Native Perennials for Midwestern Gardens

Categories|Native Plants
Native Perennials for Midwestern Gardens

We have a particular soft spot for Indiana’s native perennials. They’re easy to care for. They attract birds, bees, and other wildlife. And they’re generally pretty tough plants, even with Indiana’s weird weather.

Here are five of our favorites. Click on the plant names below for more information about each one.

Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Butterflies and birds love beardtongue, so it’s perfect for sunny borders and wildlife gardens. We especially like the ‘Husker Red’ cultivar. Its red stems set off the white flowers and look great in a border.

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

This brilliant orange flower draws butterflies. Monarch butterfly larvae feed on butterfly weed and other milkweeds, so they’re a good choice for wildlife gardens. Butterfly weed likes a full-sun spot with dryish soil. (In wetter soil, try A. incarnata, swamp milkweed.)

Asclepias tuberosa

False indigo (Baptisia australis)

Drought-tolerant and tough, this 4′ tall perennial looks almost like a shrub. It sports beautiful blue flowers in spring that mature into interesting pods that persist the rest of the season. Used by Native Americans as a blue dye (hence the name), it’s a host plant for several species of butterfly, too. We like it in the middle to back of the border, especially with native Pannicum virgatum grasses.

Baptisia australis

Swamp mallow (Hibiscus moschuetos)

Despite its tropical looks, swamp mallow is native to Indiana. Ideal for bright, hot, and swampy areas, M. moschuetos does just as well in light shade and average soil. We planted it in our garden with fellow wet-soil lover Joe pye weed (Eutrochium dubium), and the combo is a pollinator paradise.

Hibiscus moschuetos

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Purple coneflower is practically the poster child for Midwestern plants. We stick mostly to the white or purple kinds, because coneflowers in other colors tend to revert to purple within a few years.  Frilly blooms confuse pollinators, so choose ones with the old-fashioned shuttlecock shape for wildlife!

Echinacea purpurea

For more about great native Indiana plants, check out the Indiana Native Plant Society.

Native Perennials for Midwestern Gardens