Midwest Regional Reports

Regional Reports: The Best Perennials to Start from Seed – Northern Plains

Perennials to start from seed

Fine Gardening – Issue 155

1. ‘Origami Mix’ columbine

Name: Aquilegia caerulea ‘Origami Mix’

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

Size: 14 to 16 inches tall and wide

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

This easy-to-grow cultivar celebrates columbine’s diverse color combinations with more floral pizzazz than many other varie­ties due to its large flowers and up to 12-week blooming period. The straight species, Rocky Mountain columbine, boasts blue-and-white bicolor flowers. But why settle for one color com­bination when you can have up to six different colors with ‘Origami Mix’? The upright flowers are wonderful in containers and window boxes or tucked into a woodland area, where they will attract butterflies and bees. It also self-sows readily.

2. ‘Raspberry Surprise’ dianthus

Name: Dianthus ‘Raspberry Surprise’

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: 1 foot tall and 12 to 15 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; neutral to slightly alkaline, well-drained soil

For a fragrant border plant that can’t be beat, plant ‘Raspberry Surprise’ dianthus near a porch or pergola to enhance your outdoor experience. This attractive plant has large, frilly, double pink blossoms with raspberry red eyes held on sturdy stalks with blue-green foliage. Deer resistant and attractive to butterflies, this plant can be used in containers and rock gardens, and you can also grow it for cut flowers.

3.‘Cheyenne Spirit’ coneflower

Name: Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 18 to 30 inches tall and 12 to 20 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

This coneflower captures the spirit of the Northern Plains region by producing a mix of high-visual-impact flowers in an array of hues (purple, scarlet, red, orange, yellow, and cream). Once established, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is drought tolerant and can be used as a cut flower, in a mass planting, or in a perennial border. This compact, sturdy plant is resistant to wind and driving rain. A heavy bloomer that doesn’t require deadheading, it also attracts butterflies.

4. ‘Arizona Apricot’ blanket flower

Name: Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Arizona Apricot’

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: 1 foot tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

We’re all familiar with the visual pop of the yellow-orange-and-red blanket flower. ‘Arizona Apricot’, a 2011 All-America Selections winner, is wonderfully different. Its 3- to 3½-inch-wide daisylike blooms have rich apricot-colored centers with golden petals, making it a beautiful standout in any garden. Drought tolerant once established, this cultivar is relatively maintenance-free, other than needing deadheading to encourage more blooms.

Cheryl Moore-Gough is an adjunct assistant professor at Montana State University and a coauthor of The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds.

Photos: Bill Johnson, courtesy of PlantHaven International, Inc., courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company, courtesy of Ivy Garth Seeds, courtesy of Cheryl Moore-Gough

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