Native Flowers of the Northeast

Plentiful and Surprisingly Beautiful

Flowers of the Northeast covers an area from the maritime provinces of Canada, West to the Great Lakes region and Mississippi river and South to northern Tennessee and Virginia.

Eastern North America is essentially a vast plain, bisected down the middle by the older than dirt Appalachian mountain range.

Temperature extremes can vary greatly as U.S. agricultural growing zones indicate. You may live in a cold zone 2A or still ground freezing zone 6 and a rare 7B.

Temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer and well below zero in the cold months of January and February.

Plants endure monsoon type rains, droughts, humidity, and whatever else nature decides to throw our way.

These are some of the reasons it is important to go with natives when planting your wildlife gardens.

Gardening For Wildlife doesn't have to be boring or mundane.

To the contrary, many of our bloomers of the northeast and regional flowers offer attractive beauty in flowers and foliage.

When you plant natives, you are doing your native regions a favor and for sure offering so much good for our native wildlife.

If you live in rabbit and deer country, you can even plant some natives of the northeast that are deer and rabbit resistant. Plants like "Bee balm, Catmint and Butterfly-weed" are great examples.

As is the case with native trees and native shrubs, many of them cross regions and some are native throughout much of North America.

Are you planting a meadow?

An open wood shade type garden?

Maybe a drought tolerant garden is more your speed.

As with other plants, do your home work and plant like plant needs with like plant needs.

Sun with sun

Shade with shade

Water needs, soil types and so on.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of native flowers or wild flowers to chose from. Now it depends on you what you want.

Remember, put your personality into your gardens, you have to live with it everyday, not some landscaper.

It is impossible for me to name every plant yet alone show pictures of them all.

With that said, here are a few native perennials that you can't lose with and one or two may surprise you as being native.

Plants of the Northeast offer native wildlife shade gardens may offer several woodland plants like Trillium, Trout lily, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Dutchman's breeches, May apple and others like Blood root and Spring beauty and Wild-ginger.

Toss in some ferns and you have your own natural garden.

There is nothing like walking through a woods carpeted with these wild beauties.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

As far as natives go, it is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Butterfly weed does well in poor, dry soils.

New growth tends to emerge late in the spring. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Mature plants may freely self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open.

Butterfly weed

Butterfly weed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot, and is probably best left undisturbed once established.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Butterfly weed is a tuberous rooted, perennial which occurs in dry/rocky open woods, glades, prairies, fields and roadsides throughout.

It typically grows in a clump to 1-3' tall and features clusters (umbels) of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining, hairy stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves.

Unlike many of the other milkweed, this species does not have milky-sapped stems. Flowers give way to prominent, spindle-shaped seed pods (3-6" long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements.

Long bloom period from late spring throughout the summer. Blossoms are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Also commonly called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammation.


A must have in your butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or naturalized/native plant areas. Also effective in sunny borders. Whether massing plants in large drifts or sprinkling them throughout a prairie or meadow, butterfly weed is one of our showiest natives

Zones: 3 to 9

Native Range: Eastern and southern United States

Height: 1 to 2.5 feet

Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet

Bloom Time: June - August

Bloom Color: Yellow/orange and newer cultivars are now available

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

New England aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun. These flowers of the northeast prefer moist, rich soils. Good air circulation helps reduce incidence of foliar diseases.

Pinching back stems several times before mid-July will help control plant height, promote bushiness and perhaps obviate the need for staking. Easily grown from seed and may self-seed in the garden in optimum growing conditions.

Plants may be cut to the ground after flowering to prevent any unwanted self-seeding and/or if foliage has become unsightly

New England Aster

Noteworthy Characteristics:

New England aster is a native perennial which occurs in moist prairies, meadows, thickets, low valleys and stream banks throughout the. It is a stout, leafy plant typically growing 3-6' tall (unpinched) with a robust, upright habit.

Features a profuse bloom of daisy-like asters (to 1.5" diameter) with purple rays and yellow centers from late summer to early fall. Rough, hairy, lance-shaped leaves (to 4" long) clasp stiff, hairy stems. Flowers are attractive to butterflies.

No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to powdery mildew. Aster wilt can also be an occasional problem, particularly if plants are grown
in poorly-drained clay soils. Taller plants may require staking or other support.


You may want to plant along borders, native plant gardens, cottage gardens or butterfly gardens. Nurseries now sell many excellent cultivars of this species which are generally considered to be superior garden plants to the species.

Great for late season butterflies and seeds attract Goldfinches and other birds

Zones: 4 to 8

Native Range: Eastern North America

Height: 3 to 6 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: August - September

Bloom Color: Deep pink-purple

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Turtlehead (Chelone glabra )

Native Turtlehead (Chelone glabra )

Best if you grow them in moist to wet, rich, humusy soils in part shade. Appreciates a good composted leaf mulch, particularly in sunny areas.

Consider pinching back the stem ends in spring to reduce mature plant height, especially if growing plants in strongly shaded areas where they are more likely to need some support.

In optimum environments, however, staking is usually not required.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

This species of turtlehead is a stiffly erect, clump-forming, leafy-stemmed, native perennial which typically grows 2-3' tall and occurs
in moist woods, swampy areas and along streams. Hooded, snapdragon-like, two-lipped, white flowers with a tinge of pink appear in tight, spike-like terminal racemes from late summer into autumn. Flowers purportedly resemble turtle heads.


Shade or woodland gardens. Bog gardens. Pond or water garden peripheries. Wild flower or native plant gardens. Borders as long as the soil moisture requirements can be met.

Pollen for bees and hover flies.

Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly rely almost exclusively on this rare wetland plant as a food source.

Hardiness: zone 4

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Easily grown in rich, humus, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Needs constant moisture. Will tolerate full sun in cool, northern climates, but otherwise appreciates part shade.

Divide clumps in spring as needed. May self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Cardinal Flower

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Where would flowers of the northeast be without Cardinal flower. A native perennial through out the region which typically grows in moist locations along streams, sloughs, springs, swamps and in low wooded areas.

A somewhat short-lived, clump-forming perennial which features erect, terminal spikes (racemes) of large, cardinal red flowers on unbranched, alternate-leafed stalks rising typically to a height of 2-3' (infrequently to 4').

Tubular flowers are 2-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip.

Finely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 4" long). Late summer bloom period. These native
bloomers are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.


Provides late summer bloom to your perennial border, wild garden, native plant garden or woodland garden. Excellent for butterfly or bird (hummingbird) gardens. Also effective near ponds or streams.

Zones: 3 to 9

Native Range: North America

Height: 2 to 4 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: Scarlet red

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Low

American blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

These flowers of the northeast are easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. Typically forms colonies in the wild by both thick, slowly spreading rhizomes and self-seeding.

It may self-seed in gardens in optimum growing conditions.

Blue Verbena

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Blue vervain is a native perennial which commonly occurs in wet meadows, wet river bottom lands, stream banks, slough peripheries, fields and waste areas throughout.

It is a rough, clump-forming perennial with a stiff, upright habit which typically grows 2-4' tall (less frequently to 6') on square hairy stems which typically branch above.

Features candelabra-like inflorescences of erect, slender, pencil-like spikes (2-6" long) of tiny, tubular, 5-lobed, densely-packed, purplish-blue flowers (1/8" wide) which appear over a long July-September bloom period.

Flowers on each spike bloom bottom to top, only a few at a time. Lance-shaped, sharply toothed, green leaves (to 6" long).


Borders, meadows, prairies, native plant gardens or informal/naturalized areas.

Attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Provides seeds for birds and small mammals.

Zones: 3 to 8

Native Range: Eastern North America

Height: 2 to 6 feet

Spread: 1 to 2.5 feet

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: Purplish-blue

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Low

Turkscap lily

Lilium superbum (Turkscap lily)

Common Name: Turkscap lily

Zone: 5 to 8

Plant Type: Bulb

Family: Liliaceae

Native Range: Eastern United States

Height: 4 to 7 feet

Spread: 0.5 to 0.75 feet

Bloom Time: July

Bloom Color: Orange, spotted maroon

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Medium

Turkscap is easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part/filtered sun.

Best in consistently moist, humusy soils. Soils should not be allowed to dry out.

Mulch helps keep root zone cool.

Plant bulbs 5-6" deep in fall.

Bulbs are stoloniferous, and plants often spread to form impressive colonies in the wild.

May be slow to spread in cultivation, particularly when sited in less than optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics:


Turk's cap lily is native to eastern North America where it occurs in wet meadows and moist woods from New Hampshire south to Georgia and Alabama and around the Great Lakes Region.

This is the tallest of the native American lilies, typically growing 4-6' (less frequently to 8') tall. Elliptic to lance-shaped leaves (to 6" long) are arranged in whorls around the stems.

Downward-facing, nodding, Turk's cap-type, orange flowers (2.5 to 4" wide) with greenish throats are densely-spotted with maroon. Sharply-reflexed sepals and petals curve backward to touch at the stem thus forming a "Turk's cap".

Flowers appear in a loose inflorescence atop upright stems in early to mid summer.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Borders, cottage gardens, native plant gardens or meadows. Good plant for moist low spots or pond peripheries. Best grouped or massed.

Garden Phlox

Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)

Grow in moderately fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to light shade. Best in full sun. Prefers rich, moist, organic soils.

They need good air circulation (space well and thin out stems as needed) to help combat potential powdery mildew problems. Intolerant of drought and needs to be watered in dry spells.

Avoid overhead watering however. Appreciates a summer mulch which helps keep the root zone cool. Remove faded panicles to prolong bloom period and to prevent unwanted self-seeding (cultivars generally do not come true from seed).

Noteworthy Characteristics:

You will enjoy Garden phlox which typically grow in an upright clump to 3-4' tall. Fragrant, tubular flowers (1/2" to 1 inch diameter) with long corolla tubes and five flat petal-like lobes are pink with dark eyes.

Individual blooms are densely arranged in large, terminal, pyramidal clusters (panicles to 6-12" long) atop stiff, upright stems which seldom need staking. Long mid to late summer bloom sometimes extends into early fall.

Narrow, opposite, pointed, lance-shaped leaves (to 5" long). Good fresh cut flower.

The name phlox is derived from the Greek word for flame.

Phlox is not always an easy plant to grow well. Powdery mildew and root rot can be serious problems.

I have several phlox cultivars in my gardens and new varieties in my gardens where powdery mildew is not a problem.

For native flowers of the northeast, I think they are a must have too.


Garden phlox is a staple of the perennial border. Mixes well with other perennials and provides long summer bloom.

Regardless of flower color,(there are several cultivars now available) phlox is attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and is a good selection for inclusion in your bird garden as seed also offer food if you leave the heads on the plant.

There is a very attractive wild woodland Phlox ideal for the wildflower garden. Blooms are and attractive light blue and grows from a foot to a foot and a half tall.

Zones: 4 to 8

Native Range: Eastern United States

Height: 3 to 4 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: Pink with dark eye (Natural)

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Best if you grow it in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

Tolerates somewhat poor soils and some drought. Plants need good air circulation. Deadhead flowers to prolong summer bloom. Tends to self-seed.

Wild Bergamot

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Wild bergamot are common native flowers of the northeast.

Perennials which occurs in dryish soils on prairies, dry rocky woods and glade margins, unplanted fields and along roads and railroads.

A clump-forming, mint family member that grows typically to 2-4' tall. Lavender, two-lipped, tubular flowers appear in dense, globular, solitary, terminal heads atop square stems. Each head is subtended by (rests upon) a whorl of showy, pinkish, leafy bracts.

Blooms are attractive to bees and butterflies. The toothed, aromatic, oblong, grayish-green leaves (to 4") may be used in teas. Long summer bloom period.

Wild Monarda also comes in red and white in my neck of the woods


Powdery mildew can be a significant problem with the monarda, particularly in crowded gardens with poor air circulation. This species has good mildew resistance, however. Rust can also be a problem.


Provides color and contrast for your herb garden, wild garden, native plant garden, meadow or naturalized area.

May be used in your perennial garden as a border, but is simply a less colorful selection than the similar-in-appearance Monarda didyma and its many cultivars (the beebalms) some are now mildew resistant like "Marshall's delight" (pink) and "Jacob cline" (red).

Magnets for hummingbirds and butterflies makes this a must have if you want to attract them.

Zones: 3 to 9

Native Range: Canada, United States, Mexico

Height: 2 to 4 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: Pink/lavender

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Medium

Swamp Rose-mallow Hibiscus moscheutos (Hibiscus palustris)

Hardy hibiscus

These flowers of the northeast are easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. Best in moist, organically rich soils, but does surprisingly well in average garden soils as long as those soils are not allowed to dry out.

Regular deep watering is advisable. Tolerates some light shade, but full sun with good air circulation produces best flowers, strongest stems and the best environment for resisting potential diseases.

You may want to plant these in locations protected from wind to minimize risk of wind burn.

Deadhead to maintain plant appearance. Cut back stems to approximately 3-4" in late autumn.

New growth shoots are slow to emerge in spring. However, once new growth begins, it proceeds quite rapidly and plants will benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Shown here is 'Disco Belle Pink' is a compact, vigorous, sturdy, erect but somewhat shrubby, woody-based hibiscus cultivar that typically grows to only 2.5' tall and features dinner plate-sized, 5-petaled, hollyhock-like flowers (to 9" diameter) which are among the largest flowers produced by any perennial.

Many hibiscus can grow any where from 4 to 8 feet tall.

Flowers are pink on the edges fading to white with a deep pinkish-red central eye.

Each bloom has a prominent and showy pale yellow tubular central staminal column. Individual flowers are very short-lived (1-2 days), but one or more flowers usually open each day, in succession, over a long mid-summer to early fall bloom period.

Large, ovate, green leaves. Also commonly called rose mallow or swamp rose mallow.

Species is a U.S. native of marshes, swamps and stream banks from Massachusetts to Alabama and west to the Mississippi River. mallows also grow wild in Southern Ontario.

Several cultivars and hybrids now exist. Plant height can be as short as 2 feet to as tall as 8 feet, Check before you buy and avoid a surprise.

They are easy to grow from seed and bloom the second year.


No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to leaf spots, blights, rusts and canker. Japanese beetles, whiteflies and aphids are occasional insect visitors.

Japanese beetles can severely damage foliage if left unchecked. Leaf scorch will occur if soils are allowed to dry out. Healthy plants grown in the proper environment usually do not need staking.


Borders. Specimen, group or mass for landscape accent. Temporary hedge. Useful in low spots or wet areas in the landscape. Effective along streams or ponds.

Attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds. seeds offer food for birds in the winter.

Zones: 4 to 9

Native Range: Florida to parts of southern Ontario, west to the Mississippi River and parts in between

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: Pink with red eye (Native)

Height: 4 to 8 feet

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium to wet

Maintenance: Low

These plants are just a sample of what our natives have to offer you and your wildlife gardens.

Though they flourish in ideal conditions, you may look for drought tolerant plants. Black-eyed-susan, Coneflower, Yarrow and a host of other flowers of the northeast.

With a little time, effort and your imagination, you can offer up just about any type of wildlife garden that attracts birds, butterflies, other pollinators and even small mammals.

Be sure to offer shrubs and trees.

Fresh water is always a must in your wildlife gardens.

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