15 Native Plants for the Midwestern Garden

Add low-maintenance beauty to your yard with these tough native plants.

Kelly D. Norris


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Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis
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Columbine

    An adaptable plant that does well in sun or shade, native columbine offers dainty red and yellow-spurred flowers loved by butterflies and hummingbirds alike.

    Name: Aquilegia canadensis

    Growing Conditions: Sun or shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit

    Try this enchanting plant in your shade garden. Its hooded, green flowers arise to reveal little Jack poking out against rusty red markings on the inside of the "pulpit." If you're lucky, the flowers will set bright red clusters of berries in the fall for an extra season of interest.

    Name: Arisaema triphyllum

    Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

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Blue Sage

    In early fall, sections of the prairies become sky-blue thanks to the lovely flowers of blue sage. Add this easy perennial to your garden and enjoy its glorious color.

    Name: Salvia pitcheri

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

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Spiderwort

    Spiderworts are charming, versatile spring-blooming perennials with grassy foliage and three-petaled flowers. One of our favorites is 'Sweet Kate', which pairs cobalt blue flowers with neon, chartreuse foliage.

    Name: Tradescantia sp.

    Growing Conditions: Sun or shade and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

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Butterfly Weed

    There's a lot to love about this prairie plant. It's pest, disease, and drought resistant. Plus, it attracts scores of butterflies (including monarchs, whose caterpillars will happily eat the leaves). Its electric-orange flowers sing in the summer garden.

    Name: Asclepias tuberosa

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 4-10

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Goldenrod

    A spectacular charmer in the fall garden, goldenrod bears fluffy clusters of golden-yellow blooms. One of our favorite selections is 'Fireworks' (named because of the shape of the bloom clusters).

    Name: Solidago sp.

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall, depending on variety

    Zones: 4-8

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Swamp Milkweed

    Milkweeds are butterfly favorites and this one is no exception. Despite its common name, swamp milkweed doesn't mind average garden conditions. Showy pink flowers appear in mid-summer and attract monarch butterflies.

    Name: Asclepias incarnata

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, moist to average soils

    Size: To 5 feet tall

    Zones: 3-6

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Penstemon

    A topnotch perennial, this penstemon offers gorgeous burgundy-tinged foliage and clusters of white flowers in early summer.

    Name: Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

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Compass Plant

    Try compass plant for a dramatic presence in the summer garden. Yellow, sunflower-shaped blooms sit atop towering, 9-foot stems. This incredibly drought-tolerant plant has earned its moniker because the plant aligns itself north to south to conserve water on hot summer days.

    Name: Silphium laciniatum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil

    Size: To 9 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

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Little Bluestem

    One of our all-time favorite grasses, we love little bluestem's bronze-kissed, blue-gray foliage through spring and summer. Then in fall, the blades turn a gorgeous shade of purple-bronze and continue to look good all winter.

    Name: Schizachyrium scoparium

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 3-9

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Wild Anemone

    This easy-to-grow, easy-to-love plant thrives in moist soils rich in organic matter. Its large white flowers are a highlight of the spring border. A vigorous groundcover, it can happily fill in a large space within a growing season.

    Name: Anemone canadensis

    Growing Conditions: Part sun to shade, well-drained soil

    Size: To 2 feet tall

    Zones: 3-9

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Pale Purple Coneflower

    There are a boatload of coneflower varieties on the market, but one great, under-used variety is pale purple coneflower. This top-notch plant bears pink flowers in mid-summer. The bloom color is enhanced by the dark, raspberry-red cones at the center of each bloom. Note: Like many coneflowers, it will self-seed and produce a nice colony in your landscape.

    Name: Echinacea pallida

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil

    Size: To 40 inches tall

    Zones: 3-10

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Poppy Mallow

    This incredible groundcover bears bright wine-red flowers all summer long. Poppy mallow is long lived, drought tolerant, and pest-free. It's perfect for the front of the border or scrambling over a rock wall.

    Name: Callirhoe involucrata

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, well-drained to dry soil

    Size: To 8 inches tall

    Zones: 4-8

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Culver's Root

    This native perennial loves water. Good companion plants for this tall, white-flowered plant include cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). Tolerant of light shade, Culver's root will attract butterflies to your garden.

    Name: Veronicastrum virginicum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade, moist soils

    Size: To 6 feet tall

    Zones: 4-7

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Bloodroot

    A quaint ephemeral, bloodroot blooms in early spring producing white, daisy-shaped flowers. The foliage looks like bigfoot's pawprint, but goes dormant by summer (so plant it with Jack-in-the-pulpit so you don't have a bare spot in the garden).

    Name: Sanguinaria canadensis

    Growing Conditions: Shade and well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall

    Zones: 3-10

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