Great Design Plant: Ironweed Fills Tall Garden Orders

I am constantly on the lookout for native plants I don’t find in gardens but that I do see outside in the wilderness. Ironweed is a unique plant that is as tough as nails, provides three-season attention and attracts beneficial insects within an wildlife-inspired backyard.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Botanical name: Vernonia fasciculata
Common title: Ironweed
Origin: Native in areas from the eastern Fantastic Plains through the Midwest
Where it will grow: Hardy to -30 degrees Fahrenheit (USDA zones 4 to 9; locate your zone)
Water requirement: Medium to moist clay and loam soils
Light requirement: Full sun, some shade okay
Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide
Advantages and tolerances: Easy-care perennial; tall, slender profile; attracts native butterflies and bees; ornamental seed heads
Seasonal attention: Great two- to four-week bloom period in late summer, when nearly everything else is drowsy, followed by strong stalks that include lasting winter attention
When to plant: Spring to fall

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Distinguishing attributes. There are all those ironweed species in the U.S. which it’s easy to locate one for your locale — some are a little taller than many others, some have slightly different blooms or fuzzier leaves, however love moist to moderate clay and normal garden soil. In full sun they stand stout and powerful, lifting their butterfly-attracting blooms into a safe space beneficial insects appear to love. So if it’s the widespread fasciculata, the eastern noveborancensis, the central missurica or the eastern gigantea (5 to 8 feet tall), there’s an ironweed for you.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

How to use it. Taller plants are inclined to get set in the back of the border, but ironweed has this kind of slender frame, I believe it’d do well at the center or in a finger sticking out from a border. It is perfect for rain gardens however, like most adaptable natives, can take some short-term drought (it might grow a bit shorter if too dry). The iron-colored seed heads are ornamental in mid-fall.

Planting notes. You are able to plant ironweed any time of year. Fall is the best time to plant anything, however, because the cooler temperatures are easier on you and the plants, and the warm dirt lingers into late fall, allowing the roots to stretch out and create a fuller, stronger, ready-to-go plant in spring.

More: 3 Ways Native Plants Create Gardening So Much Better

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