Zones 3-8 Height 24″, width 12-24″. Full sun and well-drained, moist to dry soil. This Aster blooms late, September through October, and provides much needed nectar for bees that are still gathering the energy stores they will require to survive the long winter. Asters also feed many butterflies, including the much beloved Monarch, which during this time of the year is preparing to make the long journey to it’s wintering grounds in Mexico. Aromatic Aster is easy to grow, and unlike many asters, requires no staking, developing a mounded form that is as welcome in the formal landscape as it is in a wildflower prairie.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) “Indian Summer”
Zones 3-8 Height 2 feet, spacing 12-18″. Full sun to part shade, moist to dry soil.
Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Zones 4-9 Prefers full sun to light shade and moist to dry soil. Takes a few years to establish, but then becomes prominent in the landscape, growing up to 4 feet tall. Given some space and time, their blue-green foliage becomes a nice backdrop for summer-blooming perennials. Baptisia is sensitive to high pH, so if you have trouble with it, consider a soil amendment similar to what you would feed a holly or rhododendron.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Zones 3-9 Height 24-36inches. Sun to part-sun, moist to wet soil. While unobtrusive on its own, Boneset, with it’s triangular foliage and dainty, doily-like blooms blend well with other colors and textures in your flower garden. Very easy to grow, all members of this genus are valuable sources late summer nectar.
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Zones 3-9; Height 1-3 feet, width 12-18 inches. Full to part sun in well-drained soil. I’d just like to say outright that this flower is best planted in the fall. They are somewhat difficult to establish even then, but almost impossible to transplant successfully in spring, unless it’s before they break dormancy. The gorgeous orange blooms and lovely foliage are well worth the effort, however! Which explains why it remains a popular plant in garden centers. All members of the Asclepias genus are essential to the survival of Monarch butterflies. They are the only plants that the caterpillars will feed on.
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Zones 2-10 Height 2-5 feet, width 2-3 feet. Moist shade. The cinnamon fern features showy, cinnamon-colored, erect fronds in early spring followed by large, arching, brilliant green fronds the remainder of the growing season, making this an attractive addition to the moist shade garden. Pairs well with Golden Ragwort or Great Blue Lobelia. Will tolerate part sun if kept watered.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
Zones 4-9 Height 6-10 inches. Part-sun to shade in moist soil. Everyone, including pollinators and hummingbirds, loves phlox, with their happy, flat faces and bright pink color that fixes your gaze and transports you into a fanciful landscape like Mary Poppins. You may have seen groundcover type phlox growing in full sun; these are moss phlox, a different sub-group within this variable genus. Creeping phlox is a woodland plant and prefers mostly shady spots.
Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
Zones 3-9 Height 2-3 feet. Full sun to part sun in moist to average soil. This hardy, long-lived perennial produces a strong stem with thin, closely set leaves. The spike flowers at the top first, then the lower ones open, moving down towards the base over several weeks. This plant is both an important nectar source (favored by butterflies) and an abundant supplier of seeds for birds during winter!
Early Sunflower (aka Oxeye) (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Zones 3-9;Height 3-4 feet. Full to part sun in moist to dry soil. Oxeye is a carefree and reliable producer of bright golden-yellow blooms in great quantities, much like Rudbeckia only a little taller, on multi-branching stems. When the pollinators are done with it, birds gobble up the ensuing seeds.
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Zones 3-9 Height 3-10 inches, ground cover. Sun to shade, moist soil. A superb ground cover for the woodland landscape. Similar to Heuchera, with medium green, deeply veined leaves and an airy, frothy wand of white flowers. Excellent companion for Creeping Phlox, Dicentra or Trillium. Spreads quickly by stem runners.
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)
Zones 4-8 Height 3-6 feet, spacing 3 feet. Grows in part sun to shade in moist soil. A superb nectar plant! Grows best in dappled shade or morning sun. Tall plumes of airy white flowers, sometimes over 12” high, form over large, attractive deep green leaves. A common sight in the Appalachians.
Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)
Zones 4-9 Height 1-3 feet, spacing 12 inches. Full sun to light shade in moist to wet soil. Carefree plants that do best in moist soil. Lovely flat topped, yellow flowers are produced in late spring. Zizia is one of the larval host plants for the majestic Black Swallowtail butterfly.
Golden Ragwort, aka Golden Groundsel (Packera or Senecio aurea)
Zones 4-9 Height -12 inches, spacing 12 inches. Easily grown in full sun to shade in moist, well-drained soil. An attractive ground cover with bright yellow, daisy like flowers in clusters, about 2-3” above the basal leaves in spring. Spreads both by seed and roots to form dense colonies.
Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
Zones 5-9 Height 6-12 inches, ground cover. Part sun to shade, moist to dry. Semi-evergreen ground cover, that produces a mound of bright yellow happy faces, beginning in mid-spring. Like a strawberry, the plants spread by sending out new shoots that set root a few inches away. Continues to bloom sporadically until hard frost.
Helen’s Flower (Helenium autumnale)
Zones 3-8 Height 2-4 feet, spacing up to 3 feet. Full sun in moist, well-drained soil.
New York Ironweed (Vernonia novaboracensis)
Zones 3-9 Height 4-6 feet (shorter in dryer soil), spacing 3-4 feet. Full to part sun, moist to wet soil. Ironweed is a robust wildflower, reaching toward the sky with clusters of intense purple, finely petaled blooms for the whole month of September. Attracts many butterflies and combines nicely with sunflowers, New England aster or boneset.
Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)
Zones 3-8 Height 2-5 feet, spacing 2 feet. Full sun to part shade in moist soil.
Prostrate Blue Violet (Viola walteri) “Silver Gem”
Zones 6-8; Ground cover for part to full shade. Moist to dry soil.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Zones 3-9 Height 24-40 inches, spacing 12-18 inches. Full to part sun, in moist to moderately dry soil. A favorite nectar plant for midseason butterflies. Goldfinches love to perc on the stems and devour the ripened seeds. The root of this plant can be used to build the immune system in humans. Everyone wins!
Round Headed Bush Clover (Lespedeza capitata)
Zones 3-8 Height 2-4 feet, spacing 12-18 inches. Full to part sun in moderately dry to dry soil.
Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis)
Zones 3-9 Height 1-3 feet, spacing 12-16 inches. Full to part sun in moist to dry conditions.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis)
Zones 4-9 Height 24-36″, spacing 12-18″. Full sun to part shade in moist to dry, well-drained soil.
Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata)
Zones 4-8 Height 1-2′, spacing 12-18″ Full to part sun in moist to dry, well-drained soil.
Tall White Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
Zones 3-9 Height 24-42 inches, spacing 14-18 inches. Full sun to light shade in moist soil. Penstemons are hollow stemmed, which means they can be used by pollinators as winter shelter. Beardtongue is best used in a mixed border. It is tall, robust and multi-stemmed, with many tiers of small, tubular, white flowers that make a great landing pad for pollinators and hummingbirds!
Thinleaf Sunflower, aka Ten Petaled Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)
Zones 4-9 Height 3-5 feet, spreads by rhizomes. Full sun to part shade in moist to dry, well-drained soil. Blooms late summer into fall, producing 3-10 flower heads with yellow petals. Attracts many butterflies, some of which use the plant for a larval host, and the seeds provide a source of food for birds.
Threadleaf Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Zones 5-9 Height 30-40″, spacing 2-3′. Full to part sun in moist soil. A graceful and long-lived native plant with very fine foliage, clusters of steel blue flowers in May and June on an upright, bushy plant. Lovely apricot gold fall color. Thrives in full sun or part shade. No insect or pest problems.
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Zones 3-9; Height 10-24″, spacing 8-12″. Full sun to light shade in well drained soil.