Native Plants Blooming in August: Cool Colors

Subtle flower colors to beat the summer heat

Native gardens in August are often filled with bright colors of black-eyed susans, goldenrods, native sunflowers, cardinal flowers, hibiscus and New York iron weeds. If your preferred color pallette is a bit more muted, there are many natives for you that hold their own in August. Lavenders, pinks and whites can cooly contrast the summer heat.


Cool Colors for Shade

Heuchera 'Autumn Bride'

Mistflower

Turtlehead

Cool Colors for Part Shade/Part Sun

Anise hyssop Blue lobelia

Coneflower Mistflower

Heuchera 'Autumn Bride'

Nodding onion Phlox 'Jeana'

Spotted bee balm Turtlehead

Cool Colors for Sun

Anise hyssop Coneflower

Joe pye weed Mistflower

Nodding onion Phlox 'Jeana'


Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is an easy to grow perennial that gives you months of color and pollinators to view up close. It does very well in sun but will also grow just fine in part shade. It adapts to all sorts of soil conditions too.


Blue lobelia

native blue lobelia in home garden
Blue lobelia

Blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is a part shade loving perennial that sends up blue spikes of flowers in August. It thrives in moist areas but can grow in average soils as well. It is a short lived perennial but will self seed in the right conditions. To get self seeding, it's important not to rake or clean up beneath the plant and also not to mulch. I planted it around a small pond and we always get some every year though it does tend to move around a bit. Butterflies and other pollinators seem to love it.


Coneflower

native coneflower
Coneflower

There are tons of cultivars of coneflowers but from what I have read and experienced, the straight species purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) thrives in our area, has staying power and gold finches love the seed heads. By August, coneflowers that have not been deadheaded have faded to a pale pink. A mass of fading coneflowers with goldfinches flitting from seed head to seed head is a beautiful thing!


Heuchera 'Autumn Bride'

a hybrid of native alumroot
Heuchera 'Autumn Bride'

American alumroot (Heuchera americana) is the straight species of the native heuchera. While the foliage is beautiful and provides contrast and color in August, the straight species blooms earlier in the summer. The cultivar of the straight species, Heuchera 'Autumn Bride' (Heuchera villosa var. villosa "Autumn Bride') blooms in August, often beginning as early as July and lasting through September. It's very easy to grow, widely available and a great substitute for hostas. It grows in most soil types and can even take a bit of sun.


Joe Pye Weed

native joe pye weed
Joe Pye Weed

Joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is a common native plant that needs full sun and really does shine in August. I resisted this perennial for the longest time as too tall, too floppy and a blah color. Now I love it for its enthusiastic blooming and subtle color in August. The straight species is a very tall perennial reaching up to 8 feet high in some situations. If that is too much for your garden, you can either cut it down by 2/3 in early summer as I do, or look for one of the shorter cultivars such as Joe pye weed 'little joe' (Eutrochium dubium 'little joe'),


Mistflower

native perennial blue Mistflower
Mistflower

Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) is a perennial with a very small flower. Its best attribute is an ability to spread, so great if you want more plants without great expense. The small flowers, when massed, provide just enough color to make a difference. The foliage also really takes off in August giving you a very fresh green when you need it most. It grows in sun as well as shady sites and thrives in dappled shade.


Nodding onion

natives in a meadow
Nodding onion growing among hay scented ferns

Nodding onion (Allium cernuum) is the native alternative to the popular ornamental allium bulbs that produce all manner of delightful purple spheres in late spring and early summer. This native flower is smaller and more delicate. I have not had great luck growing this. It flowers but the stems and foliage are very floppy. Many others gardeners though have great results with a sturdy 18" tall plant that has a pale pink allium flower about an inch or two wide in August. Mt. Cuba advises that it will grow in sun and part shade and in dry and moist soils. Many sources for the plant list it as "easy to grow."


The shutterstock photo above was taken at a meadow in Shenandoah National Park. The nodding onion is growing among hay scented ferns (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) that are seemingly thriving. Hay scented ferns grow well in moister soils in some shade which suggests at least one possibility as to where to best grow nodding onion. Reasons plants flop include too rich with nitrogen, not enough water, too much water ... so I am experimenting and trying to get it right. If you have tips to share, please add in the comments below.


native hybrid phlox jeana
Phlox paniculata 'Jeana'

Phlox 'Jeana' (Phlox paniculata "Jeana"), a cultivar of the straight species of phlox, gets rave reviews. It has much smaller flowers than most phloxes. This plant is getting loads of attention because a study of phlox by the Mt. Cuba Center identified this one as the most attractive to pollinators. It is becoming more widely available at garden centers and native plant nurseries. I am growing it for the first time and the plant above is in its first month out of the container but check out these photos from Mt. Cuba to see it in its full glory. The August color and bloom period through September can't be beat. It is also said to be not as susceptible to powdery mildew as other phloxes. This grows in full sun or part shade and to 5 feet tall when mature.


Spotted Bee Balm

native flower blooms in August
Spotted bee balm

You may be thinking most bee balms have finished blooming by August and you would be right. Some of the later or longer blooming bee balms can hold some color through August but it really depends on the year, the type of bee balm and the growing conditions. And then there is spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata). The cool pink flower inflorescences, several to a stem, provide the color. It begins blooming in late July but holds the color for about six weeks. I don't have much experience with these as I grew some from seed and most are in their first year. If you click here, you can see pictures from Mt. Cuba showing what it looks like early on, through bloom and then later in the season. As Mt. Cuba points out, it can be floppy late in the season. If you are willing to forgo the pink, another native that provides that cool minty color in mountain mint and that has great staying power.


Turtlehead

Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) is an August blooming perennial and can have either white or pink flowers. White turtlehead is the host plant for the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. I grow both pink and white turtleheads in average soils in a part sun-part shade area. It grows best in shade in moist soils. In my experience, the white turtlehead is more apt to flop a bit. Pink turtlehead also seems to have stronger, slightly darker green, sturdier foliage and may be better for those who like a tidier plant. They are both easy to grow perennials and that fresh color is so welcome in August.


Whether you love cool colors, hot colors or both, August has native flowers for everyone! Happy gardening.






We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Pachysandra-procumbens.jpg