Smooth fleabane (Erigeron glabellus)
Very charming Aster relative with soft lavender-pink flowers with yellow centers. It will form a patch up to 18” tall and wide. The blooms appear throughout the summer, and deadheading is recommended as it self-seeds readily. Attracts bees and butterflies. Prefers slightly moist conditions in sun to part shade.
Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
This is the preferred milkweed species if you want to grow a native one, as it is not invasive. Forms a tall, bushy clump of grey-green leaves up to 3-4’ x 3-4’, topped with clusters of starry, pale pink flowers in late summer and fall. Milkweed is the most important plant you can grow if you want to attract monarch butterflies, as they use it as a food source in all stages of their life cycle, and they only lay their eggs on these plants. Does best in full sun, with moist, well-drained soil.
Meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis)
This is considered the second-best plant, after milkweed, to grow to attract monarchs. The adults LOVE to hang around these plants and feed on their nectar. Reportedly much more effective than the more commonly offered Liatris spicata cultivars. It produces clusters of bright pink flowers along tall spikes up to 3 feet, rising above robust tufts of hairy leaves. Excellent in moist, well-drained soil and sun to part shade.
Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum)
Charming and seldom-used native with low clumps of divided leaves and clusters of dusky pink-purple, bell-shaped flowers in late spring to early summer rising above the foliage. This plant gets its name from the fluffy seedheads that appear afterwards, which have a smoky appearance. Plants grow to 15” tall and 12” wide. Moist, well-drained soil, seems to do best in light shade but adaptable to sun.
Star-flowered Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum)
The native ‘Solomon’s seal’ are not the same as garden Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum) and perhaps not as grand, but they have a subtle beauty in their own right. This common woodland species produces fairly tall stems to about 2 feet high (usually shorter) with a ladder-like leaf arrangement and star-shaped, white flowers in early summer. Black berries appear later in the season. This is a bullet-proof plant that is capable of spreading underground, but is not usually terribly aggressive and can easily be controlled. Excellent for dry shade, as well as more moist areas.
Western wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum)
One of our most treasured and spectacular native plants, our only native lily species, and a very rare and sought-after plant. Quite unlike more traditional lilies, these grow from a naturally small bulb that constantly forms offsets, over time developing a nice clump. The leaves are whorled and the stems are topped with one to several large, cup-shaped flowers, appearing in June. The blooms are orange, orange-red, or scarlet-red in color, with a yellow throat and black spots, and often have a nice fragrance. These plants have a reputation for being a bit of a challenge to grow, especially after being transplanted from the wild. The key is a cool, moist, sandy soil in light shade.