5 Native Flowers Perfect for Your Delaware Garden

A local expert at Mt. Cuba Center offers insight into five of the best native flowers for beauty and wildlife value in Delaware.

You may have heard the buzz about native flowers — a literal buzz from the swarms of wild bees and other pollinators that love these blooms.

These plants can create not just a flower garden, but a sort of creature garden where living things thrive. Because they’re well-suited to the soil and climate, they also don’t require the coddling some non-native species do.

“They are low-maintenance,” says Sam Hoadley, manager of horticultural research at Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin. The center is a respected authority on native plants, earning its reputation through education, publicly accessible gardens and scientific research.

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Here are a few of the native flowers Hoadley rates among the “best of the best” for beauty and wildlife value.

Mt. Cuba’s Bluestar study found that they’re hardy, healthy and good for pollinators.

Bluestar (Amsonia)

These plants with little star-shaped flowers range from very large, up to five feet or so tall and six feet or more wide, to petite versions suitable for a porch container.

Mt. Cuba’s 10-year study of these carefree native perennials found they are hardy, healthy and good for pollinators, even attracting monarch butterflies at times.

“There is an amsonia for just about any home garden,” Hoadley says. They have “beautiful blue flowers in the spring, incredible clean foliage all summer and some of (the foliage provides) exceptional fall color.”

Smooth hydrangea are showy plants that attract a ton of pollinators.

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea Arborescens Haas Halo)

Native flowers run the gamut from more subtle to eye-popping, and this hydrangea is one of the latter, with dark green leaves setting off its white flowers.

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“It produces these incredible, almost dinner-plate-sized” flowers, Hoadley says. “It’s an incredibly showy plant that attracts a ton of pollinators. When I saw it blooming for the first time, I went out and bought one [and] put it in my home garden.”

A compact coneflower like echinacea offers a pop of color and attracts a variety of pollinators.

Echinacea Purpurea ‘Pica Bella’

Echinacea are a coneflower (like the famous black-eyed Susan), but are purple with an orange cone.

This particular flower was a favorite among the echinacea purpurea varieties tested at Mt. Cuba.

It “has a really nice compact form, no issues with flopping [and] still attracts a lot of pollinators,” Hoadley says.

Sedges are grass-like plants that can provide a subtle accent to a flower garden.

Wood’s Sedge and Cherokee Sedge (Carex Woodii and Carex Cherokeensis)

Sedges are grass-like plants that can provide a more subtle accent to a flower garden while also sheltering a wide variety of wildlife. Birds can eat the seeds, and the plants are a good habitat for a variety of amphibians like frogs and toads.

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These are often thought of as plants that need shade, Hoadley says, but that’s not always true. He lists Wood’s sedge and Cherokee sedge as varieties that proved very adaptable in testing. Mt. Cuba also lists Wood’s sedge as an alternative to commercial lawn grasses.

Native Flowers Delaware
With a stunning pop of color and five-foot-tall stems, Garden Flox is a magnet for butterflies.

Garden Flox (Flox Paniculata Jeana)

The little rounded blooms on this flox are similar to the popular groundcover, creeping flox. But this variety blooms on five-foot-tall stems, and it’s a magnet for butterflies.

It “attracted more butterflies than anything else in the entire trial garden by kind of a landslide,” Hoadley says. “If you plant this plant, you will get butterflies. It’s incredible.”

One of Hoadley’s favorite results of planting any of these native flowers is seeing the creatures who use them. “You know you’re having a positive impact. And that is one of the best feelings for a gardener.”

Related: Meet the Woman Behind Delaware Wildlife Rehabilitators Association

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