Minnesota Native Perennials

By incorporating natives or cultivars of native plants, you can increase the biodiversity within your area of the world. Here are just a few plants that are native to our great state of Minnesota that are beautiful additions to the landscape in both their species form and the cultivars bred from them.

All varieties of asclepias native to Minnesota are larval hosts to the Monarch butterfly. Asclepias tuberosa, with its bright orange blooms, is the most striking of them and its compact size will fit in most gardens. A. incarnata can get very tall and as indicated by its common name, swamp milkweed, prefers a moist area to grow. The cultivars ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Ice Ballet’ have pink and white flowers, respectively, and are slightly more compact than the species. Common milkweed or a. syriaca is very common in our part of the state. This is the one I remember from my childhood, opening the pods and blowing the seeds and their fluff around!

Geum trifolium
After blooming, this petite perennial forms unique seed heads that look like little puffs of smoke floating above its mounded foliage. Plant this towards the front of your flower bed so that it doesn’t get lost among the larger plants. It prefers dry soil and full sun but will also grow in light shade.

Or blazing star is a spike flowering perennial that is a nectar host for many of our native butterflies and other insects. L. ligulistylis and l. pychnostachya are very tall and suited for the middle to back of the sunny garden. They bloom from the top down from July to September and grow well in poor soil.

Great blue lobelia
Blooms from July to September with tall spikes of blue flowers. It enjoys moist to wet soil and will grow in sun to part shade, colonizing where it is happy.

Garden phlox
Phlox paniculata has beautiful purple blooms atop tall stems. They have a long bloom time which is appreciated by many different insects, and they make wonderful cut flowers. If purple doesn’t fit into your color scheme or if the native phlox is too tall for you garden, you can choose from the many of the cultivars that bloom in a range of colors and size. There is truly one for any sunny garden. These cultivars are also more mildew resistant than the species. Whichever phlox you decide to plant, good air circulation is very important.  

Native Grasses
When talking about native plants, we can’t forget grasses. Grasses bring interest to your landscape with the color and shape of their foliage throughout the season and seed heads during fall and winter.

Little Bluestem ‘Blue Heaven’ is a cultivar of our native little bluestem grass. This was introduced by the University of Minnesota and while the species is a great plant, ‘Blue Heaven’ has a more upright form and consistent foliage color than the species.

Prairie Dropseed is a lovely mounding grass with the fragrant, arching flower stems. This low maintenance prairie grass is good for naturalizing hot dry areas and its graceful form is a welcome accent in the urban landscape.