Plant of the Week: Western Ironweed

Western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) is our Plant of the Week for the second week of November. Even though bloom time is past, this perennial native has great fall and winter interest.

Western ironweed with butterfly
Common checkered skipper on Western Ironweed

There are many ironweeds native to North America, but Vernonia baldwinii is most widespread. This pollinator-friendly plant attracts many bees and butterflies to its royal purple flowers. The short-blooming flowers open in July and August.

It grows 3 to 7 feet tall and forms a clump 2 to 5 feet wide. If planted into a garden area, it may reseed vigorously. However, if you have it mixed into a prairie, meadow, or well-maintained garden, it is a nice addition.

Western ironweed seedhead
Western Ironweed seedheads are pretty in floral arrangements and winter snows. If you look carefully, you will find a grasshopper, a skipper butterfly, a wavy-lined emerald moth, and a spotted cucumber beetle on this plant, despite flowering being over.

There are a few moths that use it as a host plant. It can also get powdery mildew in very wet summers, if planted in a perennial garden.

Maintenance on ironweed is easy. You can prune it down by 1/3 in early summer to keep it smaller in height. Or you can stake it if you do not have supporting plants nearby. In late winter, cut it to the ground.

You can buy Western ironweed from us at Or check out our natives section at 2991 Goldfinch Road, Hiawatha, KS or our garden center in Nebraska City, NE.

Happy planting!

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