Category Archives: Perennials

Echinacea – Collect – Dissect – Plant

Now is a good time to collect echinacea seed heads from the garden. I usually keep two inches of stem that I can hold onto later.

The seeds are the white segments in the picture. I wear gloves and use needle nose pliers to pry the seeds out.

It’s easy to do the math and see that one seed head can give you a 100 seeds and thus 100 new plants in the spring.

I’ve had equal success planting the seeds either in the fall or early spring. I cover the seeds with a bit of potting mix to mark the location.

You probably won’t get flowers the first year, but you will get lots of flowers the 2nd year.

2nd Year Plants

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Asters and Goldenrod

Scott Woodbury did a recent program where he talked about asters and goldenrod and gave advice on both.

Here is some of the advice he gave plus my experiences with specific species.

Spring Haircut – (SH) he talks about cutting back most of the asters and goldenrod by 50% – 70% in late April or early May. He does this once. I also do this with ironweed and I’m trying this on some of my echinacea to encourage some late blooms.

Asters in general are clump forming except for Willow-Leaf Aster.

Aromatic Aster – Symphyotrichum oblongifolium – Try dividing this in spring. Easy to grow from seed after stratification. Take cuttings in June.
Blooms in October/November. Mounds with lots of flowers. Good for pollinators late in the year. Makes a nice hedge.

Calico Aster – Symphyotrichum lateriflorum
2′ height – can be weedy.

Drummond Aster – Symphyotrichum drummondii
This is shade tolerant woodland aster. Short-Lived.

Hairy Aster – Symphyotrichum pilosum
Lots of seeds and weedy.

Heath Aster – Symphyotrichum ericoides – SH – Try this.
Can grow tall and flop over. Don’t use.

New England Aster – Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – SH
I’ve found this to be an aggressive grower that usually flops over and I usually end up staking it. It will tolerate some shade. It’s a butterfly magnet. It blooms around the time that Monarchs show up in St. Louis. Purple Dome is a cultivar that is supposed to stay small, but mine has always gotten large. Seeds can be a problem.

Purple Aster – Symphyotrichum patens (Called Spreading Aster) – Try This
Showy – Flowers Aug, – Oct. Tolerates some shade.

Sky Blue Aster – Symphyotrichum oolentangiense
Lots of seeds.

Willowleaf Aster – Symphyotrichum praealtum
Aggressive with underground runners. Not appropriate for most gardens.


Atlantic Goldenrod – Solidago
Scott likes this, but may not be available.

Blue-Stem Goldenrod – Solidago
Long stems which arch down. Good for woodland.

Buckley’s Goldenrod – Solidago buckleyi –
Grows in the woods. 2′ – nice shape, but reseeds easily.

Cliff Goldenrod – Solidago drummondii
Would cascade over a retaining wall. 24″ – nice plant – Sun and Part Shade.

Golden Fleece – Solidago sphacelata – I grow this.
It stays low and spreads out. 24″ tall.

Riddell’s Goldenrod – Solidago riddellii
Rain garden – 3′ tall –

Rough-Leafed Goldenrod – Solidago rugosa
Likes shade. Grows in woods. Showy.

Showy Goldenrod – Solidago speciosa – SH
Spear shaped – upright

Stiff Goldenrod – Solidago rigida – SH
Aggressive seeder. Pollinators like this in my garden. Need to deadhead in the home garden.

Tall Goldenrod – Solidago altimissa – SH
Don’t plant this. It spreads by rhizomes and will take over a garden. It make take years to pull it all out.

Zig Zag Goldenrod – Solidago flexicaulis
Can be clump forming or slightly spreading. Shade tolerant. I took mine out as there were no pollinators on it.

Cut stems 12″ to 18″ high and leave for solitary bees.

Prairies can have 46 species in a 20″ x 20″ area. That’s why the plants are not as tall and vigorous in a prairie.

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Lantana – Back Eight Years in a Row















Most lantana will only last a year in cold climates. In St. Louis, I have kept mine alive for eight years with very little help.

Note that Miss Huff appears to be a stronger and more hardy plant than Star Landing. Star Landing is a bit more colorful. These are the only two varieties that I have found which will come back in my area.

Both of these plants are hard to find locally. I got mine from

Here are some tips on growing hardy lantana.

Don’t cut back the lantana until some time in April. I usually cut them back to about six inches. Pull back any mulch at this time to let the plants warm up….Then – be patient. They take until late May to show signs of growth.

In the fall, save your leaves and mulch the lantana with a good layer of leaves to help protect the plants.
The plants against my basement always come back. Lantana appreciates the extra soil heat.

The eight plants at Whitecliff Park also came back this year without any extra help. They do however have great southern soil exposure.



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Hydrangea paniculata – host/nectar plant

hydrangea-02-800One of the plants that I have had great success with is Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora  – also called Pee Gee Hydrangea. While it’s not on most people’s nectar list, I have found that when it blooms it attracts tons of pollinators. It also attracts Spring and Summer Azure butterflies which lay eggs on the blossoms.

I’ve decided to create a hedge with these and am going to use this page to collect ideas and notes from the web.

Here are some recommendations from Craig of

  • A few that I like are Limelight, Tardiva and Pink Diamond. These plants all have sturdy branches that help hold the large flower heads up with minimal flopping.
  • Placing plants at 3′ on center would allow for a tight hedge in a reasonable period of time without overplanting. You may be able to space even farther if you begin with larger stock plants.
  • Personally, I would stay with one variety to allow for uniform shape and growth pattern among the plants. All varieties have a very long length of time between bud stage, full bloom and gradual fading of flowers through the fall.
  • I believe that Limelight is a good pollinator plant, but have no real evidence to support this. I do not know if any studies have been done on this characteristic for various paniculata forms.

Deborah Silver says, “I would plant your hedge 4′ off the sidewalk. No need to crowd that walk.”

Limelight is a variety that seems to get good reviews, so I may go with this hydrangea.

Note – if any readers grow this variety, I’d appreciate their comments.

Hydrangea is also listed as a good native nectar plant.

Here’s a good video on pruning this shrub.

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Plant List from Monarch Watch

Monarch Watch has a nice plant list (pdf) that has many of the plants which I grow. Be careful however as some of the plants are invasive. Look at my list for notes on most of these plants.

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July Plant Winners

Below are some of the newer plants which are doing well this year.

Cheyenne – very few seeds germinated, but the ones which made it are spectacular and the bees seem to like them

Black Adder Agastache – nice nectar plant – don’t cut to the ground or it may die out. It also still looks good in September and has many skippers on it. ______________________


Gaillardia – nice looking and healthy plant with lots of blooms______________________

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Lantana – Back Two Years in a Row


As we had a long cold winter in St. Louis, Missouri, I was concerned that my lantana would not make it through year number two, but I was wrong.

When I came back from vacation both Miss Huff and Start Landing were both coming out from their root stock. This is a good reminder to not be so quick to pull up plants that appear to be dead in the early spring.

Note also that Miss Huff appears to be a stronger more hardy plant than Star Landing. Star Landing however is a bit more colorful.


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Herbaceous Perennials – Notes from Class

I’m currently taking a class on perennials (HRT 230 – Meramec CC) and thought I’d share some of my notes from the class. These will be updated on a weekly basis until the end of the semester.

The instructor is Dianne O’Connell and is the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met on the subject. She has a lot of real world practical experience and gladly shares her expertise with the class. The first class she hands out 70 pages of information and there is more to come.

One of the nice things she does is go through all the blooming perennials in the St. Louis area, although she admittedly has to limit it somewhat because of the large list. She starts in the period Jan-March and goes through the entire year.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from her.

6 foot high wall – you will need a 6 foot flower bed.

Bulbs – know what the Grade is – don’t buy from Walmart.They are the lowest bulbs.

Cultivar – is the specific type of plant that is developed by a nursery.

Dying out area – dig it all up and add compost etc to raise the bed and get better drainage. If plants still don’t do well, then get a different species or variety.

Heirlooms – come true from seed and are at least 50 years old.

Hybrid plants – don’t live as long as the standards. I’ve noticed this with all the different colors of echinacea I’ve bought in the past – almost none have survived.

Shade – partial shade. Very little will grow in total dark shade.

Sheep Shears – she uses this for deadheading large areas. I bought some from Amazon and they hurt my hand. I don’t recommend them. I prefer a hedge trimmer to trim a lot quickly/

Sun – 6 to 8 hours of sun per day

Turface – added to the soil for drainage. There are two types. Try and get the type for gardens.
Walkways (stone) – Have more space between stone walkway so that you can add in plants in-between the stones.



Scientific, Common,size,sun/shade,misc

Ajuga reptans,Bugle Weed,Fairy,stoloniferous – runners,needs great drainage or it will die out.

Aurinia saxatilis, Basket of Gold,Fairy,10″- SUN-needs good drainage-maybe hanging over edge.

Coreopsis auriculata, Mouse ear coreopsis,, 12/18″ SUN FAIRY

Coreopsis lanceolata,coreopsis, ,- what I have in my gardens. Leaves are like lances.

Creopisis zagreb,coreopsis, ,- BEST according to teacher – spreads out.

Dianthus gratianopolitanus ,dianthus, Fairy,9/12″-SUN-FAIRY – Try Tiny Rubies- needs good drainage –

Dicentra eximia,Fringed Bleeding Heart,Fairy,12/18″-SUN-

Epimedium x versicolor,Barrenwort,6/9″,Shade, POM Dry-April/Shade – slow to establish, good under a tree-doesn’t look to good in late summer-not showy

Iberris sempervirens,Candytuft, Fairy,- SUN – 9/12″ Brassicacea family – might be good for cabbage white.

Lamium galeobdolon,Yellow Archangel,9/12″,Shade, – April-dry shade-under tree-might melt out in hot summer

Lamium maculatum,Spotted Nettle,8/12″,Shade,-dry-shade-might melt out in hot summer
Mazus reptans,Mazus,2/4″,Shade,Fairy-POM-can plant in sun if it gets enouigh water-shade-POM-put in between walking stones
Myosotis sylvatica,Woodland Forget-Me-Not,6/8″,Shade,likes moisture-
Phlox divaricata, Wild Sweet William,12/15″,Shade,Native-
Pulmonaria longifolia,long leaved Lungwort,12″,Shade,dry flowers are nominal-white spots on leaves
Pulmonaria saccharata, Bethlehem Sage,9/18″Shade,dry flowers are nominal-white spots on leaves

Phlox subulata, Moss or Creeping Phlox,FAIRY, 6″-SUN-needs good drainage

Veronica – Sunny Border Blue – does poorly in St. Louis.

Websites: – good source for tools – has a nice plant database

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