6 Easy-Care Midwest Native Plants
Chicago gardener Charlotte Adelman wondered why butterflies ignored her flowers. Turns out, her plants were imported. She replaced them with easy-care natives that attract beneficial insects and birds and shared the findings in her book, The Midwestern Native Garden. Try her top six regional picks for long-lasting, carefree blooms in your yard.
Her list begins with orange butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Blooms Juicy reddish-orange blossoms erupt early summer. Foliage lasts through fall.
Attracts Butterflies and hummingbirds. "Milkweeds prevent monarch butterflies from going extinct," Charlotte says. It's the only place they'll lay eggs.
Coneflower (Echinacea and Rudbeckia spp.)
Blooms Striking purple, orange or pink petals decorate these daisylike prairie plants. Expect blooms all summer. Purple coneflower and orange coneflower are especially showy picks.
Attracts Hummingbirds and butterflies feed on its nectar; goldfinches flock to its seeds.
Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
Blooms This tall woodland plant offers clusters of pink or purple flowers from July to September.
Attracts Adult butterflies love its nectar. It also draws bees and seed-eating birds, such as goldfinches and mourning doves.
Bee balm (Monarda spp.)
Blooms Unique spidery dark pink, red or purple blossoms command attention summer to fall.
Attracts "It has a specialist pollinator: a small black bee," Charlotte says. "They coevolved, so without bee balm, we wouldn't have these bees." Butterflies and hummingbirds adore bee balm, too.
Switchgrass (Panicum spp.)
Blooms Shaped like a fountain, this prairie grass delights from summer to winter. Expect soft blue-green foliage in the summer, followed by golden or spicy red tones in the fall and faded colors in the winter. "Grasses are such a natural choice for our prairie landscapes," Charlotte says.
Attracts Many butterflies and skippers lay their eggs on native grasses.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Blooms This late-summer to late-fall bloomer exudes cheer with its mustard yellow flowers. Try well-behaved stiff goldenrod or Ohio goldenrod.
Attracts Bees and at least 18 butterfly species, such as the painted lady and giant swallowtail. "They even attract their own moth: the goldenrod flower moth," Charlotte adds. Native sparrows and goldfinches devour the seeds.