Minnesota Native Perennials

Posted by Aaron Barton on Mar 4th 2023

Minnesota Native Perennials

Native plants are species of plants that occur naturally in specific ecosystems and locations. Plants are considered native to Minnesota if they were observed in Minnesota at the time of the Public Land Survey (1847-1907), conducted before and in the early stages of settlement and disturbance. Any plant that expands from its historic range into the state without human intervention is also considered native.

A native plant community describes plant species that naturally occur together in a specific area. Each area has a unique set of conditions that include soil, moisture, sun, and climate. A native plant community has dozens of plants that all thrive under those same conditions. Minnesota has many native plant communities including, dry prairies, wet prairies, oak forests, pine forests, and marshes.

Native plants are an excellent choice for the home garden as they are best adapted to our local climate and growing conditions. Additionally, native plants are great sources of pollen, nectar, and seeds for native pollinators, birds, and other animals, and provide great habitat for wildlife.

Planting a garden with native plants can be a little intimidating as they have a reputation for being vigorous growers that can become unruly if left unmanaged in landscapes. Definitely a divergence from neatly manicured lawns and properly mulched Hostas. However, when planted with intention, native landscapes also known as wild landscapes are super on trend for more reasons than one!

Get going and garden and grab this book to guide you. Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West is an inspiring call to action dedicated to the idea of a new nature. They write, “Over time, with industrialization and urban sprawl, we have driven nature out of our neighborhoods and cities. But we can invite it back by designing landscapes that look and function more like they do in the wild: robust, diverse, and visually harmonious. —a hybrid of both the wild and the cultivated—that can flourish in our cities and suburbs."

Benefits of Native Plants

  • Sustainable and adapted to flourish in their local climate and soil conditions
  • Once established, they seldom need watering, mulching, or protection from winter chills
  • Provide nectar, pollen, and seeds for pollinators, birds, butterflies, and other animals
  • Help prevent erosion and water runoff because of their deep and spreading root systems
  • Many native varieties can be used in rain gardens to help process and filter rainwater
  • Act as natural pest control and many are deer-resistant
  • Help to detoxify chemicals in the air and water
  • Many native wild plants are used by herbalists as natural treatments and remedies

Some of Our Favorite Native Plants

Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop)

  • Well drained soil, performs best in sandy prairie conditions
  • Full sun
  • 30-60” tall
  • Blue, tubular flowers from mid-June to September
  • Features: anise scent, deer resistant

Aruncus dioicus (Goat’s Beard)

  • Humus-rich soil, medium to moist location
  • Part sun to shade
  • 36-72” tall
  • White to cream with branching spikes flowers in May and June
  • Features: deer resistant, like a non-native astilbe

Amsonia tabernaemontana (Amsonia Bluestar)

  • Humus-rich soil, medium to moist location
  • Full sun to part shade
  • 24-36” tall
  • Light blue flowers occurring in short cymes from April to July
  • Features: Excellent border plant

Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem Grass)

  • Can handle a variety of soil types, drought resistant
  • Full sun
  • 24-72” tall
  • Pink to purple florets in the fall
  • Features: Deer resistant, drought resistant, beautiful blue hue and copper fall color

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)

  • Loose soil, sand to loam
  • Full sun
  • 12-36” tall
  • Orange or yellow 5-parted petals blooming in June and July
  • Features: deer resistant, monarch caterpillar larval food

FIlipendula rubra (Queen of the Prairie)

  • Rich, loamy, moist soil
  • Full sun
  • 60-72” tall
  • Large flower plums of fragrant rose-pink flowers June-August
  • Features: deer resistant

Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke)

  • Medium to dry well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • 6-12” tall
  • Pink flowers that fade to feathery seed heads that flower in May and June
  • Features: deer resistant, great border plant

Iris versicolor (Blue Flag Iris)

  • Moist soil, can be planted on the edges of ponds
  • Full sun
  • 18-24” tall
  • Lavender-violet funnel-formed flowers that bloom in June and July
  • Features: deer resistant, excellent rain garden plant

Liatris spicata (Blazing Star/Gay Feather)

  • Rich, loamy, moist soil
  • Full sun
  • 36-60” tall
  • Purple, spike-like clusters that bloom
  • Features: deer resistant

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)

  • Rich, loamy, moist soil
  • Full sun to part sun
  • 12-48” tall
  • Scarlet, 5-parted lipped flowers that bloom July to September
  • Features: deer resistant, excellent rain garden plant

Lobelia siphilitica (Great Blue Lobelia)

  • Rich, loamy, moist soil
  • Full sun to part sun
  • 12-48” tall
  • Blue, 5-parted lipped flowers that bloom August and September
  • Features: deer resistant

Maianthemum racemosum (False Solomon’s Seal)

  • Rich, moist woodland soil
  • Part shade to shade
  • 12-24” tall
  • Whitish-cream, 6-parted branched clusters of flowers that bloom in May
  • Features: deer resistant, bright red berries form after flowering

Physostegia (Obedient Plant)

  • Rich, loamy, moist soil
  • Full sun to part sun
  • 24-60” tall
  • White or pink 5-parted, 2-lipped tubular flowers that bloom in August and September
  • Features—deer resistant

Polemonium reptans (Jacob’s Ladder)

  • Rich, loamy, moist soil
  • Part sun to shade
  • 10-20” tall
  • Light blue, 5-parted flower that blooms in May and June
  • Features: self-seeds in optimal growing conditions

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed Grass)

  • Dry, sandy soil
  • Full sun
  • 24-48” tall
  • Late season florets with a silvery sheen
  • Feature: Deer resistant

Full Sun (6+ Hours Direct Sun)

  • Acorus americanus (Sweet Flag)
  • Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop)
  • Allium cernuum (Nodding Onion)
  • Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem)
  • Anemone canadensis (Canada Anemone)
  • Antennaria neglecta (Field Pussytoes)
  • Aronia melanocarpa (Black Chokeberry)*
  • Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
  • Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
  • Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)
  • Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
  • Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed)
  • Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo)
  • Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats Grama)
  • Carex brevior (Plains Oval Sedge)
  • Carex stricta (Common Tussock Sedge)
  • Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea/Redroot)*
  • Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead)
  • Coreopsis lanceolata (Lance-Leaf Coreopsis)
  • Dalea candida (White Prairie Clover)
  • Dalea purpurea (Purple Prairie Clover)
  • Echinacea angustifolia (Narrow-Leaved Coneflower)
  • Eragrostis spectabilis (Purple Love Grass)
  • Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake Master)
  • Eutrochium maculatum (Spotted Joe Pye Weed)
  • Eutrochium purpureum (Sweet Joe Pye Weed)
  • Fragaria virginiana (Wild Strawberry)
  • Gentiana alba (Cream Gentian)
  • Gentiana andrewsii (Bottle Gentian)
  • Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke)
  • Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel)*
  • Heliopsis helianthoides (False/Oxeye Sunflower)
  • Iris versicolor (Northern Blue Flag Iris)
  • Liatris aspera (Rough Blazing Star)
  • Liatris cylindracea (Cylindrical Blazing Star)
  • Liatris ligulistylis (Meadow Blazing Star)
  • Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star)
  • Lilium michiganense (Michigan Lily)
  • Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
  • Lobelia siphilitica (Great Blue Lobelia)
  • Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)
  • Monarda punctata (Spotted Bee Balm)
  • Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)
  • Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beardtongue)
  • Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine)*
  • Prunella vulgaris (Selfheal/Heal-All)
  • Pulsatilla patens (Eastern Pasqueflower/Cutleaf Anemone)
  • Pycnanthemum virginianum (Mountain Mint)
  • Ratibida columnifera (Prairie Coneflower)
  • Ratibida pinnata (Gray-Headed Coneflower)
  • Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan)
  • Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-Eyed Susan)
  • Ruellia humilis (Wild Petunia)
  • Salix discolor (Pussy Willow)*
  • Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem)
  • Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant)
  • Solidago rigida (Stiff Goldenrod)
  • Solidago speciosa (Showy Goldenrod)
  • Sorghastrum nutans (Yellow Prairie Grass)
  • Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)
  • Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster)
  • Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (Aromatic Aster)
  • Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio Spiderwort)
  • Verbena stricta (Hoary Vervain)
  • Vernonia fasciculata (Common Ironweed)
  • Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s Root)
  • Zizia aurea (Golden Alexander)

Note: Many of these plants will grow in part sun exposure but will bloom best in full sun.

* Woody tree or shrub

Part Sun/Shade (0-6 Hours Direct Sun)

  • Adiantum pedatum (Northern Maidenhair Fern)
  • Allium tricoccum (Ramp/Wild Leek)
  • Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Red Columbine)
  • Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-Pulpit)
  • Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)
  • Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern)
  • Campanula americana (Tall Bellflower)
  • Carex sprengelii (Long-Beaked Sedge)
  • Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania Sedge)
  • Carex plantaginea (Plantain-Leaved Sedge)
  • Diervilla lonicera (Northern Bush Honeysuckle)*
  • Dodecatheon meadia (Shooting Star)
  • Eurybia macrophylla (Large-Leaved Aster)
  • Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)
  • Hepatica acutiloba (Sharp-Lobed Hepatica)
  • Hydrophyllum virginianum (Virginia Waterleaf)
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern)
  • Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)
  • Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern)
  • Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern)
  • Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern)
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper)
  • Phlox divaricata (Woodland Phlox)
  • Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)
  • Solidago flexicaulis (Zigzag Goldenrod)
  • Thalictrum dioicum (Early Meadow Rue)
  • Trillium grandiflorum (Great White Trillium)
  • Tsuga canadensis (Eastern Hemlock)*

Note: Many of these plants will grow in shady conditions but will bloom best in part sun.

* Woody tree or shrub