There are many reasons to plant a native garden.  Here in Iowa native plants are prairie plants and they are some of the toughest plants we can grow.  They require low water, little maintenance, and adapt well to our sometimes not so perfect soils.  There are also plants that are “like-native” that are just as important to use in our landscapes, even if they aren’t the true natives.


Photo Courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

Let me start with my favorite native. Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa most definitely tops the list.  This is one of the last things to emerge in my garden in the spring, but once it breaks the surface it grows “like a weed” and blooms for a month in the hottest part of the summer.  There are very few flowers that you get this true brilliant orange from, and this one is one of the easiest to grow!

They do not like wet feet and would prefer to be in a sandy soil.  Full sun is a must, just like on the open prairie.  They combine well with yarrow, liatris, and coreopsis.You will find these in the road ditches in Iowa in mid to late summer.  They can reseed, but are usually not a nuisance.  The seedheads are also unique and can be left on for some winter interest.


Photo Courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

 One of my other favorite natives I am selling this spring is Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium.  Rattlesnake Master has a unique mound of basal foliage that resembles a yucca, but the foliage is much softer and more arching.  Then the best part is the globular flowers in clusters atop 2–3′ tall stems.

Once these flowers come out they stay all season, and well into winter for some winter interest.


Rattlesnake-Master2Now for a few of the native-like perennials I like.  The first is Kobold Liatris.  Related to the native, however a shorter, much more compact plant.  Once again, for full sun and the only maintenance I do to this one is deadheading, just to tidy things up a bit.  It doesn’t do much for me in the fall and winter, so I like to get it out of the way of other showy features in my native-like garden. Here is was blooming in sync with butterfly milkweed and coreopsis…what a combo!


Goldenrod, Solgidago spp. would be considered a weed to some, but this cultivated variety, Fireworks Goldenrod is awesome in the background of my fall native-like garden.  The spikey yellow flowers jump out at you and compliment the fuzzy Flame Grass, Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ nearby.


And I think I’ll close this post with a true native.  The native Prairie Smoke, Geum triflorum.  It is one of the first things to bloom in spring and is great for the front of the border.  I’ve had no problems with it reseeding, but the clumps have grown quite fast and may need dividing every 4–5 years.  The “smokes” last well into summer and then the foliage just stays a nice low mound the rest of the season.


I will be selling plants inside North Grand Mall on Friday, April 29th 5-9pm, Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1st, regular mall hours.  Please stop by to see what I’ve got growing!  There is sure to be something you need to add in your garden or perennial border.