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Using Iowa Natives in the Landscape

butterfly on Purple Prairie Clover Ted Lare

Native Plants are a vital part of the ecosystem; they provide food, shelter, and the perfect habitat for pollinators. And that’s only one of the many reasons to use native plants in your landscaping. 

Native plants are adapted to our climate, and so they still look beautiful during the hottest parts of the summer, when more delicate flowers are struggling to bloom. This also means they don’t require extra care and can survive on our normal rainfall levels, so they’ll help you save water. These plants are a perfect choice if you want an easy way to support a natural ecosystem. 

The perennials listed below are an excellent choice for beginners or advanced gardeners who want to add some low-maintenance beauty to the garden!    

 

Grey Headed Coneflower, Showy Goldenrod, and New England Aster Ted lare

Grey Headed Coneflower
While Coneflower is in the name, this is actually a different plant entirely! These have smaller, yellow star-like flowers. They bloom in abundance in mid-summer and grow to about 4-5′ tall and 3′ wide. They need a minimum of 6 hours of sun, the more the better. Bees love these and, and they’re a host plant for Checkerspot butterflies!

 

Showy Goldenrod
Beautiful cones of tiny yellow flowers bloom on tall stalks in the later months of summer. These are extremely drought-tolerant, and an important food source for butterflies heading south in late summer. Some Goldenrod spread, but not these, they are clump-forming and well behaved. The plant grows to about 4′ tall and 2′ wide. Plant in full sun for best performance.

 

New England Aster
These asters have wonderful purple-pink flowers in early to mid-fall. These are a beautiful shock of color in the garden when other flowers are starting to fade. They are also an important food source for migrating monarchs and other butterflies. The flowers resemble small daisies. The Purple Dome variety grows to about 3′ by 3′, but wild varieties grow to around 4′ tall and wide. Asters need a minimum half-day of sun, but a full day is what they enjoy the most. 

Virginia Blue Bells, Baptisia, and Penstemon Ted Lare

Virginia Bluebells
These little blue flowers grow in clusters and look like bells. These shade lovers will do best in a full shade location, and they’re a favorite with bees. They grow to around 1′ tall and 6″ wide, though sometimes bigger. These bloom in the spring and early summer, then go dormant during the heat of the later summer months. 

 

Baptisia
Resembling lupines with their tall flower spikes, these plants get quite large. They can get up to 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Baptisia is exceptionally hardy. These bee-favorites are available in several colors, including blue, yellow, white, and purple. They do best in full or part sun. 

 

Penstemon
Penstemons are like a smaller version of foxgloves, though they’re not available in as many colors. The flowers are white, and plants are available with green or purple leaves, and they’re popular with bees and hummingbirds. They grow to about 4′ tall, and 2′ wide, and are a great tall statement for the middle of the garden. Penstemon does best in full sun.

Ironweed, Beebalm, Purple Prairie Clover Ted Lare


Ironweed 
Ironweed flowers are a rich purple on top of strong, dark green stems. It’s a showstopper when it blooms from mid-summer to late-fall. This stately plant, up to 4′ tall, is a favorite for bees and butterflies. Ironweed does self-seed, so you may want to deadhead spent blooms to keep it contained. 

 

Bee Balm
Bee Balm is a pollinator favorite that comes in a wide range of colors from lavender to red to rich dark purple. This perennial can spread, but there are new varieties available that are more compact and stay in a well-behaved clump. They range in height from 2′ to 4′ tall. Bee Balm like full sun, but will tolerate some shade. The lavender blooms seem to be the most popular with bees, while red is best for hummingbirds. Native bees often overwinter in the hollow stems of Bee Balm.

 

Purple Prairie Clover 
Clusters of bright, purple flowers adorn this mounding plant in mid-summer, and the bees love it. They get to around 3′ tall by 2′ wide. The foliage is a unique addition to the garden because it is soft and fern-like, adding some finer texture to balance out coarser plants. Full sun is best for Prairie Clover.

 

Mountain Mint, Little Bluestem, and Big Bluestem Ted Lare


Mountain Mint
The refreshing scent of mint floats in the air when you brush by this plant, but it isn’t aggressive like other mints. This mint is tough and can survive in wet or dry locations. It will grow to about 3′ tall and 2′ wide, and is happy in full to part sun. The tiny flowers are popular with some of our largest native pollinators in Iowa. These big insects can be a little scary, but they’re really just gentle giants, with no desire to hurt us.

 

Little Bluestem 
Grasses don’t offer showy flowers, but they’re still very important to pollinators. Grasses provide shelter during high winds and even homes for some, like Skipper butterflies. Little Bluestem is a short native grass that grows to about 3′ tall 2′ wide. In the fall, the foliage turns orangey-yellow, and the fluffy seedheads appear all up and down the stems. Little Bluestem performs best in full sun locations.

 

Big Bluestem 
It’s got a similar name, but Big Bluestem is actually quite different. It’s a bit bigger, growing to 5′ tall and 3′ wide. It does have a similar bluish color and turns orangey-yellow in the fall. The seedheads form at the top of the stalks of Big Bluestem. It does best in full sun.

 

Pennsylvania Sedge  
This is a gorgeous, slowly spreading groundcover with a grass-like appearance. It’s semi-evergreen, and the foliage stays lush, even through a drought. It grows to about 8″ tall and prefers full shade locations, but it can also tolerate some sun. 

 

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The Best Perennials for All-Summer Color

perennial salvia-ted lare

Our early spring blooming perennials are starting to wind down in Iowa, and we’re heading into summer. Flower gardens are looking fresh and full across the state, but as we head into the hottest months, some of those spring and early summer blooms are starting to fade a bit in the intensity of summer heat. 

There are actually quite a few different perennials that bloom beautifully for a long time and can withstand our hottest summer temperatures. Here are some of our favorite summer-blooming perennials to add long-lasting color to your garden.

 

garden phlox, daylily, shasta daisy ted lare

Garden Phlox 

Phlox usually starts blooming in mid-July, and it keeps producing clumps of pretty flowers on tall stalks, overlapping with many fall-blooming perennials. Phlox does self-seed, so keep up with deadheading. Garden Phlox is available in a wide variety of colors like pink, red, purple, orange, and white.

Reblooming Daylily

Most daylilies only bloom for a couple of weeks each summer, but reblooming cultivars bloom multiple times in a season. There are two types; early/late bloomers and successive bloomers. Early/late bloomers usually flower in the spring and then again in the late summer or fall. Successive blooming daylilies produce batches of blooms, one shortly after another for several months. Reblooming varieties are available in a wide range of colors.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta daisy is an underrated summer blooming perennial. They’re usually white, making them versatile for pairing with other plants, and they’re a long-blooming, pollinator-friendly perennial. Daisies add a touch of classic simplicity to flower gardens. They bloom from July through the fall, with flower stems up to 3-4 feet tall.

 

perennial salvia, russian sage, yarrow ted lare

Perennial Salvia

The Salvia family of plants includes both perennials and annuals. Salvia nemorosa, Salvia × sylvestris, and Salvia farinacea are perennial varieties. Salvia blooms for most of the summer, and if you keep up with deadheading you can extend their season even longer. 

Russian Sage

Russian Sage has a bit of a different look, with its many tiny purple flowers on thin spikes. While its foliage and flowers might be delicate and wispy, the plant manages to take up quite a bit of space. It can get as tall as 5′, and sprawl nearly as wide. 

Yarrow

Yarrow is a classic summer blooming perennial. It’s soft fern-like foliage sets off clusters of brightly colored flowers, from 1-3 feet tall. Yarrow is available in pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges. Yarrow does tend to naturalize and spread itself quite efficiently, making it ideal for pollinator gardens, xeriscaping, and re-wilding larger properties. 

 

coneflower, coreopis, allium ted lare

Coneflower

Coneflowers are another reliable all-summer bloomer, starting in June and going right through August, and beyond if the weather stays good. They do get quite tall, sometimes reaching heights of up 5 feet. Coneflowers are available in a wide variety of colors, including pink, purple, white, orange, yellow, red, and even green.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis produces small daisy-like flowers above fine, fern-like foliage. Heights vary a lot from one type to the next. Coreopsis bloom most of the summer, and when the flowers start to go off in late summer, you can encourage a second blooming by shearing back up to ⅓ of the whole plant. 

Allium

Alliums are truly a multi-season plant. While they don’t necessarily bloom all season long, their unique globe-like flowers turn into striking seedheads that provide beautiful visual interest all summer and stay standing in the winter. Most alliums come in shades of purple, but they’re also available in a wide variety of other colors. Different varieties feature varying shades of red, pink, white, and yellow. There are also early- and late-blooming varieties available. 


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Summer-blooming perennials can help carry our gardens through the hottest days of the year, when other plants might struggle with the heat. They’ll also keep the garden looking great when you don’t want to spend a ton of time deadheading, pruning, or weeding under the hot sun! Check out the
perennial selection at our garden center to add a few of these summer-bloomers to your Des Moines garden. 

 

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Grow Your Own Bouquets: The Best Flowers for Your Cutting Garden

Having a bouquet of fresh flowers on your counter, desk, or kitchen table brings positive energy and vibrant color into your home. Catching a glimpse from the corner of your eye as you pass by, or taking in a deep breath of their fresh scents will make you smile and help you relax. However, buying a fresh bouquet every week is a big expense! Cutting flowers from your garden and creating your own arrangements is affordable, rewarding, and easy to personalize. You get to pick your favorite blooms while they’re still fresh, their scents are much stronger than store-bought flowers, and you can enjoy the tactile experience of arranging them yourself. You’ll also get to update your vases whenever you want to feature the freshest blooms in your garden. Better yet, regularly harvesting your flowers for fresh-cut bouquets encourages many plants to produce even more blooms!

Plan your planting this summer so that you can have beautiful bouquets all season long from your cutting garden of Iowa annuals and perennials! You’ll be able to enjoy fresh, gorgeous arrangements in every room of the house.

Here are our top plant picks for a gorgeous cutting garden: 

 

Hardy Perennials

Incrediball Hydrangea is a stunner all on its own, even without other flowers around it. It has giant flowerheads loaded with tiny white blooms. The flowerheads can reach up to 12″ wide! This perfectly-named plant is an excellent hedging perennial that blooms on new wood.

Lilies are a reliable and elegant perennial choice. Both Asiatic & Oriental lilies are hardy for Iowa and available in many colors. Most lilies bloom quite profusely, and their bold blooms stand out in any bouquet.

Peonies are an early-blooming perennial favorite that are powerful on their own or in an arrangement. The large, almost dinnerplate-sized blossoms feature seemingly endless layers of petals and are available in a range of shades, including reds, pinks, whites, and even purples.

Coreopsis, also known as tickseed, is an easy-care prairie-native perennial. They bloom in bursts throughout the summer and well into the fall. Their tall blooms, in shades of yellow, orange, pink, red, and white, can add height and texture to bouquets.

Black-Eyed Susan is another native perennial prairie dweller. It’s available in a variety of shades like orange, red, yellow, and white, with single or double blooms. They bloom for months and are super easy to grow. 

Garden Phlox is a profusely blooming perennial, often producing from summer until well into the fall. Available in shades of white, pink, and purple, and some gorgeous variegated options, Phlox fills out the midlevel of a bouquet, helping the whole arrangement make a statement.

Yarrow is an incredibly easy perennial to grow. Its clusters of tiny blossoms are around all summer long and can have a similar effect to baby’s breath in a bouquet. Yarrow is available in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, red, orange, and yellow. The delicate frond-type leaves of yarrow also make an excellent greenery addition to arrangements.

Shasta Daisies are a classic cutting garden perennial. Whether you use them in bouquets, or to make daisy crowns, they’re a cutting garden must-have! They bloom all summer, and cutting the flowers will encourage more blooms. 

 

Bulbs

Dahlias have a strong personality (in the best way!) and are available in every color you can imagine—from rich, deep shades to pale pastels, and everything in between. Single or double-blossom, every dahlia is striking and makes every bouquet a joy to look at it. 

Gladiolus are easy to grow and exude drama, confidence, and stamina. If you cut gladiolus just as its first blossom is starting to open and keep their water fresh, they’ll last for weeks in a vase. They’re an excellent statement flower that adds height to a bouquet.

 

Annuals from Seeds

Zinnias are annuals that are nearly foolproof to grow from seed and will bloom all summer long. They’re available in almost any shade and variegation and also come in specialty varieties with unique petal shapes.  

Cosmos are also easy to grow from seed and are likely to self-seed and come back every year. Their pretty pink, white, or purple daisy-like blossoms add a delicate note to fresh-cut bouquets.

Sunflowers are a diverse family of annuals. There are small ones designed for cutting that fit perfectly into a full garden bouquet, and there are much larger ones that act as a dramatic feature for a themed arrangement. The leaves of sunflowers are great for adding greenery to your cutting bouquets.

Love in a Mist, also known as Nigella, is unique, almost strange, and yet delicate and ethereal. They’re a self-seeder and are great for multi-season arrangements. Of course, the fresh blooms are beautiful, and the delicate fennel-like leaves add elegant texture. When the growing season comes to an end, the dried seed heads look fantastic in fall or winter arrangements. 

Start planning your cutting garden now so that you can fill your home, your office, and your friends’ homes with gorgeous arrangements from spring to late fall! Pop by our garden center for some more inspiration or tips from our expert staff. 

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Best Iowa Perennials for Fall Blooming

Iowa fall perennial flowers with butterfly

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus

Slowly, but surely, the days are getting shorter and soon our nights will be getting colder, as well. Summer is passing in a swift, hot haze and soon will change to the crisp beauty of a color-changing fall. While spring and summer are the traditionally thought “gardening season”, there is still plenty of beauty to be had in autumn, as well! Here are some of our favorites for fall in Iowa.

Pictured below: Japanese Anemone

Iowa fall perennial japanese anemoni

Japanese Anemone:

Japanese Anemones are one of many Asiatic beauties that have made the journey to North America to dazzle in our gardens. They produce deep, dark mounds of green foliage with long-stemmed, buttercup flowers that shoot upward like a star. They are relatively low-maintenance and are excellent choices for planting in boggy spots, since they don’t mind getting their feet wet. Plant them in partial shade and you can enjoy their lovely spring colors – like the rosy double blooms of the Pamina – right up to the first frost.

Joe Pye Weed:

While it may be called a weed, this flower is one you won’t want to pull from your garden. The gorgeous plumes are lined with large, serrated leaves and bunches of beautiful purple-red flowers. They are low-maintenance, attractive to butterflies, and you can find them in a variety of sizes – like the tall, elegant Gateway that can grow to 6’ tall! Give them full to partial sun and keep the soil moist for the most amazing growth all season.

Pictured below: Toad Lily

Iowa fall perennial toad lily

Sedum:

Also known as Stonecrop, this unique flower makes an interesting combination of flower and succulent. Thick, fleshy foliage makes up the dense groundcover this plant provides, but perched atop the leaves are delicate clusters of tiny flowers in varying hues of pinks and reds. Pollinators simply love them in the late season and their low-maintenance care makes them a simple fit for any garden – especially the radiant raspberry red of the Dazzleberry. They thrive in full to partial shade with occasional watering.

Toad Lily:

Toad Lilies are a captivating plant with a distinctive look to dazzle in the garden. The stunning star-shaped flowers feature a myriad of speckles that almost make it appear like a toad’s skin and sit atop a mound of green, oval leaves. They come in many amazing colors, including a beautiful powder blue dotted with purple called the Blue Wonder. To enjoy these tremendous lilies, plant them in partial to full shade and keep the soil evenly moist.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Pictured below: Turtlehead

Iowa fall Perennial Turtle head

Turtlehead:

Turtlehead flowers get their name from their unmistakable resemblance to a turtle’s head poking out of its shell. The little petals sprout from a green cone and hood together on top and bottom to form a little head with a mouth. While the blooms come in bright colors, like the hot pink Hot Lips, the foliage is dark and glossy, creating beautiful, tropical contrast in the garden. Just like their namesake, these plants like to be wet, making them great additions to sunny, boggy areas or surrounding a pond.

When autumn comes, your garden doesn’t have to end. These perennials will give your garden a perfect touch of color and brightness right until the first frost for an everlasting season. To explore more fall favorites, take a look at our perennial blooming calendar for Iowa or visit us in-store today!

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3 Reasons to Trim Back Your Annuals

A little pruning now and then keeps it healthy, but you shouldn’t pull it out and chop the roots up.“
– Len Goodman

Some of us feel a little timid when it comes to trimming back our beloved annuals. These bold bloomers captivate our hearts and backyards in their precious, short growing season and we can be nervous to start cutting away their blossoms. It’s time to be brave and grab the trimmers, though, because cutting back your annuals will rejuvenate them for the end of the growing season, boasting bigger, better, and healthier growth into the fall.

Once summer has embraced its best months and we start thinking about the fall and back-to-school season just around the corner, our star annuals that were lush and dense with vibrant color might be looking a little lackluster, despite some of our best efforts. A well-timed pruning can actually give them a second life by trimming the dead weight! Don’t spare the scissors, because they can give your favorite flowers new life to last longer in their prime right into fall:

Pictured below: Petunias

purple and white petunias in a pot

Reason 1: Some of Your Plants Can’t Take the Heat:

When we walk into a garden center to pick out our favorite blooms, we tend to fall in love with the look of our plants first. But a garden center is a bit like the United Nations of plants – something from the depths of the Amazon jungle might be on the shelf beside a desert dweller.

Your petunias are from South America, while Chrysanthemums come from China, and Rosemary originates from Mediterranean countries, like Italy. While they all come from different homelands, we adopt them here in Iowa and group them together in our own container designs. They might survive next to each other in a container, but some plants have some very different needs from each other.

Pictured below: Alyssum

Hibiscus yellow orange flower

While you’ve probably taken into account the most extreme needs when planting, once the season is in full swing the smaller differences become much more apparent. Annuals from temperate climates will thrive in the cooler nights of spring and fall while folding under the heat of July and August. Classics like Pansies and Violas, Osteospermum, Geraniums, Nemesia, Alyssum, and Snapdragons love cool temperatures and might not be looking their best by this point in the summer.

Once they start to struggle in the heat, they’ll benefit from a generous haircut and some fertilization. Your heat-lovers will be free to put on the best show they can in the rest of the hottest summer days, while the summer pruning will set up your cool-temperature plants to perform again as the days cool into fall. Without this trimming, they’d be too exhausted to even make an attempt at reviving in the fall. By pruning now, you invest in better color, later into the season. Your garden could still bloom with enthusiasm after your heat-lovers finish their season.

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Reason 2: Garden Interventions:

In the gardens of our childhood, your local garden center might have offered a maximum of 12 different annuals, known then as “bedding plants”. From those 12, you would make your selections, plant your annuals, and wait for them to bloom. It was formulaic, it was predictable, and it was easy to follow without negotiating different types of flowers, growing habits, and needs. In exchange for all the choice we get to explore and be creative with now, we have to be a bit more involved in our gardens.

With a wider selection of plants to choose from to fit our every need, we have more variables to balance. In creating our perfect aesthetic, we keep in mind how aggressive our plants are or how much water they need to pair plants successfully. Sometimes our “perfect look” calls for pairing some mismatch plants, like meeker and slower growing Marigolds or Snapdragons with much more aggressive Verbenas or Petunias. This doesn’t have to rule out matching them though, you’ll just need to keep your trimmers ready to save your passive plants from getting consumed by the stronger growers. Trimming back and taming your annuals opens up new pairing possibilities to create a container that is absolutely perfect.

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Reason 3: Get A Response:

Pruning your plants gets them angry and ready to grow back with more conviction and a vengeance. Your annuals are like a champion boxer – they more you try to knock them down, the tougher they get. If you trim off a quarter of their growth a couple times a year, they come back bigger, stronger, better, and more gorgeous. You get to trim off any unsightly dead growth, only to be rewarded by even more stunning growth! This method works best on plants like Petunias, Pansies, Calibrachoas (Million Bells), Bacopas, and most foliage container plants.

Simply pinch back the foliage and give them a healthy dose of fertilizer to fuel their comeback growth. Check back in a week and you’ll be delighted to see that your plant making a comeback filled with stubborn growth and blooms.

Pictured below: Snapdragons 

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all-annuals method, as some won’t respond well to being hacked back. Anything with a central blooming stem (like Canna Lilies, Snapdragons, Begonias, or Marigolds) won’t make a comeback in the same way or nearly as quickly. Don’t let them go to seed, as they’ll stop blooming, but don’t be quite as aggressive with the scissors on these plants. They still need your guidance and some trimming to be egged on to keep growing and blooming for our enjoyment, just in a gentler sense.

We can sometimes be a little nervous to take a generous snip off of the gorgeous annuals we’ve adored watching bloom all summer. Keep in mind that a haircut is often exactly what our favorite, hard-working plants need to come back stronger. Taking charge of your garden with scissors in hand is all you need for gorgeous blooms all summer and long into the fall.

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Best Iowa Perennials for Summer Blooming

blue delphinium flowers

“The summer night is like a perfection of thought.”
– Wallace Stevens

With the sun beaming on our skin and soaking us with radiant warmth, it’s safe to say that summer is here. Our days are longer and the urge to get out to enjoy the season grows stronger. What better way to enjoy the summer than with beautiful perennials? The season might not last as long as we want it to, but perennials give us the same sensational color to look forward to year after year! Here are some of our favorite summer bloomers that thrive right here in Iowa!

Delphinium

Hummingbirds can’t get enough of Delphinium and neither can we – they are the ultimate summer perennial. The tall spikes of this pretty perennial are bursting with blooms and saturated with color all season long. For a genuinely vibrant blue that jumps out of your garden, try the Blue Mirror Delphinium. To bring this delight home to your yard, plant in full sun with evenly moist soil. Water regularly and don’t be afraid to stake your plant for a more polished look if you notice any drooping.

Pictured below: Bee Balm

Beautiful Paver Patio Outdoor Living

Baptisia

For a bold look that brings full foliage and a pop of colorful flowers, the Baptisia is sure to please. This favorite offers plenty of green to fill your garden, with showy spikes full of sensational little flowers. Also known as the “False Indigo”, this luscious perennial comes in many shades, including the beautiful maroon and yellow blooms of the Cherries Jubilee. They are summer bloomers, but they can’t always handle the heat. Plant in partial sun and water regularly, especially during any heat waves. This is a great perennial for a sheltered part of your yard where it will have the chance to add some color and life, while looking its best in the heat.

Hardy Hibiscus

Nothing says summer like the exotic tropical show of a Hibiscus. One look at these big, bold blooms and it’s easy to be transported to an oceanside oasis – right in your own yard. While many think that tropical plants are too delicate to last in our sometimes harsh climate, Hardy Hibiscuses defy the odds. They’ll stand up to the temperature drops and the dry seasons that their tropical cousins wilt in. For a pink and white flower to whisk you away, try our Starry Night Hibiscus. Plant in full sun with well-draining soil to prevent rotting roots. Keep the soil evenly moist and enjoy your fabulous flowers all summer long.

Pictured below: Hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus yellow orange flower

Bee Balm

Bee Balm isn’t just for the bees – it’s a summer hit with gardeners everywhere, too. These lovely flowers pop out in a way that almost makes them look like pins in a pincushion. With beautiful colors to fit any garden, this plant makes it easy to draw in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds alike. You’ll fall in love with its mounding flowers, and the pollinator population that comes with it will have your yard healthier and simply buzzing! To grow your own, plant your Bee Balm, or Monarda, in full to partial sun and water regularly. This plant is known for its spreading habit, so keep an eye on it with scissors handy to prevent it from growing anywhere it isn’t wanted.

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Asiatic Lily

Lilies are a worldwide summertime sensation with an iconic look you can’t beat. Their big, bold flowers make them stunning statement pieces. Their irresistible aesthetic adds that “je ne sais quoi” in gardens, containers, and cuttings alike! They’re also easy to care for, making them ideal for the gardener who loves to enjoy their yard without the heavy labor. We have plenty of color options for every gardener, but we truly love the Pink Pixie for a pop of color that fits any garden. Plant your Asiatic Lily in full sun and water regularly to keep the soil moist. The flower may love the sun’s heat, but the roots don’t. Mulching is a great way to keep them cool, while also retaining water for less frequent watering.

Pictured below: Asiatic Lily

asiatic lily beautiful flower

For perennials you’ll love year after year, these plants are proven winners for our Iowa climate. They are sure performers that will keep your garden looking like the summer getaway it is, without the extra hassle. This summer, spend more time enjoying your backyard oasis, and less time working in it! For more summer perennials we love, check out our full perennial blooming calendar or visit us in store today.

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Native Plants (Iowa)

“You’ve got to stay strong to be strong in tough times.”
– Tilman Fertitta

These days we seem to get busier and busier every year. The hurry of our families and lives is sometimes overwhelming. We do our best to keep up, but when we finally get a moment to ourselves, the last thing we want is a reminder to do more work. Without the time and energy, maintaining a gorgeous garden seems impossible. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though! With a wide variety of native plants to choose from, it’s downright easy to create an impressive garden you’ll be eager to show off that doesn’t demand constant toiling. You’ll be able to have your dream garden and the time to actually sit back and enjoy it.

Pictured below: Yarrow

Beautiful Paver Patio Outdoor Living

Benefits of Native Gardening:

Native gardening has gained popularity for its low-maintenance beauty thanks to the natural hardiness of its plants. But many gardeners also know that they don’t need to plant only local plants to have a hardy garden. There is a wide variety of hybrids on the market these days, offering non-native plants that are tougher than their exotic cousins. While they are hardy enough to make the cut in foreign territory, these plants are still being taken out of their natural comfort zone: hybrid varieties of classics still take some degree of maintenance and sometimes provide mixed results. Native plants, however, have been thriving in your local climate for thousands of years, which is a type of hardiness that any hybrid will struggle to compete with.

Native plants are the ultimate low-maintenance option that is a perfect fit for the time-sensitive gardener. They have very few gardening needs and are perfectly happy in full sun with little to no additional water. Not only are they drought- and heat-tolerant, but they’ll even thrive on a little bit of neglect. A garden with native plants offers a stunning variety of natural colors that essentially take care of themselves, year after year. These pretty locals will be a favorite of guests to your garden – from visiting pollinators and birds to your friends and family.

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Native Gardening in Iowa

In Iowa, we are no strangers to prairie plant life. Our native flowers are accustomed to plenty of sun in the summer but are hardy enough to survive our chilly winters. Some of our favorite, low-maintenance Iowa prairie flowers are tough growers with a pretty exterior:

Butterfly Milkweed

Don’t let the name fool you, because Milkweed (also known as Butterfly Weed) is a charming flower that adds to its beauty by attracting scores of butterflies. It’s mainly known as the flower of Monarch butterflies, but their nectar is also a favorite of ladybeetles and bees. The pretty clusters of flowers will help to draw scores of beneficial insects to your garden, but will also repel destructive pests like deer and rabbits. This flower works hard for you and is frequently available in delicate shades of orange or pink to dress up your low-maintenance garden.

 Coneflowers

These flowers feature a seed head with long, falling petals that cascade in a cone shape. Also known as Echinacea, these flowers offer many color options beyond their classic purple hues. The unique shape of these flowers is eye-catching to the passerby as well as to helpful insects and local birds.

 Yarrow

Also known as Achillea, Yarrow is another example of an unapologetically vibrant native plant. While the colorful clusters of flowers make this perennial incredibly popular, the leaves add functionality as a long-loved herb. Many gardeners swear on Yarrow leaves’ pain-relieving ability and have used them for a variety of common ailments from toothaches to bellyaches. A bit of Yarrow in the garden adds a splash of color, all while requiring minimal care. In fact, a little neglect actually helps this plant to thrive.

Pictured below: Coneflowers

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Ironweed

This native is as tough as the name suggests. Ironweed is a perfect plant for the middle or back of the garden, maturing at a height of about a foot and a half tall. The blooms are what makes this plant so spectacular. Vibrant, dark purple flowers cover the tips of the plant mid-summer, making it a real showstopper. Certainly one of our favorite natives, you will love this plant and so will the pollinators!

Rough Blazing Star

Also known as Liatris, the Rough Blazing Star is also unofficially known as the “butterfly magnet” because butterflies cannot resist the blooms of this lovely plant. It is extremely drought tolerant and stands at about three feet tall with clusters of large purple blooms. Rough Blazing Star is much bigger than common Liatris and also blooms much later. Try this plant in your garden, and you will be impressed with its hardiness and beautiful blooms.

Showy Goldenrod

This plant is a much tamer, non-invasive version of ordinary Ditch Goldenrod. The blooms are large with a bright, sunny yellow color, born on very sturdy stems that grow up to three feet tall. It has large flowers bloom later in summer and fall, adding that perfect pop of color to any Iowa garden. Bees and other pollinators are also very attracted to this plant.

Pictured below: Butterfly Milkweed

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Using native plants in your garden makes growing a healthy and hardy garden a much more realistic option for busy gardeners. With a garden that practically takes care of itself, while still offering up an array of charming blooms, you’ll actually have the opportunity to sit and enjoy your garden. And we offer lots of varieties to choose from and the advice you to help you get started.

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Perennial Blooming Calendar (Iowa)

Iowa spring perennials summer blooming calendar timing season fall

“Each moment of the year has its own beauty.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

When planning our gardens each year, we do our best to ensure that we will have beautiful blooms, no matter the season. From the moment spring has sprung, right up until the chill of fresh frost, we want a fresh and flowering garden. All perennials have their own time, some can’t wait to pop their heads out of the frosty ground and other Iowa flowers refuse to show up to the party until the days are at their longest and hottest. Knowing which perennials do best in each season will help you effectively plan a garden full of new color all season long.

Spring:

Spring is all about the early risers. These perennials need to be pretty cold-hardy and tough to survive unpredictable weather, especially here in Iowa. Spring bloomers usually won’t mind the rain and will tolerate shade. The first glimpse of fresh spring growth and the first colors of early flowers is a refreshing way to start your garden’s growing season right after too many months of cold and bleak weather.

Bleeding Hearts are one of the best early spring bloomers. Their small, heart-shaped flowers delicately hang from long, tall wand-like stems. An old-fashioned favorite for a reason, these beautiful blooms are native in North America, making them very low-maintenance. With full to partial shade and regular watering, these flowers will charm your garden throughout spring.

Pictured below: Dianthus

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Creeping Phlox flowers are gorgeous ground-cover flowers that don’t mind the chillier side of spring. Their small, star-shaped flowers will coat a garden on a fantastic evergreen bed of foliage. For the best blooms all spring, give them full sun and regular watering.

Irises are a longtime favorite flower for their unique and show-stopping appearance. Tall, colorful blooms delicately droop around slender, upright foliage to create an amazing look for any springtime garden. To add depth to your garden, try the magnificent and moody purple of Caesar’s Brother. In contrast, the delicate cream-colored Butter & Sugar is sure to brighten your garden.

Armerias or Thrifts produce gorgeous balls of blooms. Their deep-colored foliage is reminiscent of grass and makes for a perfect backdrop for its round tufts of flowers. The fluffy flowers almost resemble a little rabbit’s tail, especially in white varieties like our Cotton Tail Thrift.

There are so many options for early-blooming perennials that give new life and color to your garden as early as possible. Other spring-blooming perennial favorites include:

  • Dianthus – fabulous, full blooms that burst with color
  • Lenten Roses – hardy, star-shaped flowers with sensational stamens
  • Snowdrop Anemones – fragrant flowers that look almost like daisies
  • Lupines – tall tufts of plentiful blooms of color
  • Amsonia – starry flowers, also known as Blue Stars

Pictured below: Lupines

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Summer:

Summer is all about show-stopping, fabulous flowers with an attitude. The gorgeous weather that tempts us outside also gets the best displays out of your plants. You’ll see a dazzling array of colors, shapes, and sizes that are sure to bring life to your garden. Enjoying the best of summer weather and color only lasts so long – this is not the season to shy away from the large and loud.

Veronicas offer vivacious, vibrant spikes of tiny flowers. Their full sun-loving habit makes them an ideal summer perennial that will last all season. This means you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying their gorgeous color right until the break of fall. We love the Royal Candles Speedwell variety for the bright, purple-blue flowers to brighten any garden.

Alliums have all the beauty of onion flowers without the tears. The little tufts of purple flowers make them an outstanding addition to any summer garden. Enjoy the beauty of our favorite, the Millennium Ornamental, for a burst of color midsummer.

Astilbes are a spectacular show of unique flowers for any garden. These spikes are not simply adorned in flowers, but in smaller flower spikes. Don’t let their shady needs fool you – these bold beauties are midsummer bloomers. To bring pretty pink color to your garden’s shady spots, try our Visions Astilbe or Maggie Daley!

Catmint is the perfect choice for a cat-friendly summer bloomer. Offering more showy and spectacular blooms than their cousin, Catnip, this plant is another favorite for cats with a more resilient nature. For perfect purple spikes of flowers, try our Walker’s Low Catmint.

Butterfly Milkweed is the ultimate way to bring in the butterflies, just as the name implies. Their bright blooms are practically bursting with fiery warmth, even on the chilliest days of summer.

Pictured below: Butterfly Milkweed

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Volcano Phlox are a summer cousin of Creeping Phlox, with an interesting growth habit that earns their name. Their bountiful blooms appear to be cascading like colorful lava down a mountainside. With rich shades of reds, whites, pinks, and purples, there is a Volcano Phlox for any garden.

Hardy Hibiscus will put on a tropical summer show from midseason right until the finish of fall. Big, rounded petals surround a showy stamen that hummingbirds adore. Looking straight out of a Hawaii catalog, they are sure to make your backyard feel like a warm, sunny getaway. For a pinwheel of pink, try our Starry Night Hibiscus.

Shasta Daisies are the perfect way to bring the classic, summer flower home. The brilliant white petals surround lively yellow centers that emanate the feeling of summer. They look gorgeous in the garden and cut in a vase and will bloom right into fall to keep summer going even when the air crisps.

Russian Sage is great for adding delicate color to your garden. The tall spikes of tiny flowers that add a perfect backdrop to any summer perennials. For lacy blue blooms that look amazing in contrast with red and orange hues, try our Little Spire Russian Sage.

Yarrow is a brilliant way to bring bold color without the extra work. This perennial is native to North America, so it already knows what to do to grow healthy and vibrant. These fine flowers have a dense mounding habit that provides bright color that fills your garden all summer long. Try our Paprika Common Yarrow for a red that is sure to spice up your garden.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Cranesbills or Perennial Geraniums are the perfect way to add delicate ground-cover to your springtime garden. Their small, plate-shaped blooms offer vibrant colors with an almost tropical feel. For a beautiful blue to brighten your garden in spring, try our Rozanne Cranesbill for sensational color all season.

Coreopsis, also known as Tickseed, is another springtime sensation to brighten up the garden as the days get longer. These bright perennials love the heat and sunshine, soaking it up to produce lovely, light blooms. For beautiful color, try our Zagreb Threadleaf Tickseed or our Creme Brulee Tickseed.

Asiatic Lilies have big, beautiful blooms that are impressive in any garden. Their large, flowers are grown in a compact and easy-to-care-for manner that makes them a stunning summer bloomer for a container or bed. We carry these hardy sensations in many gorgeous colors, but for a delicate pink that is irresistible, try the Pink Pixie!

Other summer-blooming perennials include:

  • Geum – small, fire-toned flowers also known as Avens
  • Baptisia – also known as False Indigo, but available in many colors besides blue
  • Bee Balm – rounded bulbs of spiky petals that bees can’t resist
  • Delphinium – stunning, tall spikes full of color
  • Lavender – classic purple flowers famous for their relaxing fragrance
  • Liatris – tall spikes of purple flowers also known as Blazing Stars
  • Stachys Hummelo – tiny tufts of purple flowers atop lush, green foliage

Autumn Joy, Photo: By Magnus Manske [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

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Fall:

Fall is less about new perennials and more about those late-bloomers that aren’t quite ready to let summer go. These flowers won’t mind the days getting shorter and will tolerate the cooler evenings.

Black-Eyed Susans are low-maintenance fall favorites. Their classic bright yellow petals surround moody, black centers, bringing a little summer brightness into the fall. Plenty of sun and regular watering is all these flowers need to keep your autumn nights bright.

Autumn Joy Sedum flowers stay true to their name and give a stunning show right until the first frost. Their tiny flowers cluster together into little plates sitting on top of thick foliage that is reminiscent of succulents – giving them a contemporary appeal. Partial sun and occasional watering are all they need for you to enjoy watching their pink blooms turn to a deeper red by season’s end.

Asters start their blooming late in the summer, but their fantastic fall show is saturated with summer colors. The plentiful petals make for blooms that almost appear to be bursting, especially with the color they provide. Delicate and dense, they are a perfect choice to fill a garden late in the season.

Helenium offer amazing, warm-toned blooms to keep the summer heat around even in the cooling weather of fall. Also known as Sneezeweed, it was believed that inhaling the dried leaves of this plant would induce a sneezing that would expel evil spirits from the body. Besides their “exorcising” ability, they have delightful, daisy-like flowers in fiery shades that are perfect for a fall garden.

Other fall-blooming perennials include:

  • Toad Lilies – unique flowers with speckles of color that look like a toad’s skin
  • Japanese Anemones – amazing spring-colored flowers great for fall
  • Turtleheads – dark green foliage producing small, colorful, and bright blooms
  • Joe Pye Weeds – delicate fluffs of flowers in muted colors

Planting your garden this year can include perennials that will keep it alive all spring, summer, and fall – every year. When one variety finishes its show for the year, another will spring up, keeping your garden fresh and vibrant every day. The endless changing color is practically an invitation to enjoy your time outside more. With so many to choose from, we’re happy to help you build your vision. Planning your favorites is a great way to change your outdoor spaces into a colorful haven from season to season.