Grow Southern Wildflowers for Easy-Care Beauty

Fill your garden with the low-maintenance beauty of native wildflowers.

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Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

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Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

A springtime favorite, Virginia bluebells appear in early spring, blanketing the ground in a carpet of lavender-blue blooms. The bell-shaped flowers start as pink buds that open pink and slowly fade to blue. Plants grow 18 to 24 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. This is a spring ephemeral wildflower, which means that plants completely disappear by midsummer. Use bluebells to fill in shady areas with rich, moist soil. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

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.

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.

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Yellow trout lily is a dainty bloomer, growing 3 to 6 inches tall and wide. In early spring, yellow lily-like flowers appear above trout-ish leaves: green speckled with brown spots. Choose this wildflower for a moist spot in full to part shade. When plants are happy, they’ll spread to form colonies. Plants disappear and become dormant in late spring. This wildflower is hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

Southern Monkshood (Aconitum uncinatum)

This is a wildflower to include in your garden for a pop of fall color. Petals are formed to resemble the head covering a monk would pull over his head. Site plants in full sun to part shade, where they’ll grow 24 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Southern monkshood, while native to the South, is hardy in Zones 3 to 8. All plant parts on this perennial are poisonous.

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.

Fireworks Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’)

The floral fireworks start in late summer and linger into mid-autumn on this cultivar of a native wildflower. Golden plumes attract all kinds of pollinators. Site this deer-resistsant plant in full sun. It makes a strong addition to a rain garden. The true native goldenrod is a lanky plant, but this cultivar grows in a tidy clump 30 to 36 inches tall and wide. Keep plants even shorter by pruning stems by up to one-third by July 1. Fireworks is hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

Blue River II Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Blue River II’)

Dinner-plate size white blooms make hardy hibiscus a conversation starter in the landscape. Flowers appear from July to September. Blue River II is a cultivar of the native wildflower, but like all hardy hibiscus, it performs best when soil stays consistently moist and full sun bathes the plant. Cut plants back to 3 to 4 inches in late fall. This hibiscus is hardy in Zones 4 to 9; provide winter protection in coldest zones.

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.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

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.

Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Woodland phlox forms carpets of blue in early spring throughout southern forests. The blossoms provide an important food source for early-season pollinators—bees love these flowers. In the garden, give plants a shady spot in soil that’s moist but well-drained and filled with organic matter. Woodland phlox spreads easily and makes an excellent ground cover. Plants benefit from summer mulch and are hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

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 Spotted Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

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.

Shellflower (Chelone lyonii)

For a long flower show, plant shellflower. This wildflower prefers moist soil in full sun, but can adapt to well-drained soils in light shade. Pink flowers appear in July and continue through September. Blooms resemble an open-mouthed turtle head poking from its shell. Plants grow 24 to 48 inches tall and 18 to 30 inches wide. This beauty is hardy in Zones 3 to 8.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Beautiful purple flower spikes appear in late spring to early summer on this shrubby perennial. Leaves have a pretty blue-green tint and make a nice addition to bouquets. Blue false indigo establishes slowly and dislikes being moved, so take time to site it carefully. Give plants full sun, and keep an eye out for caterpillars. Many butterflies use this plant as host food for their caterpillar larvae. False indigo is hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

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