and butterfly gardens. Plains coreopsis self-sows readily to create drifts of color. Plants are hardy in Zones 2 to 11.

New England aster (Aster novae-angliae)

This wildflower’s native habitat extends well beyond New England. The daisy-like blooms sport purple petals and yellow centers. Flowers appear in late summer, lingering into fall. Stake plants to prevent flopping, or cut stems back by July 1 to reduce height. This aster grows 3 to 6 feet tall, forming a 2- to 3-foot-wide clump. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8, plants self-sow; remove spent flowers to curtail spread. Ripening seeds lure goldfinches to the garden.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

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

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

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 because plants die once they set seed. Offset or young plants form at the point where lower leaves join the stem. These offsets quickly produce roots and establish themselves. Plants grow 24 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Welcome a long season of color by including anise hyssop in a garden. Lavender to purple flower spikes appear from summer to fall. After blooms fade, seeds ripen that attract goldfinches. Pollinators hover around blossoms continuously. Plants form clumps 24 to 48 inches tall and 18 to 36 inches wide. Anise hyssop is hardy in Zones 4 to 8 and makes a terrific addition to a cutting or butterfly garden.

Missouri Primrose (Oenothera missouriensis)

Beautiful yellow blooms appear from late spring to the end of summer on this prairie native. Blossoms open daily in late afternoon, remain open all night and fade by morning. Plants tolerate difficult soil, including clay, rocky and dry. This bloomer self-sows readily, making it a great groundcover. Plants grow 9 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Missouri primrose is hardy in Zones 3 to 7.

American blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

From midsummer through September, spikes of purple blooms top towering stems in this pretty native. American blue vervain is the ideal choice for damp or wet sites and quickly colonizes to form a thick patch of plants that grow 2 to 6 feet tall and 1 to 2.5 feet wide. This vervain is hardy in Zones 3 to 8 and thrives in rain gardens. Use it in butterfly gardens to attract the common buckeye butterfly.

Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata)

Native blanket flowers covered the prairies with a quilt of color. This cultivar opens crimson red blooms from early summer to fall. Blanket flower demands full sun and well-drained, even poor soil. If soil is too rich, plants tend to get gangly and fall over. Otherwise, they grow 10 to 12 inches tall and wide. Deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, this perennial flowers from spring through summer. Blanket flower is hardy in Zones 3 to 10.

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Roll out the welcome mat for pollinators—including bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds—by including wild bergamot in your garden. Flowers bloom with an explosion of pink to lavender petals from midsummer into fall. Showy and versatile, bergamot tolerates dry to moist soil and full sun to part shade. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 9 and grow 24 to 48 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide. Harvest wild bergamot leaves to dry for tea.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

A must in butterfly gardens, swamp milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Flowers are typically pink, but you may spot some white blossoms on plants. Plants grow 48 to 60 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide. Despite the name, swamp milkweed tolerates average to moist soils. This tap-rooted perennial prefers full sun and is best left undisturbed once planted in the garden. Swamp milkweed is hardy in Zones 3 to 6.

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana ‘Miss Manners’)

Despite its name, obedient plant can be somewhat disobedient in the garden, straying quickly from its planting space. Many experienced gardeners dislike growing it. The native wildflower is tamed in the cultivar ‘Miss Manners’, which forms non-spreading clumps 24 to 30 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3 to 9, plants flower for weeks in the summer garden, attracting butterflies.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Denver Daisy’)

This eye-catching cultivar of the native black-eyed susan 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’)

Beardtongue is a reliable native perennial that tolerates drought and rocky or clay soil. This particular cultivar boasts red-tinted leaves and white blooms. Like all beardtongues, ‘Husker Red’ is a butterfly favorite, and songbirds flock to feast on the seeds. Flowers appear in spring. ‘Husker Red’ grows 24 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’)

Blazing Star interjects shades of purple into prairie meadows. In the garden, count on blazing star to introduce vertical interest with its purple flower spikes. Butterflies and other pollinators mob blooms. Grow a few extra clumps so you can add stems to bouquets. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9, this blazing star variety tops out at 3 feet and grows 6 to 12 inches wide. Liatris withstands brutal prairie winters and is hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

Oxeye Daisy (Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Tuscan Sun’)

With its classic daisy form, this native makes a wonderful addition to a cutting or butterfly garden. Oxeye daisy opens 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 and 9 to 12 inches wide. Oxeye daisy prefers humusy soil, but tolerates tough soil—shallow, rocky or clay. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 9.