Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture

Wildflower Week 2015

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A great resource that helps to identify different wildflowers.

A great resource that helps to identify  wildflowers.

Wildflower Week is in full bloom. What exactly is Wildflower Week and what is a wildflower? Wildflowers and native plants are very versatile plants that have multiple benefits in the landscape. Some wildflowers are a cut above the rest and are worth a try in your garden.

Wildflowers are an important part of any region’s identity. Nebraska Wildflower Week celebrates this “sense of place” through wildflower-related events and activities the first week in June, when many of Nebraska’s prairies and gardens

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA) serves as coordinator for Wildflower Week activities, bringing together organizations and individuals across the state that recognizes the value of wildflowers—not only for their beauty but also for what they imply and symbolize. “Where wildflowers are thriving, is a sign that the environment is healthy,” said Bob Henrickson, whose nursery production work with the Arboretum concentrates on native and regionally-appropriate plants. Opportunities for wildflower enthusiasts across the state include guided tours, presentations on wildflower plantings, exhibits, prairie runs, and much more. Events, photos and more information is available at the NSA’s website

Wildflowers and native plants can be unique and interesting additions to the landscape. What is the difference between native plants and wildflowers? The terms “native” and “wildflower” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Native plants in the Great Plains are generally described as those found growing in a defined area prior to European settlers. Wildflowers are described as flowering plants that grow with little or no human help. They can either be native or introduced, or brought in from other areas. Both wildflowers and native plants work well in low maintenance areas and in sites that need hardy, drought tolerant plants.

Top 5 wildflower picks of 2015:

Shell-leaf Penstemon, Penstemon grandiflorus– There are over 200 species of Penstemon, with nearly 24 native to the Great Plains. They are upright, multi-stemmed perennials that grow from 2-3 feet tall. Tubular flowers shaped like snapdragons are white to lavender. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus– This 2-4’ tall shrubby plant prefers sandy loam soils or rocky soils with good drainage. Clusters of showy, fragrant, flowers appear in May to July and are great for cut flowers. This drought tolerant plant does best in full sun to part shade.

Swamp Milkweek, Asclepias incarnata- As the name implies, these plants are tolerant to wet soils and swamps. The pinkish-rose flowers show up in July-August on 4-5’ tall plants. It is slow to leaf out in the spring so give it some time.

Blue Flax, Linum perenne– This easy-to-grow perennial is tolerant of a wide range of conditions and reseeds itself almost sounds too good to be true. The 1-2’ tall plants produce blue flowers in May-July. To extend flowering, cut some stems back by 1/2 mid-way through the bloom period.

Helen’s Flower, Helenium autumnale– Also known as sneezeweed, this clump-forming perennial produces yellow to maroon colored flowers in August- September. It is tolerant to wet sites, but prefers rich, moist soils. Divide clumps every 3-4 years to maintain plant vigor.

This is just a sample of my favorites, but there are many more interesting wildflowers to learn about. More information about wildflowers can be found in a Nebraska Extension NebGuide, a University publication, ‘Wildflowers for the Home Landscape’. Go to and search for the keyword ‘wildflowers’.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, her blog at, HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter, or visit the Nebraska Extension in Hall County website:

Author: Elizabeth Exstrom

A Nebraska Extension Educator out of Hall County with a focus in horticulture and sustainable landscapes.

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