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The Plant Guide

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Compass plant

Silphium laciniatum

SILL-fee-um lass-in-ee-AY-tum Audio

This tall, sturdy prairie plant makes an imposing statement in the garden with its large, deeply cut leaves and yellow sunflower-like flowers that face east and bloom in late summer and early fall. The leaves of the compass plant can grow up to 18 inches long and are deeply incised with a shape that looks like something from a painting by Matisse. They align themselves on a north-south axis to conserve moisture by avoiding the midday sun. This plant requires a few years to enlarge and flower, but once its deep roots are anchored, it will live for many years.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsThis tall, native prairie plant has interesting leaves and attractive flowers. It's good for a wild garden, herbaceous border, or cottage garden. It does best in heavy soils, and it is drought tolerant.

CarePlant in moist, deep, neutral to slightly alkaline soil of moderate fertility in full sun or partial shade. Silphium prefers clay soil.

PropagationSow seed in containers when ripe or divide in spring. Plants may not flower until their second or third year.

ProblemsNothing serious.

  • Genus : Silphium
  • Plant Width : 1 to 3 feet
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Plant Height : 6 to 10 feet
  • Tolerance : Drought Tolerant
  • Bloom Time : Fall, Late Summer, Summer
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Growth Rate : Moderate
  • Maintenance : Moderate
  • Plant Type : Perennials
  • Characteristics : Showy Foliage
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Summer Interest
  • Flower Color : Yellow
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