Types of Wildflowers

Wildflowers Can Be a Beautiful All Summer Long

Picture of red poppy growing wild in field.
Picture of red poppy growing wild in field. David Beaulieu

Wildflowers are increasingly popular in gardens across the United States. They're relatively easy to grow and care for and create an incredible palette of colors, textures, and foliage throughout the summer months. Some wildflowers have medicinal uses, while others are merely pretty.

While it's ideal to select wildflowers that are indigenous to your region, it's often acceptable to select non-native plants if they are unlikely to become invasive. Bear in mind, however, that if you decide to grow wildflowers that are not native to your area, they may require a fair amount of care.

  • 01 of 12

    New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

    New England Aster

     

    Blacqbook / Getty Images

    New England asters are native to the northeastern U.S. There are many types of asters native to the Northeast, including the New England aster (Aster novae-angliae), a perennial listed among the salt-tolerant plants, making it suitable for roadside plantings. Pictured is a cultivar named the 'Purple Dome' New England aster. Propagation can be achieved by dividing in the spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties:  Purple, pink, or white rays with yellow centers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil amended with compost
  • 02 of 12

    Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia aristata)

    Blanket flowers

     

    gubernat / Getty Images

    Blanket flowers are so named because their colors are reminiscent of a Native American blanket. A North American plains wildflower, blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata) offers a two-toned look. Division in spring provides a way to rejuvenate these beautiful blossoms and increase your stock.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Various shades of red, yellow, orange, or peach
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil, avoid clay soil
  • 03 of 12

    Queen Anne's Lace Wildflower (Daucus carota)

    Queen Anne's Lace

     

    PatrikStedrak / Getty Images

    Queen Anne's lace bears the botanical name Daucus carota. Indeed, Queen Anne's lace is related to carrots. If you pull up one of these wildflowers, you can smell a carrot-like fragrance emanating from the bruised roots.

    The one dark little flower in the middle of the flower head is called the "fairy seat." The color can also vary. It can be found in shades of purple or burgundy. In his book "Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast," author Peter Del Tredici describes this special plant feature, "About one in four plants has a single deep purple flower (the "fairy seat") in the center of the cluster of all-white flowers."

    Queen Anne's lace can be a skin irritant, so it's best to wear gloves when handling the plant extensively.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3a to 9b
    • Color Varieties: White with red or black center
    • Sun Exposure: Sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Neutral to mildly alkaline
  • 04 of 12

    Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus and Centaurea montana)

    Bachelor button flowers

     

    Westend61 / Getty Images

    The origin of the name "bachelor buttons" comes from the way these flowers were once used. They were sometimes placed in the buttonhole of a suit or shirt; bachelors sported the flower when they went courting, according to the Colorado State Extension.

    These flowers are prized as one of the true-blue wildflowers. There are two varieties: the annual known to botanists as Centaurea cyanus (pictured) and to perennial bachelor buttons, Centaurea montana.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 9
    • Color Varieties:  Pale blues, purples, pinks, and reds
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained soil
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  • 05 of 12

    Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)

    Plains Coreopsis
    Brett_Hondow / Pixabay / CC By 0

    Plains coreopsis is an annual wildflower. Like the blanket flower, plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is indigenous to the North American prairies. Moonbeam coreopsis is a variety that is a perennial.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Yellow petals with a reddish-brown center disk
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs:  Clay, Dry, or Shallow-Rocky Soil
  • 06 of 12

    Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

    Coneflower
    Tony Howell/Getty Images

    Coneflowers come in many different colors. For example, some common orange coneflowers include Echinacea 'Firebird' and 'Secret Lust.' Those interested in natural remedies may know purple coneflower equally well by its botanical name, Echinacea purpurea. The herbal extract from purple coneflower is reputed to be effective in promoting immune system health. In wildflower gardens, purple coneflower is valued for the purplish color of its petals. Spring is the recommended time to divide this perennial.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Purple, mauve, rose-pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Any soil amended with fertilizer
  • 07 of 12

    Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

    Cardinal flowers
    Rockerboo / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    Cardinal flower is a fine hummingbird plant. It is also ​an effective plant for wet areas. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is one of the more striking red wildflowers native to eastern North America.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Scarlet red, white or rose
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium to wet soils
  • 08 of 12

    Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta)

    Black-eyed susan

     

    Timothy Carroll / EyeEm / Getty Images

    If ever a plant needed a common name, it's Rudbeckia hirta, better known as "black-eyed Susan." This plant is just too pretty and cheerful a plant to be called by its mouthful of a botanical name. A wildflower native to eastern North America, black-eyed Susans share the Rudbeckia genus name with gloriosa daisies.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Orange petals with brown center
    • Sun Exposure: Full
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained soil
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  • 09 of 12

    White Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata or Nuphar luteum)

    White water lily
    fevck / Twenty20

    Water lilies or pond lilies are a must wildflower for water gardens. The lily pads of water lilies are perhaps valued as highly as the water lily flowers. And, you may spot frogs lounging around on lily pads (it is not just in fairy tales). The white flowers are most commonly spotted in New England, but there is also a pink-blooming type. These splendid aquatic plants bear the botanical name Nymphaea odorata

    A similar yet different plant (also widely found in New England ponds) is Nuphar luteum, commonly known as the "yellow pond lily." It is similar in the sense that it shares the same natural habitat (ponds) and sports those iconic lily pads, but it is distinct both botanically (different genus) and color (yellow).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 11 (depending on variety)
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, or yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Wet, poor, sandy soil
  • 10 of 12

    Wild Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

    Wild cosmos
    Dulup / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Wild cosmos is indigenous to Mexico. Cosmos bipinnatus goes by the common name of "wild cosmos." This wildflower is often used in xeriscaping, a reflection of the fact that it is a drought-resistant plant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Golden yellow, white, pink, magenta, orange, yellow, red, chocolate
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil (not too rich)
  • 11 of 12

    Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

    chicory flowers


    Elena Shutova / Getty Images

    Chicory root (Cichorium intybus), after it is dried, can be roasted and ground up, to serve as a coffee substitute. For plant enthusiasts, chicory (sometimes misspelled "chickory") is valued more like a blue wildflower. It is a native of Europe.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: blue; occasionally white or pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full
    • Soil Needs: medium moisture, well-drained, neutral to alkaline
  • 12 of 12

    Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

    Shasta daisies
    James Whitesmith / Getty Images

    Shasta daisy is a hybrid that bears a resemblance to the well-known wildflowers that were originally called "day's eye."

    For example, the oxeye (Leucanthemum vulgare) is an Old World native that has become an invasive plant in North America, despite enjoying popularity like black-eyed Susans. Shasta daisies are among the most popular perennial garden plants in North America. 'Becky' is a cultivated shasta daisy.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White or yellow with yellow center
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil