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Best Plants For A Meadow Garden

The right mix of plants brings a meadow to beautiful, colorful life. Design your meadow garden with year-round interest by choosing plants like these.

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Photo: Chicago Botanic Garden at

Bee Balm

A meadow garden literally buzzes with life, thanks to a host of insects that visit classic meadow bloomers like bee balm (Monarda). Plant native bee balm or cultivated varieties—both work well in a meadow and deliver strong season-long color. As the name suggests, bee balm beckons bees (and hummingbirds) by the dozens. Bee balm is a perennial hardy in Zones 3-9, depending on type.

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Photo: Walters Gardens, Inc. at

Threadleaf Coreopsis

When planting perennials in your meadow, arrange them in drifts (clusters of three or more plants) to mimic Mother Nature’s planting schemes. This native perennial is ‘Crazy Cayenne’ Coreopsis verticillata, which opens sizzling orange flowers from spring to fall frost. Look for coreopsis varieties with blossoms in shades including red, gold, maroon, white and bicolor blends. A tough-as-nails performer, coreopsis is hardy in Zones 5-9.

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Photo: Ernst Benary at


Larkspur, a type of delphinium, brings beautiful blue hues to a meadow garden. Traditional larkspur flowers from spring into early summer, but this variety, ‘Summer Blues’ Delphinium grandiflorum, flowers through summer, withstanding heat and humidity. It’s a short-lived perennial, meaning it will last two to three years in the meadow, then disappear. To keep the blue show going strong, plan to tuck new plants into soil or let plants self-sow (most effective in regions with cool summers). Hardy in Zones 3-7.

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For easy-growing color in a meadow, include some self-seeding annuals, like Cosmos bipinnatus. This pretty blend of pink-hued cosmos is known as ‘Sensation Mix.' A 1936 All-America Selections Winner, ‘Sensation Mix’ cosmos grows 3 to 4 feet tall, adding good height to a meadow. With cosmos, removing spent blooms will spur plants to flower more, but as the growing season winds down, it’s a good idea to let plants set seed, which will eventually drop and self-sow, ensuring a crop of color next year. Annual.

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