Tips and resources for farmers and gardeners
Planting Fall WildflowersNative wildflowers and their cultivars — yellow goldenrod, purple asters,
golden sunflowers, and dusty rose Joe Pye — are not only attractive flowers, but provide nourishment for an amazing variety of butterflies, moths, and other insects.
Fall wildflowers are particularly outstanding at attracting adult moths
and butterflies, which lay eggs that hatch into larva (caterpillars). The
larvae provide a high-protein source of food for many birds, particularly
warblers and neo-tropical migrant birds of conservation concern. Birds are
very good at keeping populations of these insects in check, so it is a very
good situation for all.
* Variegata (Solidago flexicaulis); with variegated foliage it brightens semi-shaded wooded areas. This goldenrod is over 4 feet tall and has a spreading nature. It blooms from early September to mid-October.
* Fireworks (Solidago rugosa) has graceful fine textured foliage with arching branches. The stems of the golden blooms arch in many directions like fireworks. It grows three to 4 feet tall. It tolerates wet soil and grows slowly by underground rhizomes but generally doesn’t get out of hand. It blooms mid-September to late October.
* Golden Fleece (Solidago sphacelata), which has pyramidal densely flowering stems that form a compact groundcover, grows to 18 to 36 inches depending on site conditions. It is drought tolerant and is also good for fall container gardens. September flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Asters (Symphyotrichum or Aster) do well in sunny sites with good air circulation or their foliage might suffer from mildew. Pinch back the taller varieties until June as you would chrysanthemums. Most will tolerate sandy, clay, poor soils and some drought.
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) has abundant sky-blue flowers on stiff, 1- to 3-foot stems blooming into October or later before frost. The cultivar 'October Skies' is a winner at just 18 inches
The aromatic aster 'Fannys’ is also a good cultivar with abundant 1.5-inch, dark purple and yellow flowers. This blooms very late in October or even November. The gray-green, rust-resistant, fragrant leaves spread to form large clumps 3 to 4 feet tall. It grows easily and quickly in dry to average conditions and tolerates clay or sandy soil.
Joe Pye (Eutrochium) is a great plant not favored by deer. The showy 'Gateway' has burgundy stems 4 to 6 feet tall, topped by dusky rose nosegays that are 1 foot across. Cut back the tips in June to create a bushier plant. It is a magnet for butterflies and birds in the fall. Joe Pye prefers full sun and likes average to abundant water.
Source: University of Illinois Extension; Nancy Pollard 708-679-6889