Plant Spotlights


Fall Blooming Native Plants September 2021

Terri Litchfield, Native Plant Propagation Committee

Asters and goldenrods are major actors at this time of the year in the native plant garden because of their high value as late season nectar sources for pollinators and migrating butterflies. Goldenrods are represented in three genera, listed here with the number of Ohio native species in each: Solidago (22), Euthamia (2), and Oligoneuron (4). Taxonomically, some of these plants, such as Oligoneuron rigidum (Stiff Goldenrod), have volleyed between these genera multiple times over the years. The Herb Society of America has a great resource on goldenrods, “Essential Guide to Solidago, Notable Native Herb™ 2017: An HSA Native Herb Selection.” Read more HERE.

Likewise, asters fall into multiple genera including Aster, Eurybia, Ionactis, Oclemena, Seriocarpus, and Symphyotrichum. According to the USDA PLANTS Database, there are 36 Ohio native species whose common names include “aster.” One of the most recognizable is New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.

Both goldenrods and asters support over one hundred species of lepidoptera, and are host plants for a number of bee specialists. See Pollen Specialist Bees of the Eastern United States and scroll down to see the large number of times the goldenrod and aster genus names listed above appear. And check out this ODNR Publication to learn more about native plants which support butterflies.

Coneflowers July 2021

Terri Litchfield, Delaware County Master Gardener

What comes to mind when you picture coneflowers? Purple Coneflower? Orange Coneflower? Upright Prairie Coneflower? These three examples, all from the Aster family, Asteraceae, represent the three genera of plants native to Ohio with “Coneflower” in their common names. “Cone,” of course, is a reference to the center disk of the flower head.

ECHINACEAS: According to the USDA P.L.A.N.T.S. Database, Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is the only species of Echinacea native to Ohio while nationwide there are nine native species. This plant is also known by the following common names: snakeroot, Kansas snakeroot, narrow-leaved purple coneflower, scurvy root, comb flower, black susans, and hedgehog. Hedgehog seems a quite descriptive name for this particular coneflower and Echinacea comes from the Greek word for hedgehog. Plants are attractive to both nectar and seed seekers.

RUDBECKIAS: Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida, is sometimes called Black-eyed Susan, and “Goldsturm” is a popular cultivar. Two other Rudbeckias also go by the common name Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta which is a biennial that self-seeds easily, and Rudbeckia triloba, also known as Brown-eyed Susan, which can grow to 5’. Two other native Rudbeckias which may be familiar to Ohio gardeners are Rudbeckia grandiflora (Tall Coneflower) and Rudbeckia laciniata (Cutleaf or Green-headed Coneflower).

RATIBIDAS: The two Ohio native Ratibidas are Ratibida columnifera (Upright Prairie Coneflower or Mexican Hat) and Ratibida pinnata (Pinnate Prairie Coneflower or Gray-headed Coneflower). Although from the same genus, these two species have quite different forms. Upright Prairie Coneflower grows 1-2’ in height while Gray-headed Coneflower can reach 5’.

One final species of a fourth genus of coneflowers native to states south of Ohio and further west is Dracopis amplexicaulis or Clasping Coneflower.

What do you think of when you hear “coneflowers”? Echinaceas, Rudbeckias, Ratibidas, and Dracopis are all Ohio or regionally native possibilities.

Purple Coneflower
(Echinacea purpurea)

Black-eyed Susan
(Rudbeckia hirta)

Green-headed Coneflower
(Rudbeckia laciniata)

Brown-eyed Susan
(Rudbeckia triloba)

Gray-headed Coneflower,
(Ratibida pinnata)

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) June 2021

Laura Rosenheck, Delaware County Master Gardener

I grew Butterfly Weed from seed for the first time last growing season to attract Monarch butterflies and to provide a food source for their caterpillars. After a 30-day cold and moist stratification period, I started the seeds under grow lights in my basement in early spring and, by May, I had about 5 plants at least 6 inches tall ready for transfer to an east-facing bed I had dedicated in the back of my house. Once planted outdoors, the small plants thrived with little to no extra maintenance from me. Boy, what a spectacle these plants provided! Not only did they provide color interest in my yard, but they also at-tracted so much life to my garden – it was so fun to watch!

Butterfly Weed is a perennial with a low mounded profile that can make as many as 20 stems at an average height of 2 feet when mature and planted in an ideal location. The flowers are most often a distinctive bright orange but there is some variation in flower color, from deep red-orange to yellow. The leaves are somewhat narrow, up to 1” and tapered, with no stem and dark green in color. Its dis-tinctive color and the absence of the typical milky white sap that other Milkweed species have make identification easy.

This is a great Milkweed for a sunny location in a dry area. It prefers sandy, loamy or rocky limestone soils in full fun and blooms June-August. It is hardy from zone 3 to 9. It tends to be deer resistant, though seem to heavily attract the butterflies, bees, birds and aphids! The vivid orange color and abil-ity to attract and sustain butterflies make this plant a well-known favorite for all types of gardens.

In older plants, the long tap root can extend down many feet. Due to this deep, drought-tolerant tap root, it can be late to emerge in the spring, so be patient. Butterfly Weed can be transplanted if dug carefully during dormancy but if the tap root breaks off, they will regrow. At the end of the growing sea-son, seed pods may be cut or twisted off to stop seeding or use twist ties or rubber bands to bind the pods for seed collection. In addition to artificial stratification, seeds may be sowed directly in the fall. Butterfly Weed may be divided by using a sharp knife to slice down the length of the root. Every piece that has at least one eye, some of the taproot, and a few side roots is a viable division.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Spring Native Spotlight: Dutchman’s Breeches

Francie Arnett, Delaware County Master Gardener

My connection to native plants runs deep - to my years growing up in southeastern Ohio and experiencing the joy of searching for and picking wildflowers with my mom and siblings every spring. One of the best finds was Dicentra cucullara, more commonly known as Dutchman’s breeches.

Dutchman’s breeches are common in the woodlands in all parts of Ohio, as they thrive in a variety of wooded habitats but usually are found in moist to fairly well drained soils. The plant is a delicate low perennial with grayish green leaves rising from clusters of tubers combining to form a bulb. The visual effect is loose, airy and fern like. The distinctive white flowers, which really do resemble the pantaloons worn by Dutch men in the 16th century, dangle from pendant stalks in a long cluster. At the bottom of each flower is a yellow tip. The plants are in bloom, usually in late April to early May for only a few weeks.

Best planted in the fall, corms can be purchased. Plant the corms so that the tops are 1” below the soil level and 6” apart.

When planting Dutchman’s breeches, mix organic matter into the soil to give the plant nutrients and be mindful that the ability to grow in full shade is a boon to gardeners who have large trees in their yards. Sharp drainage is an absolute must for Dutchman’s breeches and the soil should never be allowed to dry out completely. The soil should be amended with compost. Once established, the plants require little care as they are adapted to growing in most areas of the United States. The plants can spread and are ideal in an area for naturalization. The leaves will turn yellow and die back by June,

Dutchman’s breeches attract bees and butterflies, as well as ants. The plants are also deer resistant which makes them a good choice for Bambi’s stomping grounds.

Round-lobed hepatica, included in the buttercup family, are suitable companion plants for Dutch-man’s breeches. They are both perennials, native to Ohio, and are among the earliest wildflowers to bloom and requiring similar growing conditions.

Enjoy the Dutchman’s breeches while you can as they are in bloom for only a few weeks during April and May!