For Contrast and Hardiness, these Plants Make Great Backdrops
You have many perennials to choose from when planting a flower garden, but some stand out for their height as well as their beautiful blooms. Many natives of the prairie will contrast with your squattier plants and exhibit a tolerance for tough conditions. Purple coneflower, Kansas gayfeather, black-eyed Susan, and New England aster are among the more common ones. Here are some less-familiar plants that will also thrive in most sunny transition zone gardens as well as in natural plantings:
When you see this plant in bloom, you'll know how it got its name. The upright spires reach 4-6 feet tall and are topped with fluffy 6-inch plumes of pink flowers in summer. It's easy to grow and spreads by rhizomes to form wide clumps.
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Spikes of densely clustered, tiny white blooms top stems that grow to a height of 5-6 feet, giving the appearance of flowery candelabra. Whorls of leaves are an attractive deep green. The plant's name probably comes from a pioneer physician who prescribed the plant as a laxative.
Also known as false sunflower or oxeye, this sunny perennial bears daisylike yellow flowers with a yellow central disk from mid-summer to early fall. The plants will grow to 3-6 feet tall, depending on the cultivar or species.
Blue False Indigo
At a mature height of 3-5 feet topped with clusters of deep blue blooms, this perennial stands out in a border or wild garden. It offers full-season appeal with deeply divided green leaves, prolific blooms in late spring to early summer, and pea-like green seedpods that eventually turn black. The pods and flowers are used in cut arrangements.
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For Best Blooms, Start with the Best Soil
While most of these plants will adapt to a variety of soil types, they all will grow bigger and produce better blooms if planted in soil that's rich in organic matter. An excellent source is Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers & Vegetables, which also contains Miracle-Gro® Continuous Release Plant Food to feed for up to 3 months.
A Tip for Bird-Lovers
Many native prairie perennials such as blue false indigo, black-eyed Susan, and New England aster are also useful in gardens to attract and feed wild birds. Purple coneflower and prairie blazingstar attract hummingbirds as well as songbirds. If you let the stalks stand all winter, goldfinches and other over-wintering birds feast on the seeds.
Find out about planting purple coneflowers