Growing Concerns: Plan a rotation of herbaceous perennials

August 19, 2018

Herbaceous perennials bloom at different times during the season. The key to perennial garden success is to plan for a constant rotation of bloom from early spring to late fall. The following herbaceous perennials flower in late summer to early fall.

Echinacea is a genus of plants from the Asteraceae family. Commonly referred to as purple coneflower, Echinacea is a tall, native plant commonly found in the Midwest states. The showy flower head is a composite or head inflorescence composed of ray flowers and disc flowers. The ray flowers surround the hundreds of disc flowers in the center. Each disc flower produces a seed and is apetalous or without petals. Ray flowers are sterile but have one showy magenta or purple petal attached.

Helenium is a genus of plants from the Asteraceae family. One plant can produce close to 100 flower heads. Each flower head is composed of multiple ray flowers surrounding hundreds of disc flowers. Flower heads resemble badminton birdies, also known as shuttle cocks. Ray flowers range in color from red to orange to yellow and often bi-colors. The plant is a clump forming native occurring in moist soils along streams or wet prairies.

Liatris is a genus of plants from the Asteraceae family. The genus includes 30 native prairie species and is commonly referred to as blazing star or gayfeather. These tall, slender plants have tufts of narrow leaves radiating from the base of the plant hence the common name gayfeather. The magenta, purple or white flower heads are arranged in a spike with the top flowers opening first and the bottom flowers last. This arrangement is the opposite of how other flower spikes open.

Monarda is a genus of plants from the aromatic Lamiaceae or mint family. Commonly referred to as beebalm, wild bergamot, and Oswego tea, Monarda is a tall, coarse plant with flower colors ranging from scarlet to pale lavender. The nectar-laden flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and pollinators. The scarlet red Monarda grows in moist soils, while the remainder of the species prefer drier soils. There are native species as well as European species that have gone wild. The young leaves can be used to brew beebalm tea.

Solidago or goldenrod species are in the Asteraceae family. With 100 different species, species identification can be difficult. The tiny flower clusters range from deep yellow to paler yellow. Goldenrods have a pungent odor but a few species have a more pleasant fragrance like Sweet Goldenrod. Goldenrods are impressive when in bloom and have been mistakenly blamed for allergies. Ragweed causes pollen-sensitive people more suffering than goldenrods do.

Symphyotrichum formerly known as the Aster genus includes 120 to 150 species in the United States. In the Asteraceae family, each star-like flower is composed of yellow disc flowers and blue, purple, pink or white ray flowers. Most aster species are native prairie plants, but there are a few woodland and wetland species.

This is just a short list of what is available for late summer color. Visit a local garden center and check out what else is blooming.

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