by Kimberly Whitton, Public Engagement Coordinator with Great Parks of Hamilton County

Ahh … spring is in the air, finally. This year’s season is probably one of the most anticipated after the mess of 2020 and the toll that winter takes upon us anyway. What better way to get excited about the coming of a new season than by adding vibrant plants to your landscape! Native wildflowers are not only a great way to make your yard a colorful oasis, they are also great for attracting native species and they help control soil erosion.

Thanks to the extensive knowledge of our very own Shaker Trace Nursery Technician Tim, we have come up with a “top five” list of native perennials perfect for planting in early spring (blooming April through June) and that are the most accessible and the easiest to plant.

Dwarf Larkspur
Dwarf Larkspur (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Sellers/Creative Commons [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0])
Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne)

The dwarf larkspur enjoys part shade and moist soil. It is in the buttercup family, producing clustered bright blue-violet flowers with lobed leaves. It looks close to that of an orchid with its horned-like shaped petals. 

It is worth noting that this plant is poisonous when ingested, so be mindful where you plant it.

Golden Alexander
Golden Alexander (Photo by Helen Lowe Metzman/USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program)
Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)

Golden Alexanders enjoy full sun in a moist environment. They are short lived compared to other perennials, and attract many butterflies, especially the black swallowtail, during their lifespan. You can’t miss the tiny, bright yellow flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters, resembling the structure of Queen Anne’s lace.

Wild Blue Phlox
Wild blue phlox (Photo: Paul Seevers)
Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Phlox are beautiful fragrant flowers that are typically pink or lavender in color. They grow very well in part shade and moist soil, producing creeping root systems as they spread across the ground. The bright star-shaped blooms mostly attract butterflies, but the roots also are a treat for rabbits and voles, so keep that in mind.

Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolate)

These daisy-like flowers enjoy part shade and drier soil, which makes them drought tolerant. They are known to self-sow and can become weedy, so some thinning will be needed. Its bright yellow color attracts butterflies and will last through the summer months if cared for properly.

Ohio Spiderwort
Ohio Spiderwort
Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

This native plant has very hardy grass-like leaves and enjoys part shade in dry soil. Showy clusters of blue, three-petaled flowers attract bees when they open during the day, closing at night. When touched in the heat of the day, the flowers actually shrivel to a fluid jelly. It does grow in clumps, so propagation simply involves dividing it into several pieces.

Along with their environmental benefits, native wildflowers generally need little care. As with any newly planted plant, extra watering is advisable for a few weeks and during droughts. Of course, there will be some caretaking by keeping beds free of weeds. As wildflowers go to seed toward winter, cut them back about six inches to ensure healthy growth come spring.

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