Growing Wild

Interested in stocking your home garden with native wildflowers? Shop the largest selection of native Missouri wildflowers available in the St. Louis area at Shaw Nature Reserve’s annual spring and fall wildflower markets.

As spring flowers pop up all around, you may be eager to bring some of that beauty to your own backyard. Classic garden flowers like marigolds, petunias, and begonias are wonderful for adding a pop of color to your yard, but native wildflowers can add that splash of vibrancy along with many other benefits for your backyard and beyond.

In your backyard there are several practical perks of using native plants. Because they evolved to live in this climate, native plants are low maintenance. They require minimal watering under most circumstances, and don’t need chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They also absorb rainwater and can help if you have trouble with stormwater runoff. And, as perennial plants, they will bloom for multiple seasons and don’t need to be replaced year after year.

Native plants also play an essential role in promoting biodiversity. They attract essential pollinators and provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and other animals throughout the growing season. If you have children, they can provide lessons about plant cycles, seasons, and wildlife. They also can provide a sense of place and a connection with nature.

And, perhaps most important to many home gardeners, native plants provide beauty. Wildflowers come in all shapes, sizes, and vivid colors. They can be arranged to create a dynamic and unique landscape in your yard.

If you’re looking to start your own wildflower garden at home, Scott Woodbury, the Manager of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve, recommends starting with the below plants. With a variety of bloom times, this combination of wildflowers can keep your garden bright and cheery from spring to fall.

  1. Rose verbena
    This clumping, sprawling plant grows 6 to 18 inches tall and can spread rather quickly to form an attractive ground cover. Rose verbena also works well as edging or in containers or hanging baskets.  It has dark green leaves and  clusters of rose-pink and rose-purple flowers that  bloom from late spring to late summer. While rose verbena is a perennial, it is a short lived perennial that won’t last many seasons.

  2. Butterfly milkweed
    A favorite of pollinators, perhaps most notably monarch butterflies, butterfly milkweed is easily grown from seed.  They are slow to establish, some taking 2 to 3 years to produce flowers, but mature plants grow 1 to 3 feet in height and have showy bright orange to yellow-orange flowers that bloom from late spring to late summer.

  3. Purple coneflower
  4. Showy daisy-like purple coneflowers bloom throughout the summer and typically grow between 2 and 4 feet tall. The blooms attract butterflies and birds. In winter, if flower heads aren’t removed, the blackened cones may be visited by goldfinches or other birds that feed on the seed. The purple coneflower is an adaptable plant that is tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil.
  1. Aromatic aster
    A late summer bloomer, aromatic aster is another favorite of butterflies. The pollinators are attracted to the small daisy-like flowers with violet blue rays and yellow center disks. Aromatic aster is easily grown in average soil in full sun. The low-growing plants, which grow 1 to 2 feet high, can generally tolerate poor soils and drought.

  2. Orange coneflower
    This free-blooming coneflower typically grows to 3 feet tall and often forms colonies in the wild. In your yard, orange coneflowers can be easily grown in dry to medium soil in full sun, though it can tolerate some shade. Orange coneflowers grow 3 feet tall and bloom from June to October,  producing flowers with yellow rays and brownish-purple center disks.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

Leave a Reply