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Ironweed: The Superhero of Fall Plants

Find out why you should be growing this underused native beauty with a hardiness of steel

Fine Gardening – Issue 177

Vernonia spp. and cvs.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil but adaptable to drier and/or gravelly soil

Bloom Time: Mid- to late summer through mid- to late fall

Troubles: Powdery mildew and rust

 

Someone recently said to me that ironweeds are ecological plants, not garden plants. This proclamation got me thinking differently about these imposing natives. Is this a common perception among gardeners? Does my affinity for ironweeds blind me to their shortcomings (no pun intended)? I remember the first time I saw an ironweed in a garden: It seemed impossibly tall, but the high crown of purple flowers aflutter with butterflies and bees mesmerized me, and it was love at first sight. But since that first glimpse, I’ve rarely encountered ironweeds in cultivated landscapes. At 7 to 12 feet tall, their daunting size likely unnerves some gardeners and certainly excludes…

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