Carol Sullivan-Master Gardener Volunteer
Wildflowers have been flowering all through the spring months along our roadsides, in fields, natural areas and even in some home landscapes. They come in all colors, all sizes, all shapes, all smells and they all attract the butterflies, bees and birds in abundance. Some bloom only once a year
while others will continue to provide their colorful display for several months.
Many of our native wildflowers are being cultivated as landscape plants and have proven to be easy-care alternatives to more common exotic species. Some of the more familiar of the natives that bloom in the heat of summer are Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) with it's bright red flowers, Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella) that has flowers in combinations of red, yellow and purple, Passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) with large showy purple and whitish blooms and the various species of Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.) that add a touch of yellow to a summer day.
One of the not-so-common natives is the Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis). This little perennial can be easily overlooked until spring when the flower stems grow up from the base and bear large, lavender flowerheads over a period of several weeks. It usually will bloom only in the spring, but by removing the spent flowers before they go to seed, it is encouraged to produce flowers well into the summer months. When not in bloom, it is a clump of dark green leaves only about a foot tall that thrives in an acidic soil in a moist but well-drained, sunny site. It requires little maintenance when planted in it's favorite spot except for dividing the clumps every few years. An excellent choice for any flower bed, not only for it's pretty blooms, but also as a border or slow-growing
Common name: Stokes aster Scientific name (Genus and species): Stokesia laevis Description: Semi-evergreen, clumping, perennial wildflower that requires little maintenance. Hardiness zone: 5 thru 9 Height/Spread: 1-2' Leaves: Alternate, dark green, 6-8", mostly basal. Flowers: Showy lavender/blue to whitish, 4" wide, fluffy and aster-like borne on the tips of stems in spring. To encourage reflowering through the summer, old flower heads must be removed before they seed. Growing conditions: Rich, moist, well drained, acid soil in full sun to part shade. Drought tolerance: Low Propagation: Seeds, division of clumps. Wildlife attractor: Nectar source for butterflies. Other features: Used as borders, fronts of wildflower and butterfly gardens, best in small groupings. Combines well with Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). Spreads vigorously, can be divided every 2-3 years, transplants easily.