Andy Williams from Lichterman Nature Center talks about three of his favorite native wildflowers: baptisia, purple cone flower, and New England aster.
Baptisia, commonly called false wild blue indigo, blooms in the early spring. It has blue-green foliage and blooms with a blue flower. It is a legume and has large seed pods. The pods start green and turn black over the summer. Baptisia is a sturdy plant when grown in full sun but if you cut is back by a third after it blooms it makes a nice blue green shrub that stands up without staking for the entire season. The pruning also helps remove the seed pods which cause reseeding.
Purple coneflower (echinacea purpurea) is a beautiful flower with purple flowers with a yellow center that turns black. The seed heads are also food for birds. Purple coneflower normally blooms in the spring but can be delayed by pruning so you have some control over bloom time. In full sun it will stand upright unless there is a wind. With selective pruning, you can create a sturdier plant. Echinacea will reseed profusely in your garden. If you want to collect and save the seeds you will need to scarify them over the winter.
New England aster blooms in the fall. The plant produces masses of purple-blue flowers with yellow centers which provide a good fall nectar source for bees and butterflies. Wild New England aster can grow up to six feet tall. Named cultivars have been bred to be shorter, have more blooms, and have more intense flower colors. Pruning the plant in the spring or early summer will encourage a bushier growth with less height. These plants do produce seed but reproduce from rood division. They will spread so they need to be contained which can be done easily.
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