Since I was a youngster, native plants of both the prairie and the woodlands have been with me. I hunted them in my family’s native prairie pastures and wandered the woods. They have inspired me more and more through my years. And now, I sit on the board of directors of the Kansas Native Plant Society, a group dedicated to identification, exploration, learning, and the saving of our native wild areas in Kansas. Below, you will see my favorite natives for the landscape. These are all native plants that would do excellent in your yard and landscapes. Enjoy!
I met slender mountain mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, first while working at Grimm’s Gardens, when we brought it in to sell in the nursery. This small, clump-forming mint does not spread by rhizomes and will not take over your garden. This little plant will grow in part shade to full sun and spreads slowly by seed. Bees, wasps, and flies love the flowers.
My all time favorite Rudbeckia is R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eiler’s’, a selection discovered in Illinois. This tall rudbeckia grows 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, and will grow in full sun to part shade. It likes to be on the dry side, so plant it on a slope or in well-drained soil.
Speaking of rudbeckias, Missouri coneflower, R. missouriensis, is a shorter plant, similar to ‘Goldsturm’ but with better flower power. Blooms longer than most rudbeckias of similar size and grows in full sun to part shade.
Another wonderful rudbeckia is R. laciniata ‘Hortensia’. This double-flowered rudbeckia is tall, growing in part to full sun.
I always knew rough blazingstar (Liatris aspera) as dotted or button blazingstar, growing up in North Central Kansas. It amazing to see what different common names are given to plants. All blazingstars should be considered full sun, extremely drought tolerant.
When it comes to asters, there are too many to choose from, except for Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’. This selection of aromatic aster outshines all competitors, blooming longest and latest, right past first frost to hard freeze.
Clematis fremontii is a short, shrubby clematis, unlike the vining clematis everyone knows. It is one of the earliest plants to emerge in spring and small, bell shaped flowers begin opening in April. They grow best in dry, rocky soil, but do just fine in garden soils.
Purple milkweed, Asclepias purpurascens, is an early spring blooming milkweed, usually opening in late April or early May.
White false indigo, Baptisia lactea, is the last to bloom in the baptisia group, opening with tall, straight stalks which have flowers loved by bumblebees.
Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, is America’s favorite milkweed, and one of mine too. Brilliant orange flowers attract a variety of pollinators. Despite a lack of milky sap, this milkweed seems to have more caterpillars than others in my garden.
Tall thistle, Cirsium altissimum, is something most would not think of adding to the garden. While non-native thistles are invasive, the native thistles are wonderful for pollinators of all sorts.