Midwest Regional Reports

Try These Strong Summer Bloomers for the Midwest this Spring

Consider these four strong summer blooming perennials when you are ordering plants in the coming weeks.

Fine Gardening - Issue 182
clematis hexapetala

Most gardeners would agree that the best pastime for cold winter days is looking through seed and plant catalogs imagining the growing season to come. With that in mind, consider these four strong summer blooming perennials for the midwest when you are ordering plants in the coming weeks.

‘Mongolian Snowflakes’ Six-Petal Clematis

Name: Clematis hexapetala ‘Mongolian Snowflakes’ (seen above)

Zones: 5-8

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; average to dry, well-drained soil

The habit of this free-flowering, summer-blooming clematis reminds me of a coreopsis (Coreopsis spp. and cvs., Zones 4-9): rounded in shape, as tall as it is wide, but with white blooms instead of yellow. Like many drought-tolerant species of clematis, this one doesn’t vine. Its architecture is loose and herbaceous, though certainly not floppy. You don’t have to worry about special pruning techniques either. Chop it down each spring to just above the soil line to enjoy its flowers and fuzzy seed heads again. It is durable and easy, a well-appointed thriller for any hellstrip or sidewalk border.


‘Gilded Lace’ Coreopsis

Name: Coreopsis ‘Gilded Lace’

Zones: 5-9

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist to average, well-drained soil

This newer selection from Mt. Cuba Center earned its stripes for bountiful floral displays and standout resistance to powdery mildew, which so regularly afflicts even the classic varieties. At a little more than 4 feet tall, ‘Gilded Lace’ has feathery foliage that offers a textural counterpoint throughout the growing season—a soft veil or backdrop to herbaceous associates. In late summer, it erupts in simple yellow flowers with chocolate centers, a display that can go on for weeks. Its perennial vigor isn’t unruly—even in good soils the plant slowly bulks up to be nearly as wide as it is tall.


KISMET® Red Coneflower

Name: Echinacea ‘TNECHKRD’

Zones: 4-10

Size: 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

With so many coneflowers on the market, gardeners have a right to be dubious. KISMET® Red, along with the other colors in the series, attempts to set a new standard for vigor, floriferousness, and habit. Top-rated in university trials, these varieties offer saturated flowers early in the season to join perennial companions like phloxes (Phlox spp. and cvs., Zones 4-8) and salvias (Salvia spp. and cvs., Zones 5-11) in inaugurating summer. While early to rise, KISMET® Red blooms all season long, powered by a robust crown that guarantees a perennial return the following season, unlike so many other coneflowers. Given its relatively compact size, this variety would also work well in containers.


Prairie Blazing Star

Name: Liatris pycnostachya

Zones: 3-9

Size: Up to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist to dry soil

As a prairieland native, I treasure these purple bottle rockets as they appear on the garden scene every July. Many blazing star selections exist for color and size, but if you have the room, you should grow the straight species. The floral display lasts for several weeks, an intriguing progression from violet-tinted buds to lavender-frayed florets. While individual plants can be short-lived, colonies persist for many years in the garden. You can divide the bulbs early in spring and plant in almost anything from sand to clay, so long as the soil doesn’t stay too water-logged in winter.

Kelly D. Norris is the director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden in Des Moines, Iowa.    

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