Flowers of the Prairie and Great Plains
are Tough and Beautiful.



Flowers of the Prairie and Great Plains are too many to name on this page.

The bread basket of America.

Can you imagine this.............

When the first European settlers crossed into what is now "The Great Plains," they were probably astonished by what they saw.

Landscapes that resembled the Savannas of Africa with large trees dotting the grasslands.

When they looked upon hundreds of miles of only grasslands, the best name they could find for this alien environment was prairie, (the French word for meadow).

We now know that this vast Meadow has a complex ecosystem that suits the specific requirements of living on what we have come to call the Great Plains.

The flora of these grasslands exists under an extreme variety of topographic, moisture and soil conditions.

Understanding the conditions will aid in the preservation and proliferation our native species.

It is hoped that the re-introduction to native flora will be the start of a deeper appreciation and understanding of this now rare and valuable resource.

Flowering plants and wildlife have to be tough enough to survive everything nature can dish out.

From triple digit highs to sub zero temperatures and everything in between.

Droughts, floods, tornadoes, and other weather conditions that can bless or punish this land.

Toss in various soils or growing conditions and you have a variety of growing conditions.

Xeric- Somewhat excessively drained and excessively drained soils; usually are sand or soils containing rock or gravel.

Mesic- Moderately well drained and well drained soils are soils that neither dry out nor tend to flood.

Hydric- Imperfectly or poorly drained soils are those from which water is removed so slowly that the soils are saturated and water remains at or near the surface for long periods of time.

These soil types along with slope conditions will determine which flowers and plants to choose for your planting.

If you are inventive or industrious, several different sets of conditions can be created

You can build a low wet area or bog by borrowing soil from an area or impounding water,.

You can create a dry area by hauling in sand, rock or even larger pieces of limestone).

Your method of site preparation will be dependent on your soils and topography, previous land use, equipment and available time.

Before you begin, take time to walk your site and determine what you would like to accomplish with your planting.

Do you want some wildlife cover, flower gardens, landscaping, erosion control.

Whatever your end result is too be, from a pre settlement representation too a low maintenance flower garden, have a preliminary plan in mind before you start.

Try to select your site the fall before you intend to plant.

This will allow you to begin eliminating preparing a plan and perhaps collecting seed.

Prairie plants will do quite well on a variety of soil types without adding fertilizer.

In fact, the use of fertilizer is discouraged especially during the initial establishment phase.

Fertilization will only provide nutrients for competitive weeds that slow the establishment of your prairie planting.

The prairies cover a large territory, from parts of Canada, South to Texas.

This vast land has a wade variety of native flowers and you may need to do some research to find some natives you are happy with and will survive What nature dishes out.

You may want to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife, or just do your part to help restore the native land.

Your choice could be as simple as native Wild petunia (Ruellia humilis) that attracts butterflies or something that adds a real splash to your wildlife gardens.

Be sure to check out other regions, as many native flowers cross over region to region.

I can't cover all of the natural beauties, but here are a few native flowers for you to look at.

The are many varieties of Penstemons that cover much of the Great Plains.

Penstemon digitalis

Penstemon digitalis

Common Name: beard tongue

Zone: 3 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Scrophulariaceae

Native Range: Eastern United States to North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Height: 3 to 5 feet

Spread: 1.5 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: April - June

Bloom Color: White

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Medium

General Culture:

Grow in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Avoid wet, poorly drained soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

This penstemon is a clump-forming perennial which typically grows 3-5' tall and occurs in prairies, fields, wood margins, open woods and along railroad tracks.

Features white, two-lipped, tubular flowers (to 1.25" long) borne in panicles atop erect, rigid stems.

Blooms mid-spring to early summer.

Basal leaves are elliptic and stem leaves are lance-shaped to oblong.

Penstemon in Greek means five stamens (four are fertile and one is sterile). Penstemon is sometimes commonly called beard tongue because the sterile stamen has a tuft of small hairs.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Root rot can occur in wet, poorly-drained soils. Leaf spots are occasional problems.

Uses:

Mass in sunny borders, wild gardens, native plant gardens or naturalized areas.

One of the more hardy Penstemons.

Attracts butterflies and birds.

Penstemon cobaea purple

Penstemon cobaea

Common Name: dew flower

Zone: 5 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Scrophulariaceae

Native Range: South-central United States To
South Dakota and Oklahoma

Height: 1 to 2 feet

Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet

Bloom Time: May

Bloom Color: White, pink to violet

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Avoid wet, poorly-drained soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

This penstemon is a clump-forming perennial which occurs on prairies, limestone glades and rocky bluffs.

Typically grows 1-2.5' tall. Features loose, terminal panicles of white to violet to deep purple, 2" long, tubular flowers atop erect, rigid, downy stems.

Blooms in mid-spring and are somewhat larger than most penstemons. Downy, clasping, lance-shaped upper leaves.

Sometimes commonly called beard tongue because the sterile stamen has a tuft of small hairs.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Root rot can occur in wet, poorly-drained soils.

Uses:

Sunny borders, rock gardens, native plant gardens and wild gardens.

Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and other birds for seed.

Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie blazing star)

Liatris pycnostachya

Common Name: prairie blazing star

Zone: 3 to 9

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Asteraceae

Native Range:: Central and southeastern United States

Height: 2 to 5 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: July - August

Bloom Color: Lilac-purple

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

Attracts birds, hummingbirds and butterflies.

It also is a wonderful cut flower.

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun.

Tolerant of poor soils, drought, summer heat and humidity.

Intolerant of wet soils in winter. Sometimes treated as a biennial.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Prairie blazing star is perhaps the tallest Liatris species in cultivation, typically growing 2-4' tall (infrequently to 5').

It is an upright, clump-forming, commonly occurs in prairies, open woods, meadows and along railroad tracks and roads.

Features rounded, fluffy, deep rose-purple flower heads (each to 3/4" across) which are crowded into terminal spikes (to 20" long) atop thickly-leafed, rigid flower stalks.

Stalks arise from basal tufts of narrow, lance-shaped leaves (to 12" long). Blooms generally open top to bottom on the spikes.

Blooms open in summer.

Liatris belongs to the aster family, with each flower head having only fluffy disk flowers (resembling "blazing stars") and no rays.

Pycnostachya means "crowded" in Greek, in probable reference to the arrangement of both flower heads and leaves.

This species is distinguished from other Liatris species by its reflexed, long-tipped involucral bracts.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Spikes usually will need staking.

Uses:

Perennial borders, cutting gardens, wild gardens, native plant gardens, naturalized areas, prairies or meadows.

Some consider this species almost too tall (and somewhat unmanageable) for the border.

Helianthus divarictus (perennial sunflower)

Helianthus divaricatus

Common Name: sunflower

Zone: 3 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Asteraceae

Native Range: Eastern United States, Great Plains, Canada

Height: 2 to 6 feet

Spread: 1 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: July - September

Bloom Color: Yellow rays with darker yellow center disk

Sun: Part shade

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Low

Showy flowers attract birds and butterflies.

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in part shade.

Tolerant of wide range of soil conditions.

Spreads over time by creeping rhizomes to form colonies.

Divide every 3-4 years to control invasiveness and maintain vigor.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

This sunflower species is a native plant that occurs in open rocky woodlands and thickets.

Features 2" wide sunflowers with bright yellow rays and slightly darker yellow center disks atop rigid stems typically growing 2-6' tall.

Smooth stems and sessile or short-stalked leaves (to 6") are the distinguishing characteristics of this species.

Blooms from mid summer to fall.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Taller plants may need staking.

Uses:

Partially shaded border, wild or native plant garden, or naturalized planting.

Attracts butterflies and birds (especially goldfinches).

Similar to its cousin Heliopsis helianthoides.

Dalea purpurea (Purple prairie clover)

Dalea purpurea

Common Name: purple prairie clover

Zone: 3 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Fabaceae

Native Range: Eastern and central United States

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet

Bloom Time: June - August

Bloom Color: Rose/Purple

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Low

Attracts bees and butterflies.

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun.

Thick and deep taproot enables this plant to tolerate drought well.

May self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Purple prairie clover is a native which occurs in glades, rocky open woods and prairies throughout.

Typically grows 1-3' tall, it features tiny purple blossoms in dense, cone-like heads (to 2" long) atop erect, wiry stems in summer.

Compound, odd-pinnate leaves, with 3-5 narrow linear leaflets.

A nitrogen-fixing plant that is an important component of Midwestern prairie restorations.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems.

Uses:

Rock gardens, borders, native plant gardens, wild gardens, prairie or naturalized areas.

Coreopsis lanceolata (tickseed)

Coreopsis lanceolata

Common Name: tickseed

Zone: 4 to 9

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Asteraceae

Native Range: Central and southeastern United States

Height: 1 to 2 feet

Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet

Bloom Time: May - July

Bloom Color: Yellow

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Medium

Attracts birds and butterflies.

Many excellent cultivars of this species are available in commerce.

General Culture:

Easily grown in dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun.

Thrives in poor, sandy or rocky soils with good drainage.

Tolerant of heat, humidity and drought. Prompt deadheading of spent stalks encourages additional bloom and prevents any unwanted self-seeding.

Freely self-seeds, and in optimum growing conditions will naturalize to form large colonies.

Plants may be cut back hard in summer if foliage sprawls or becomes unkempt.

If grown in borders, division may be needed every 2-3 years to maintain robustness.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Lanceleaf coreopsis is a native wildflower which typically grows to 2' tall and occurs in prairies, glades, fields and roadsides.

Features solitary, yellow, daisy-like flowers (1-2" diameter) with eight yellow rays (toothed at the tips) and flat yellow center disks.

Blooms atop slender, erect stems from spring to early summer.

Narrow, hairy, lance-shaped leaves (2-6" long) appear primarily near the base of the plant in basal tufts.

Lower basal leaves are mostly entire, while smaller stem leaves may be pinnately lobed.

Plants in the genus Coreopsis are sometimes commonly called lanceleaf tickseed in reference to the resemblance of the seeds to ticks.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems.

Can be an invasive self-seeder.

Tends to sprawl, particularly if grown in moist and/or fertile soils.

Crown rot may occur if grown in moist, poorly drained soils.

Uses:

Best naturalized in native wildflower gardens, meadows or prairies.

Good plant for areas with poor, dry soils.

Can be effective in borders, but self-seeding tendencies must be kept in check.

Verbena hastata (American blue vervain)

Verbena hastata

Common Name: American blue vervain

Zone: 3 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Verbenaceae

Native Range:Prairie and 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

Attractive to butterflies, bees and seeds for birds.

General Culture:

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.

May self-seed in gardens in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Blue vervain is a perennial which commonly occurs in wet meadows, wet river bottomlands, stream banks, slough peripheries, fields and waste areas throughout the prairies.

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.

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

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems.

Uses:

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

Silene regia (Royal catchfly)

Silene regia

Common Name: royal catchfly

Zone: 5 to 8

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Native Range: Central and Southern United States

Height: 3 to 4 feet

Spread: 1.5 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: July - August

Bloom Color: Scarlet

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Dry to medium

Maintenance: Medium

General Culture:

Grow in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers a sandy or gravelly soil. Excellent drainage is essential for growing this plant.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Few plants in cultivation can rival the captivating true red of American native Silene regia, or Royal Catchfly. This perennial inhabitant of meadow, open woodland, and prairie will also succeed beautifully in many home garden settings, from the natural/native landscape to the formal border. As its bloom time can be upwards of two months, it will provide interest for a good portion of the season.

Royal catchfly is a native wildflower which occurs in dry, rocky soils in open woods, wood margins and prairies. A clump-forming perennial which grows 3-4' tall. Small clusters of 5-petaled, scarlet red blooms (2" across) appear in summer. Sticky calyx can trap or "catch" small insects, hence the common name. Long, slender, often reclining stems. 10-20 pairs of downy, lance-shaped leaves (to 5" long). Similar to fire pink (Silene virginica), except royal catchfly is taller and blooms later, leaves are thicker and blossom petals lack notches.

The showy plants attract hummingbirds, not just for the nectar, but for the small insects the plants trap.

Silene is in the same family as Lychnis and Dianthus.

Uses:

Best in part shade areas of wildflower gardens, native plant gardens, woodland gardens or cottage gardens. Can also be grown in borders.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems and taller plants may need some support.

coneflowers (Echinacea),

Several species of Prairies flowers and their cultivars could fill your pallet with colors, size and hardiness. It is just a matter of you looking and learning as to what is native and what you want.

There are several species of milkweed (Asclepias) to choose from to attract Monarchs and other butterflies.

Hyssops (Agastache -- pronounced ag-ah-stak-ee) attract hummingbirds and are deer resistant as well.

Look at native Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium), coneflowers (Echinacea), blanketflowers (Gaillardia), anemones, geraniums (Cranesbill), sages
and many, many other natives
to add color and attract wildlife to your gardens.

Our native Prairie plants and blossoms offer beauty and a toughness that introduced species can't match.

If your local garden centers offer little in the way of natives, get a hold of your county extension office or check online.

You will be amazed at the wide variety and diversification in North American plants.

Be sure to look at surrounding regions for plant ideas, as many native plants cross regions and even the continent.

Are native trees and shrubs in your plans?

They should be.

Click on the links below to learn more on wildlife gardens, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Share Your Passions, with 'SBI'

Bird Gardens

Many Flowers of the Northeast are Pairie plants

Mountain and Basin Natives

Bloomers of the Southeast May Fit Your Needs

Hummingbird Flowers

Tips and Ideas for Feeding Hummingbirds

A Butterfly Fiendly Yard

Native Trees of the Praire and Great Plains

Shrubs of the Prairie for Wildlife

offer Fresh Water for all Your Wildlie

Enjoy Feeding Birds More


Gardens, birds, Butterflies and more.

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