15 Northeast Wildflowers to Try

Grow a variety of native wildflowers to give your yard season-long color.

Photo By: Image courtesy of MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at ABNativePlants.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Image courtesy of MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

Photo By: Photo courtesy of White Flower Farm

Photo By: Shutterstock/Charles G. Haacker

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at ABNativePlants.com

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at ABNativePlants.com

Photo By: PerennialResource.com

Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)

Spotted orange petals peel back on the blooms of this eye-catching native bulb. Turk’s cap lily grows to heights of 7 feet in ideal conditions—with moist soil and full sun. Flowers appear atop stems in midsummer and beckon hummingbirds. Gardeners typically draft this easy-growing native for cottage or rain gardens. Plants are hardy in Zones 5 to 8.

Bigleaf Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus)

This member of the pea family stages an eye-catching display in late spring to early summer and is a bee favorite. Deep green leaves form a mound topped with spikes of blooms, usually in purple shades. Plants require evenly moist, acidic soil and frequently sprout alongside streams. Hardy in Zones 2 to 7, bigleaf lupine spreads easily and is considered invasive in some areas. Hybrids of the native type come in a variety of flower colors, including bright jewel tones and pastels.

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana clausa)

Striking blue flower buds never open on bottle gentian, which gives rise to its other name, closed gentian. Bumblebees are the only pollinators with strength to push past the closed petals. Flowers appear in autumn. Bottle gentian is hardy in Zones 3 to 7 and carefree once established. Deer, rabbits and underground varmints all leave this bitter plant alone.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

Classic golden daisy-like blooms open on this native wildflower in fall and linger until frost. Swamp sunflower blooms best in full sun but can grow in part shade, although plants will be lanky. This perennial grows 36 to 72 inches tall and wide and thrives in moist soil but can survive in well-drained soil, provided you water occasionally. Plants are hardy in Zones 6 to 9, but readily seen to Zone 3.

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)

This wildflower thrives in part to full shade garden with average, well-drained soil. Early spring blooms open in purple to pink shades and provide an important pollen source for bees. Plants are spring ephemerals and disappear as summer heat arrives. Shooting star forms drifts over time. Avoid waterlogged soils, especially those that drain poorly in winter. Plants are increasingly rare in the wild. Shooting star is hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)

For soggy and wet spots, count on turtlehead for reliable late summer to fall color. White flowers open on spikes atop plants that grow 24 to 36 inches tall by 18 to 24 inches wide. Blooms attract bees, hoverflies and Baltimore checkerspot butterflies, which use this wildflower as a larval food source. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 8 and prefer humusy soil and light shade. Plants will grow in deeper shade, but need staking.

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.

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Brighten fall with the colorful flowers of New England aster. Its cheery, daisy-like blooms open with 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.

'Gateway' Joe-Pye Weed

In its native setting, joe-pye weed occurs in moist meadows and thickets. In the garden, it thrives in moist, humusy soil enriched with organic matter. Butterflies can’t resist the pink flowers, which open from midsummer to early fall. Deer dislike joe-pye weed, which is hardy in Zones 4 to 8. Gateway is a shorter cultivar of the native plant, growing 4 to 5 feet tall.

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.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Dainty white bell-shaped blooms with green tips dangle beneath stems of Solomon’s seal in spring. Flowers provide an important early season nectar source for pollinators. Plants thrive in moist, well-drained soil in full to part shade. Once established, Solomon’s seal spreads to form lush colonies. Leaves turn a burnished gold in fall. This perennial is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

A must in butterfly gardens, swamp milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterfly adults visit blooms, along with many other pollinators. Flowers are typically pink, but you may spot some white blossoms on plants. 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.

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 24 to 48 inches tall and 24 to 36 inches wide. Harvest wild bergamot leaves to dry for tea.

Fringed Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)

Fringed bleeding heart opens pink flowers packed with nectar that beckons butterflies and hummingbirds. This woodland perennial thrives in part to full shade in rich, humusy soil. Plants self-sow freely, creating colonies. Remove spent flower stalks if you don’t want this bleeding heart to spread. Plants are rabbit-resistant and hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

A perennial favorite in cottage and cutting gardens, this native is an easy-growing beauty. Plants open flowers from midsummer into fall. Butterflies frequently blanket the blossom-packed flower heads. The native phlox typically grows from 24 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Many hybrids are available in assorted heights and flower colors. Garden phlox is hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Shop This Look