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Native Perennials Featuring Toughness & Hardiness for Midwest

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Native perennials are becoming more and more popular and are more suitable for gardeners every year. They have the advantage of adapting to our climate, and some require less maintenance because they do not require the care of some non-local people. Native plants are also beneficial to native wildlife, thereby promoting biodiversity. The National Audubon Society, which promotes bird protection, pointed out that “every piece of native habitat becomes part of a collective effort to cultivate and maintain wildlife living landscapes.” Fortunately for us gardeners, many native perennials contribute to the landscape. A very beautiful contribution.

When evaluating the variety of local perennials that our local garden centers, nurseries, online resources, and other suppliers will provide, look for perennials that are strong, low-maintenance, durable, adaptable, and long-lived in the garden. One definition of the word "tough" is "sufficient to withstand adverse conditions." Although few plants need attention or care, there are certainly many local choices that fall into this definition of resilience. Here are some tough and beautiful native perennials suitable for Midwestern gardeners.

This member of the carrot family has sword-shaped, blue-green, bristly leaves and strong stems that can support branch-shaped white curds. These prickly spherical flowers change from green to white, and then age to brown. Rattlesnakes can withstand a variety of soil conditions and can reach 4 to 5 feet in height. It forms a taproot, so consider finding a permanent planting location, preferably close to plants that can help support the flowering stems. Plant it in full sun and watch the many beneficial pollinators visit.

Pale purple coneflower
This long-lived cone flower looks beautiful in the garden. The three-foot-tall stem has a red central cone and drooping, pale, purple-pink petaled flowers. The shape of the flower resembles a badminton bird. This species is resistant to drought, heat and humidity, and can grow in clay. Relatively disease-free, the lavender cone flowers are rarely eaten by deer. Avoid over-watering it, as it will become tall and soft; it will perform better in dry, poor soil. Full sun is ideal for optimal flowering, although some shade is acceptable. Consider using this option in grouping or found in other perennial neighbors throughout the landscape.

Flowering spurge
This plant is new to me, until a few years ago, when I saw the patch from a distance, I admired the important and gorgeous flowers like baby's breath (Gypsophila, zone 3-9). Flowering Euphorbia is highly adaptable and grows well in poor, well-drained soil. It grows to 3 feet tall in full to partial sunlight. This rugged species prefers a little space, so give it some space and proper air circulation. From early summer to autumn, the performance is surrounded by tumbling white flowers. The slender flowers are very eye-catching when grown in large numbers or from a single specimen plant. This plant is toxic to food, and its juice can irritate the eyes and skin, so be careful when handling it.

Culver's root
The local Culver's roots are architecturally impressive for the vertical contribution of the narrow, spiky flowers in midsummer. The color of the flower is white, light blue and light pink, and the flower shape looks like a candle holder. This statue-like perennial plant is tough once established, but not too drought-tolerant. Adequate sunlight is ideal, because although this species can tolerate partial shadows, if there is not enough sunlight, it will become soft. Remember, Culver’s roots can grow to 4 to 6 feet tall. The whorled leaves are also very beautiful, which is part of the reason why this perennial plant is popular in natural plants and rain gardens.

White baneberry
White baneberry has a wide native range and is found throughout moist, well-drained soils in woodland areas. It features fragrant white blooms in spring and astilbe-like foliage, although its primary ornamental feature is its cluster of pea-size white fruits that form in late summer and extend interest well into autumn. Each white berry has a small purple spot, which gives the plant its other common name of “doll’s eyes.” Ample moisture is imperative and certainly affects longevity. White baneberry grows 30 inches tall and takes full to partial shade. Red baneberry (Actaea rubra, Zones 4–8) is worth considering as well; it features glossy red berries. The berries on both of these native species are extremely poisonous, so be sure to keep that in mind when planting and handling.