Hey there, green thumbs! Are you ready to turn your garden into a showcase of Iowa’s native beauty? Iowa’s native plants are not only stunning, they’re perfectly suited for the state’s climate, making them an excellent choice for local gardening projects.
Plus, they’re great for supporting local ecosystems. A well-planned garden full of native flowers can attract pollinators, provide habitats for small creatures, and add a splash of color that’ll make your neighbors green with envy!
Now, let’s start our horticultural journey through the prairies, wetlands, and woodlands of Iowa. I’m about to introduce you to 14 native flowers that’ll get your garden buzzing (literally, if you attract some bees).
Don your gardening gloves, fill your watering cans, and let’s get planting!
1. Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum):
Our first beauty is a perennial known as Prairie Smoke. This whimsical plant got its name due to the feathery, smoke-like seed heads that appear after the flowers fade.
With its darling red to pink blossoms and foliage that turns a brilliant red in fall, this plant makes your garden look like it’s blushing. It’s also pretty easygoing, preferring well-drained soil and full sun.
2. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea):
The Purple Coneflower is like the pageant queen of the prairie. With its large, vibrant purple petals and show-stopping, spiky central cone, it’s hard not to give this beauty a crown.
This perennial is a bee and butterfly favorite, and it enjoys full sun and well-drained soil. Plus, it’s a self-seeder, so expect to see a loyal return year after year.
3. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa):
Wild Bergamot, also known as Bee Balm, is a true Iowa native. It produces clusters of lavender flowers that smell like Earl Grey tea – perfect for any tea lovers out there.
This perennial thrives in sunny spots with well-drained soil. Bonus: it’s known for its medicinal properties. Got a headache? Brew some Bee Balm tea.
4. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa):
If you love butterflies, plant Butterfly Milkweed. Its vibrant orange flowers are butterfly magnets. Plus, it’s a crucial food source for monarch caterpillars. This drought-tolerant beauty prefers full sun and well-drained soils. Note: this plant comes with a free magic show, where caterpillars turn into butterflies!
5. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis):
The Cardinal Flower is like a beacon of red light in your garden, attracting hummingbirds like a magnet. This vibrant, tall perennial loves wet, rich soil and can thrive in partial shade. Be ready to have a hummingbird version of “Starbucks” right in your backyard!
6. Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum):
If you fancy something a bit more mysterious, try Jack-in-the-Pulpit. This woodland wildflower has an intriguing structure, with a striped, hood-like spathe that curves over a club-shaped spadix (the “Jack”).
It loves shady, moist conditions. Jack-in-the-Pulpit is like the undercover agent of your garden – not stealing the spotlight, but definitely worth a second look.
7. Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis):
Wild Columbine is a delicate woodland flower with a graceful, drooping form. Its red and yellow bell-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds and bees alike. It enjoys partial shade and well-drained soil. Consider this the “bells of your ball” – elegant, pretty, and utterly enchanting.
8. Spiderwort (Tradescantia):
Spiderwort, despite its creepy-crawly name, has beautiful, bright blue to purple flowers. This hardy perennial thrives in various conditions, from full sun to partial shade, and is not picky about soil. Talk about an easy houseguest. But don’t let it near your spiders, we don’t want them getting any ideas.
9. Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa):
Goldenrod is an autumn star, bursting into bright yellow plumes as the weather cools. It’s a favorite amongst bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. This sun-loving plant is also very adaptable and hardy, making it an excellent choice for the novice gardener.
10. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae):
As summer fades, the New England Aster takes the stage. Its vibrant purple blooms can breathe new life into your autumn garden. Plus, it’s a valuable nectar source for bees and butterflies preparing for winter.
11. Wild Rose (Rosa blanda):
Wild Rose is a fragrant, charming shrub producing pink blooms in early summer. It loves full sun and well-drained soils. The blossoms make way for red fruits (rose hips) that provide food for birds in winter.
12. Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor):
The Blue Flag Iris is a true diva. Its striking, bluish-purple blooms add a touch of sophistication to your garden. This iris enjoys having its “feet” wet, making it perfect for a water garden or a wet spot in your landscape.
13. Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens):
The Pasque Flower is one of the earliest spring bloomers, often popping up through snow. Its purple-blue flowers and feathery seed heads add texture and color to your garden. This plant is the fashionably early guest at your garden party.
14. Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata):
Last but not least, Woodland Phlox offers a carpet of star-shaped, fragrant blue-violet flowers in the spring. This shade-loving perennial is an excellent ground cover for your woodland garden.
Iowa Gardening Tips
Congratulations, you’ve now been introduced to the fabulous world of Iowa’s native flowers! But before you rush out to the garden center, here are a few tips to make your garden a blooming success:
Understand Your Garden:
Not all gardens are created equal. Sunlight, soil type, moisture levels – all these factors can vary drastically from one garden to another. Pay attention to these conditions in your garden before selecting your plants. Each species on our list has its preferences.
For instance, the Cardinal Flower loves wet, rich soil and can thrive in partial shade, while the Butterfly Milkweed prefers well-drained soils and full sun. Understanding these conditions is like getting a tailor-made suit; it fits perfectly and looks fabulous!
While Iowa’s native plants are often praised for their drought tolerance, they still need to be nurtured, especially in the early stages. During their first growing season, water them regularly to help them establish a strong root system. But remember, moderation is key.
Think of it as training wheels on a bicycle – necessary at first, but soon enough, they’ll be pedaling on their own.
Practice Sustainable Gardening:
Sustainable gardening is like the golden rule of the garden world – treat the earth as you’d like to be treated. Avoid using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They can harm not only the soil but also the insects and birds that your garden aims to attract.
Remember, a healthy garden is not one devoid of insects, but one where beneficial insects are thriving. It’s a fine balance, kind of like nature’s own version of a neighborhood watch program.
Planting a variety of flowers is like throwing a fantastic party – the more diverse, the better. Different flowers will attract different types of pollinators, from bees and butterflies to birds. This not only helps with pollination but also supports local wildlife.
Plus, nothing beats the sight of a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, or a butterfly landing delicately on a bloom. It’s nature’s own live-action movie playing right in your backyard!
Patience is a Virtue:
Gardening is a game of patience. Unlike annuals, perennials might not dazzle you with their full glory in the first year. It might take a few years for them to establish and reach their full size.
But believe me, when they do, it’s a sight to behold. Think of it as a botanical version of a dramatic movie reveal. So hang in there, sit back, and enjoy watching your garden grow into its full, flourishing potential.
Ready to transform your garden into a stunning display of Iowa’s native flowers? These 14 species offer an array of colors, shapes, and sizes to suit any garden. Remember, gardening is more than just a hobby; it’s a way of contributing to your local ecosystem.
So go ahead, let your garden bloom with the authentic charm of Iowa’s native plants. Happy planting, and may your green thumb thrive!