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Meadows and Woodlands

Source:  Univ. of Missouri at Columbia Extension Service (visit site below for graphics)

Woodland wildflowers have these basic needs: (1) light shade, (2) adequate moisture, (3) soil high in organic matter, (4) well-drained soil, and (5) a leaf mulch or other organic mulch that persists throughout the year.

Shade. Most woodland wildflowers do not grow in dense shade. They are at their most attractive in light shade, which in nature tends to be near the edge of the forest or under tall trees with high branching.

Table 1. Woodland wildflowers suitable for a wildflower garden in a shaded or lightly shaded location.

Woodland wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) April, May Yellow 12-14 Moist, humus Divide midsummer Mulch, attractive foliage
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) March, April White 6-10 Humus, dry, well drained Divide late fall Sow seeds after collection. Needs sun.
Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) March, April, May Yellow 10-18 Moist, humus Seed or divide fall Needs constant moisture, mulch
Columbine (Aguilegia canadensis) April, May Red with yellow 24 Moist, rich humus Seed in summer Difficult to transplant. Self-sows easily.
Dog-tooth violet (Erythronium americanum) March, April Yellow 4-10 Moist, humus Divide offsets in late summer Needs spring sunlight. Four to seven years to bloom from seeds.
Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) April White 4-12 Moist, humus Divide early fall Needs constant moisture. Mulch.
False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina racemosa) April, May White 12-36 Moist, rich humus Divide late fall. Reseeds. Arching growth. Red berries. Tall groundcover.
Fire Pink (Silene virginica) April, May Brilliant red 24 Dry, sandy, well drained Seeding difficult. Divide fall. Fragrant. Needs some sun. Use mulch.
Woodland wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Goat's Beard (Aruncus diocus) May, June Creamy white 48-60 Moist, rich Reseeds easily in shade Male and female plants
Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis) April, May White 12-15 Moist, rich, well drained Divide fall. Seed in fall. Endangered plant. Red berries.
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia silphilitica) August, September Blue 12-36 Wet, rich, humus Divide in spring. Seed fall. Also for wet meadows. Mulch for winter.
Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium) April, May Greenish yellow 12-48 Wet, rich, humus Offsets in fall. Seed fall. Full sun to light shade. Good near ponds.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) April, May Pale green, purplish 6-24 Wet, rich, humus Divide fall. Seed late summer. Needs wet shaded site. Mulch.
Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans) April, May Blue-lavender 15 Moist, rich, humus Divide fall. Seed late summer. Moist woods or near ponds
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) (see Figure 6) May to October Orange 24-48 Moist, rich, humus Seeds in spring Annual plant. Can become weedy.
May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum) (see Figure 7) April, May White 12-18 Moist, rich, humus Divide in fall Forms woodland groundcover. Needs constant moisture.
Woodland wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) April, May White 4-6 Humus, well drained Divide fall. Seed midsummer. Needs filtered light. Tolerates moist sites.
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum canaliculatum) May, June White 24-48 Rich, moist, humus Divide fall. Sow seed when ripe. Tolerates many conditions. P. biflorum useful.
Tall Bellflower (Campanula americana June to October Blue Up to 72 Rich, moist, humus Seed in late summer Annual. Reseeds easily. May become weedy.
Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) March, April White to pale 4-12 Rich, moist, humus Seed late summer Moderate shade. Mulch. Deeply cut leaves.
Violet (Viola species) March-May Blue, white, yellow 4-10 Rich, moist, humus Divide fall. Seed in fall. Grows almost anywhere. Self-seeds easily.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica March, April Light blue 12-20 Well drained, humus, dry Divide when plants turn yellow Sow seeds as soon as collected. In dry sites, mulch.
Wake Robin, Trillium (Trillium species) April, May Maroon, white, yellow 8-16 Rich, humus, moist Divide late summer. Seed when harvested. Filtered light in spring. Shade thereafter. Mulch. Give good drainage.
Wild Geranium (Geranium species) April, May Lavender 10-18 Rich, moist Divide fall. Sow seeds when harvested. Takes partia sun. Mulch. Cut rhizomes for division.
Wild Sweet William (Phlox divaricata) (see Figure 5) April, May Blue, light violet 10-20 Moist, humus Seed fall. Divide late summer. Perennial. Easily grown.

Meadow or field wildflowers have a different set of needs: (1) full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours each day, (2) adequate moisture early in the season, but more drought tolerant later, (3) tolerant of poor to average soils in most cases (they may be weakened by overfertilization), (4) well-drained soils, and (5) protection by nearby noninvasive plants rather than mulch, although light mulch may also be used.

While the meadow wildflower garden may be grown from divisions of larger plants, the seeding method should not be overlooked, particularly if larger areas are to be covered economically. Although seeds of meadow wildflowers may be planted at any time, August and September are very favorable. Many weed seeds will not germinate in fall while the wildflowers will germinate and get a head start on the spring weeds. Some require chilling conditions before germination, but will receive this during the winter and germinate early next spring.

Some field wildflowers can exist in combination with grasses. They should not be planted with grasses that grow aggressively during cool fall and spring weather, such as fescue and rye grass.

Table 2. Meadow and field wildflowers suitable for sunny, open locations.

Meadow wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Beard Tongue (Penstemon species) May to July White, pink, purple 18-48 Average, well drained Divide fall or early spring Self-sows easily. Takes light shade or full sun.
Bee Balm, Bergamot (Monarda species) June to August Lavender, pink, red 24-48 Average, well drained Divide early spring. Seed fall. Tolerates light shade, many soil types
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) June to October Golden yellow 12-24 Average, well drained Seed in fall Self-sows easily. Avoid excess fertilization.
Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) May Blue 24-48 Average, well drained Divide fall. Seed spring. Also white and yellow species. Black seed pods.
Blue Sage (Salvia azurea) August, September Azure blue 36-48 Average, well drained Seed or division in fall Attractive, long slender flower species.
Blue Star (Amsonia illustris) April, May Light blue 18-36 Moist but well drained Seed or division Shiny leaves very attractive.
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) May to September Orange 12-36 Average dry, well drained Divide fall. Sow seed in late summer. Perfect drainage important. Tolerates light shade.
Meadow wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) July to September Bright red 24-36 Average wet Sow seeds in late summer Must be kept moist at all times. Mulch.
Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) May to August Yellow 12-36 Average, well drained Sow seeds in late summer Self-sows readily. Drought tolerant, soil tolerant.
False Dragon Head (Physostegia virginiana) May to September Pink, white 36-48 Average moist Divide early spring. Seed late spring. Also called obedient plant. Spreads easily.
Gayfeather, Blazing Star (Liatris species) (see Figure 3) July to October Lavender-pink 24-48 Fertile, well drained Divide in spring. Seed in fall. Good flower for cutting. Mulch for winter.
Goldenrod (Solidago species) (see Figure 9) July to October Yellow, white 12-60 Poor to average, well drained Divide fall. Seed in fall Self-sows easily. Tolerates light shade.
Gray-head Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) May to September Yellow 36-48 Poor to average Seed in fall. Division. Gray disks with drooping yellow ray floret petals.
Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja coccinea) April to July Red, orange 8-24 Average moist Seed in fall. Do not cover. Annual. Difficult.
Missouri Coneflower, Missouri Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia missouriensis) June to October Yellow 18 Average, well-drained Seed in fall Common wildflower in Ozark region of Missouri.
Meadow wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) (see Figure 1) May to July Yellow 8-10 Average dry, well drained Seed late spring. Cuttings in July. Large flowers, evening bloom. Good rock garden plant.
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) July to September Violet 36-60 Average moist Divide late fall. Seed in late fall. Top shoots in late spring to create lower, bushier plant
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) (see Figure 4) July to October Reddish-purple 24-36 Average, well drained Divide fall. Seed in late summer. Durable, long lasting. Drainage important.
Purple Prairie Clover (Petalostemon purpurea) June to September Rose-purple 24-36 Poor to average Seed in fall Common clover. Easily grown.
Rattlesnake Master, Button Snakeroot July through August Greenish white 18-48 Average, well drained (Eryngium yuccifolium) Seed or divide in fall Attractive seed heads provide late summer and fall interest.
Rose Verbena (Verbena canadensis) March to November Rose, magenta 6-12 Poor to average, well drained Seed fall or early spring Self sows. Needs full sun. Cannot compete with tall plants. Mulch.
Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia) April, May Pink 12-18 Rich, dry and well drained Divide late summer. Seed midsummer. Drought tolerant. Cannot compete with large plants. Mulch.
Showy Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) May, June Pink, white 6-12 Poor to average, well drained Divide early spring. Seed fall or early spring. Spreads easily. Mulch for winter protection.
Meadow wildflowers Bloom time Major color Height (inches) Soil type Propagation Comments
Skullcap (Scutellaria incana) June to August Purple 24-30 Average, well drained Seed in fall Seeds shaped like a cap, hence its name.
Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) (see Figure 9) August to November Yellow 48-72 Average moist Divide spring Rank grower. Suitable for background use.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) April to July Blue 12-24 Poor to average, well drained Divide early fall. Sow seed promptly. Tolerates light shade. Cut flower stems for repeat bloom.
White Upland Aster (Aster ptarmicoides) July to September White 24-30 Average, well drained Division in fall or spring Drainage important. Can grow in almost pure sand.
Wild Pink (Silene caroliniana) April to May Rosy pink 6-8 Acid, well drained Seed in fall or spring. Excellent drainage important. Suitable for rock gardens.
Yarrow (Achillea species) June to September White, pink, yellow 12-36 Average, well drained Divide fall. Seed at harvest. Mulch. Tolerates light shade.
Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) June, July Yellow 24-36 Average, well drained Seeds or division. An uncommon native plant suitable for gardens.

Search for 'woodlands and meadows' at  Univ. of Missouri at Columbia, Extension Serv., XPLOR