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10 Perennials for Fall Color in Iowa

Ted Lare fall perennials color

With summer fading into the coziest season of the year, some of those colorful summer flowers are fading as well. But, your yard doesn’t have to be boring in the fall. Embrace the sweater weather with warm apple cider and colorful fall perennials. 

These pretty and hardy cool weather bloomers are ramping up just as summer winds down. Grab your favorite scarf, a warm drink, and have a look at some of these colorful fall flowers. Here are 10 of the best perennials for fall color in Iowa.

Asters

With their tiny-but-soft needle-like petals, asters add a touch of delicacy and softness to a season that otherwise features rough textures, hard edges, and loud crunching. Asters, available in shades of pink, purple, and blue, from dark to nearly white, which can help temper the dominance of reds, yellows, and oranges that are everywhere in fall. 

Perennials fall color at Ted Lare aster goldenrod

Goldenrod

The upright stature and striking yellow flowers of Goldenrod are an excellent addition to any fall perennial garden. Goldenrod provides beneficial nectar to pollinators during the later summer and early fall. Goldenrod is often falsely accused of being a culprit for seasonal allergies but ragweed is the actual culprit that blooms at the same time.

Gentian

Gentian is another great choice to add lightness and softness with its color and texture to fall perennial gardens. The flowers are deep trumpet shapes with curled edges, in pale blues and whites. The foliage is a lighter green and features finely-textured fern-like leaves. Gentian works well in rock gardens and for edging beds.

Joe Pye Weed 

Joe Pye Weed brings bright jewel-toned pink flowers and fantastic height to a fall perennial garden. Joe Pye Weed can reach up 8 feet tall, and it’s super easy to grow. This resilient perennial is a striking combination with other fall perennials like asters, black-eyed Susans, and ornamental grasses.

Ted Lare perennials fall color

Blanket Flowers

Blanket flowers, aptly named because they create a full dense blanket of flowers in the fall, give a lot of bang for the buck. Their mounds of flowers are not just beautiful in the garden, but they make great cut flowers as well. Blanket flowers are usually in the yellow-orange-red spectrum, from dark to pale shades, and some varieties feature bi-color petals.

Garden or Hardy Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are a classic fall flower, but those globes of jewel-tone mums sold everywhere in the fall are not hardy enough to survive an Iowa winter. Garden mums or hardy mums are just as beautiful, come in a wide variety of colors, and have a more relaxed growing habit. With dedicated pruning and fertilization in spring and summer, you can get them to form a fairly dense dome of flowers. Or, you can let them go, and they’ll still provide profuse blooms, but with a looser growing style with more visible foliage.

Anemone

Anemones are a beautiful addition to any fall garden. The 2-3” blooms sway in the wind on their wiry stems, earning them the name windflowers. They range in color from white to pink and will flourish a part sun to shady location in the garden.

Stonecrop Sedum

Stonecrop sedums add a fleshy succulent texture to the fall perennial garden. Stonecrop sedums are available in so many different colors, and their leaves can be as beautiful as their colorful flowers. Flower colors run the gamut from pink to red to purple to yellow to green to orange. The colors of the foliage also vary widely, including some variegated versions. Sedums are great for ground covers and the edges of garden beds, varying in height from 6 inches to about 2 feet tall.

Ted Lare fall perennials stonecrop sedum black-eyed susan

Black-Eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans are a classic fall flower native to North America. With various shades available from deep burgundy red to bright yellow, and every shade in between, they’re a great mid-level fall flowering perennial. Black-Eyed Susans are available in a wide range of heights that can fill in that mid-level height in your perennial garden (between the sedums and the Joe Pye Weed), anywhere from 1-5 feet tall. Black-Eyed Susans are also super resilient and low maintenance since they’re adapted to our climate.

Sneezeweed

In spite of its name, sneezeweed doesn’t usually cause any sneezing, allergies, or hay fever. Sneezeweed, also called Helenium, produces large flowers up to 2 inches in diameter, with a large center cone that’s popular with the butterflies and other pollinators. There are many varieties of sneezeweed available, all of which display daisy-like petals. Sneezeweed ranges in colors from pale yellow to deep red-orange.

 

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With these late-blooming beauties, you can extend your garden’s season of color by several months! Add these colorful perennials to your garden now, and enjoy a fall full of colorful flowers next year.

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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 their landscape in Iowa!    

 

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

lily in vase Ted lare design and build

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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Planting in Shade

Planting in Shade

Some of most difficult spots to fill in your garden are those that are shaded – but they don’t have to be. Many of the most popular classics that we love to fill up our yard with are sun-loving blooms, but there are just as many beautiful plants that thrive with a little more protection from the sun’s rays. Whether you’re looking for some fabulous foliage to fill up a sheltered spot beside the house or you’re trying to find a splash of color to plant in a darker area in your yard, there are lots of options to make every part of your yard and garden lush and beautiful.

Although there are just as many options, shade loving plants enjoy different conditions and as a result, play by some different rules than their relatives that love to soak up the rays. Here’s some advice from our plant and landscaping experts on filling your garden’s shaded areas with color.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Ted Lare Tips for Growing in Shade:
Shade-loving plants will have a few different things to keep in mind when growing than plants that prefer to bask in the sun. No matter what type of shade growing plant you choose, keep these things in mind to make your shady spot the best fit for your plants as possible:

Identify Your Shade Type – Each shady location is just as unique as the rest of your yard and home. To pick the best plants, you’ll want to know the conditions of your chosen spot. Types of shade range from deep, to partial, to dappled shade. While the deep shade areas get no direct sunlight at all, less shaded locations could have sun for part of the day or filtered through leaves. There are plenty of options of plants that will thrive in each type, but pairing them up well with the right conditions is the best way to have low-maintenance and beautiful plants.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Soil Type and Quality – Taking note of your soil type before you plant gives you the opportunity to amend the soil quality. Soil ideally has nutrients and structure to support your plants as they develop and grow, giving them the foundation that they need to thrive and grow beautifully. Here are some amendments to consider to modify your soil:

Add organic fertilizer – Adding compost is the perfect way to add nutrients to support the long-term growth of your plant. While you can always use chemical fertilizers after the plant is established to give them a boost, starting with some organic nutrients will give your plant the long-term fuel it needs to continue to thrive. Typically, just adding a inch or two of compost goes a long way, then till the new compost into the soil before planting.

Making Room for Roots – Aerate the soil with a pitchfork before planting to help make the air pockets that your plant will need to grow root systems. A good foundation is important for shade-loving plants especially to find nutrients and water.

Mulch Well – After you plant, use mulch to help lock moisture into the soil. Shade from the sun often means shade from other elements like rain, meaning that keeping water near the roots is vital for shaded plants. Mulching to a thickness of about 3 inches is usually sufficient to protect the roots of your plants.

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Popular Perennial Flowers for the Shade:
There are hundreds of popular perennials to choose for that shady spot in your yard. These are some of our favorite popular choices for the shade that will keep returning to thrive each year:

Hostas – An elegant classic that has graced protected corners of backyards for decades, and for good reason. These plants come in many varieties that boast different shades and shapes, but they all provide gorgeous ground cover in shaded and partially shaded locations. Hosta are still the tried and true plant for dense shady areas.

Christmas Fern – Ferns have a delicate style that catches the eye and captures the imagination. Not only good ground cover, these plants offer some drama and a little bit of texture and height to a shady spot in your garden. Christmas Fern is a quick grower that will easily take up whatever shaded spot you have in mind for it, but isn’t invasive and is easy to control with just a little trimming.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Bleeding Hearts – A beautiful and traditional shade decoration, bleeding hearts have delicate pink flowers that are their namesake, adding a pop of color to shady areas. This classic flower is long-lived, mild-mannered, and will fit in well with other shade loving perennials.

Ligularia Dentata – These attractive annuals have fun lily pad-shaped leaves that can vary in color and provide contrast to other plant foliage.  During the summer, they burst to life with a yellow flower display. Ligularia Dentata are usually vibrant growers, but they can lay down during hot summer days.

Astilbe – Astilbes give great height to flower beds and come in a wide range of shades. For shady spots, we recommend the ‘Maggie Daley’ variety. Maggie Daley shows off stunning feathery magenta blooms during the summer. This variety also has a reputation for good performance.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Shade Loving Shrubs:
Shrubs are great options for filling large empty spaces and adding structure to your overall garden design. These shrubs thrive in shady patches.

Hydrangeas – Hydrangeas often become the crown jewel of any garden, making it clear that plants in the shady parts of your yard can also be in the spotlight. We love how vibrant and how much life a hydrangea shrub can pack into a spot in the shade, and find them the ideal choice for lining the shaded spots along fences or walls. Our favorite varieties for shade include Little Lime, Mystical Flame, Quickfire, and Endless Summer.

Japanese Yew – These evergreen shrubs have great texture and look a little more interesting than other shade-loving foliage plants. The Everlow variety keeps a low-profile and looks fantastic

Rhododendron – Rhododendrons add an elegant shape and gorgeous pink flowers to your shade garden. Our favorite varieties are the Korean rhododendron and PJM rhododendron.

Azaleas – Like rhododendrons, the shape of azalea shrubs look magnificent in shade gardens, with bold blooms in some lovely jewel tones. Try the deep fuschia Orchid Lights variety, the hot pink Northern Lights variety, or vibrant orange Mandarin Lights variety.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Shade Loving Annuals:
Annuals lack the lifespan of perennials, but they pack a lot of enthusiasm, color, and life into the one season that they do have. While some of our favorite annuals love to bask in the sun, there is no shortage of popular options that will thrive with a little less exposure.

Begonias – With shiny foliage and beautiful cheerful flowers available in every shade of the rainbow, there’s a Begonia out there for any landscape style and taste. Most begonias thrive in full or part shade, offering pretty colors to most sheltered corners of your yard.

Lobelia – These plants are dainty and delicate that have delightfully cheerful pastel colors that thrive in partial shade. Offering great ground cover, this is a great way to have some beautiful color over every inch of your yard.

Impatiens – These multi-colored annuals are the gorgeous poster children for shady locations. While they have a “wildflower” look that adds some whimsy to your garden, filling up shady or partially shady spots with beautiful color.

Sweet Alyssum – These dainty white flowers bloom for the whole summer season, offering a unique and intoxicating fragrance, even into the cooler temperatures of fall.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Bulbs in the Shade:
The classic option for those that want stunning flowers but like the “plant it and forget about it” method, there are many bulbs that will thrive in the shade. Many of these flowers create a natural focal point in your garden, despite being in the shade.

Crocus – Crocus are an always-elegant option that offer a classic late spring look. Try them in delightful shades of white, purple, and yellow.

Galanthus – Also known as Snowdrops, these white flowers stand out against their shady home and offer color surprisingly early in the season.

Daffodils – If you’re looking to brighten up the shaded spots in your garden, these flower’s signature yellow flowers add a little splash of sunshine where there is none.

Tulips – For a classic springtime look, there’s nothing that impresses quite like the tulip. Adaptable and able to bloom nearly anywhere from full shade to partial sun, they offer a truly stunning array of colorful options and styles.

The sun-filled spots in your yard and garden don’t have to be the constant spotlight of your landscape and garden design. With so many different varieties of shade-loving plants to choose from, the lighting conditions don’t have to limit your options and design for your outdoor space. With shade loving plants this stunning, there are options for everyone to enjoy that are the right fit for their home, lifestyle, and landscape design.

If you’re looking for more guidance on planting a shade-friendly garden, visit our garden center, just 10 minutes South of West Des Moines.

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Coneflowers

Every year we fall in love with new types of annuals in stunning new shades, shapes and sizes. While there’s a lot to be said about playing with something new in the garden, there are a lot of reasons why we never quite move on from the classics.

Coneflowers are the ultimate statement in simple beauty and elegance. We’re always enchanted looking at these confident and colorful blooms. They’re a great choice for any garden, pairing the beauty of traditional flowers with the color choice of modern annuals. These perennials are hardy, stunning, and easy to grow, all while attracting the right kinds of pollinator traffic to your garden.

purple close-up coneflowers

Beautiful Echinacea

Coneflowers are also commonly known as Echinacea, the terms being interchangeable as “Echinacea” is the scientific genus for this type of bloom. Whichever term you use, every variety of this flower is noted for its distinctive shape: a prominent seed head is the centerpiece that a ring of delicate blooms fan away from, angled gently towards the ground. Their cascade of petals in a cone shape is eye-catching and unique in any garden.

While purple coneflower is the traditional favorite, new variations are constantly available, offering the same elegance in new shades and varieties. Each new type captures the elegance that we depend on from echinacea, but the exciting new colors and styles offer us fresh flowers to take on supporting or leading roles in any garden. From exciting and fiery double-petaled divas to dainty and understated whites and purples, there’s a coneflower for any garden aesthetic.
No matter the variety, these flowers seem to capture a simpler time. Including them in your garden is an easy way to transform your backyard into an elegant country cottage sanctuary, or even add a touch of nostalgia in a garden bursting with contemporary color.

white coneflowers

Coneflowers in Iowa

While their blooms might look dainty and delicate, these flowers are anything but. Their heavy seed heads and petals are supported on tough stems that can usually grow very successfully with limited supervision.

Coneflowers are also a famous Iowa native, meaning they won’t need extra pampering to withstand everything our summer weather might throw at them. These perennials will bloom mid-summer, year after year, without you working hard to help them survive drought or heat conditions. Echinaceas are a perfect balance between pretty and practical to give you a gorgeous garden aesthetic while saving you most of the back-breaking work.

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Growing Coneflowers

These perennials can be started from root division in the fall, but the most popular way to introduce them is by starter plant in the spring. They are easy plants to care for that will reward you with abundant blooms every year.

Planting: Choose a location for your coneflowers that will receive lots of sun. While full sun is ideal for these flowers, they can tolerate some shade as long as they see direct sunlight for about 6 hours every day. They’ll grow best in soil that has good drainage but will benefit from having a little bit of compost mixed in before planting to nurture them as they grow.

purple coneflowers

Care: Coneflowers won’t need any supplemental watering if they see average rainfall, but will need a drink weekly to keep them looking their best in droughts. Echinaceas are extremely tough and can handle dry conditions, but a layer of mulch around them will do wonders to lock in the little moisture that they need, especially on hot summer days. Although a little fertilizing won’t hurt your echinacea, they usually don’t need the extra help to thrive in their home soils.

Maintenance: You can expect to see lots of coneflower blossoms in the middle of summer. Prolong their blooming season as long as you can by deadheading the blooms. Near the end of the season, though, leave the last seed heads on your flowers to dry and attract songbirds. If your flowers are looking floppy on weak stems, or are fading in the late summer season, cut the blooms to the ground instead of deadheading or cut back the plant by a third to revitalize it when it grows back.

light pink coneflowers

Coneflowers are garden powerhouses that provide a long list of aesthetic and practical benefits to your garden. These classic beauties are the perfect choice for any garden, fitting seamlessly into your design while beautifying their surroundings. Incredibly simple to grow, these gorgeous perennial blooms are a gift to you and your garden, year after year.

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Best Iowa Perennials for Spring Blooming

“I am more myself in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” 
– Doug Green

Perennials are the perfect reminders that spring has sprung. Popping up again year after year, perennials are perfect for celebrating the warmer weather. With our tough winters, however, picking perennials for our climate can be tricky, but just as important. The healthiest plants are the best way to achieve a stunning garden. Below are a few of our favorite spring blooming perennials to recommend that flourish in Iowa!

Irises

This outstanding flower is one of the most gorgeous plants to add to a garden. It’s a popular old-fashioned classic for good reason. These iconic blooms are statement makers that are sure to please, and they are quite easy to take care of. Irises prefer full sun and moist soil, but they tolerate a variety of conditions. You can use them in part shade and drier soils as well. After they are established, they do not need a lot of attention, making them a great option for low maintenance gardens. When planting them, add some organically enriched soil and you will have delicate, draping blooms all spring. While available in many colors and varieties, some of our favorites are the dark purple Caesar’s Brother and the cream and white Butter and Sugar Siberian.

Pictured below: Iris ‘Caesar’s Brother’

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox has amazing, star-shaped flowers that are both drought-tolerant and pet-friendly. These flowers don’t compromise beauty for being very hardy and functional flowers. True to their name, these flowers have a creeping quality, making them perfect for ground cover in the garden. WhitePinkBlue, and Purple are amazing springtime colors to choose, but you can get them in almost any shade you desire. They prefer full sun (but not too hot) and regular watering, letting the soil dry in between. Plant in moist and well-draining soil that is loamy or slightly sandy for the best growth.  However, they do tolerate a variety of conditions.

Old-Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

A true classic that gardeners have adored for years and years, Bleeding Hearts are amazing, native perennials, meaning they’re designed by nature to grow here! Their long reputation with gardeners speaks for itself, and their dainty blooms are sure to inspire a certain nostalgia. While many new variations of this plant have come out in recent years, our favorite is still the classic dark pink and white. Make sure the dangling, heart-shaped flowers have full to partial shade and weekly waterings and you’ll have beautiful blooms without fail.

Columbines

The name “Columbine” is derived from the Latin “Columba,” meaning “dove,” as the flower is said to look like five doves huddled together when the flower is inverted. They prefer partial to full sun and regular waterings, letting the soil dry slightly in between. You can choose from a wide range of varieties, but we are loving the pale yellow Corbett Columbine and the red and yellow Little Lanterns variety. With regular deadheading, these show-stopping flowers seem to bloom forever. They may even attract some hummingbirds, too, providing extra details to your backyard masterpiece!

Pictured below: Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

Pictured below: Lenten Rose

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Lenten Roses

Charmingly captivating, Lenten Roses feature amazing blooms that come in many interesting colors. Lenten Roses are some of the early spring flowers, which will give your garden a pop of color almost as soon as the snow melts.

They come in almost any color imaginable, but our favorites this year are Apricot BlushBlue DiamondCherry Blossom, and Painted Double. Plant them in a rich, well-draining soil and give them full to partial shade with weekly waterings. Mulch to keep their roots cool and use an acidic fertilizer after blooming for the best show this season.  

For best results year after year, try to pick out a spot that is protected from our harsh winter conditions, perhaps on the East side of your home, as Lenten Roses can sometimes react poorly to harsh winters.

Other Perennial Favorites

With so many beautiful perennials to choose from, it’s hard to make the shortlist. Here are a few of our other top choices for perennials this spring. There are many lovely flowers available that will thrive in our climate, filling your outdoor space with delightful blooms.

  • Salvia: Gorgeous, dark stems with stunning flowers – we love violet blue Carodonnas and lavender Pretty in Pinks. Give them full sun and plant in enriched, well-draining soil and water weekly.
  • Bellflowers: Classic, cup-shaped blooms that come in hundreds of colors – we love the violet-hued Takion Blue. Give them partial to full sun and ensure their well-draining soil is consistently moist for best performance.
  • Penstemons: Garden greats with colorful foliage and flowers – we love Husker Red (burgundy foliage and white flowers) and Dark Towers (bronze-red foliage with pink flowers). They need humus-rich and well-draining soil, partial to full sun, and regular watering.
  • Catmint: Fragrant flower spikes that cats love almost as much as catnip – we love the periwinkle blue Walker’s Low. Ensure they have good air circulation, partial to full sun, and weekly waterings to keep them at the top of their game.

Choosing perennials that work with you, rather than against you, is the goal this spring. You’ll spend less time fighting the elements in your garden and more time sitting back and enjoying the spectacular display in your own yard. These perennials are proven performers in our Iowa climate and are gorgeous options for your garden this year. Check out our full perennial blooming calendar to see more spring blooming perennials and stop by the Garden Center today to get your garden going with these vivacious varieties and more!