Wildflowers and native plants can be unique and interesting additions to the landscape.

A week devoted to wildflowers is just about as good as a holiday devoted to trees.

While Arbor Day is a well-known holiday celebrated across the state, Nebraska Wildflower Week should be celebrated just as much.

Nebraska Wildflower week’s focus is on embracing wildflowers and native plants. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum coordinates Wildflower Week activities bringing together a list of entities that know the true value of wildflowers. Wildflower Week events are planned across the state through June 9.

View the 2019 Nebraska Wildflower Week events statewide and resources at https://plantnebraska.org/connect/events/wildflowers.html

Wildflowers and native plants can be unique and interesting additions to the landscape. What is the difference between native plants and wildflowers? The terms “native” and “wildflower” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Native plants in the Great Plains are generally described as those found growing in a defined area prior to European settlers. Wildflowers are described as flowering plants that grow with little or no human help. They can either be native or introduced, or brought in from other areas.

Both wildflowers and native plants work well in low maintenance areas and in sites that need hardy, drought tolerant plants.

“Wildflowers endure through hard times, lending beauty and brightness even to landscapes rarely seen by human eyes,” according to the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. “Their flowers and seeds feed birds, butterflies and other wildlife; their roots loosen and improve soil; and they lend fragrance and beauty to wild places, making us want to take a closer look at places we might otherwise ignore.”

Top 5 wildflower picks of 2019:

Purple Prairie Clover, Dalea purpureum: There are several species of Dalea, but this is a very common one. In June the flower spikes are covered with tiny rose-purple colored flowers that work well as cut flowers. The plants can grow between one and three feet tall, prefer full sun and well-drained soil. The cultivar “Stephanie” was bred right here in Nebraska.

Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea: The purplish pink blooms with the stiff looking cone in the center can add multiple seasons of interest in the landscape with bloom color in June and July followed by dark brown to black cone which will stand throughout the fall and winter.

Blanket flower, Gaillardia species: Low growing plants work great near the edge of a bed or used to help to soften the end of a sidewalk. Bright yellow to orangish red flowers show up June through August and are followed by a puffball of a seed head.

Pitcher Sage, Salvia azurea: A member of the mint family reaches three to six feet tall with striking blue-violet flowers in August through September. Allow it to act as a backdrop for other plants. It likes to flop over so support may be necessary.

Small Soapweed, Yucca glauca: Depending on where you are from, Yucca, can be seen as a landscape plant or a weed. The edible, greenish-white blooms appear on a spike and are followed by large green seedpods. The evergreen foliage also provides winter interest in the landscape.

Yarrow, Achillea species: The fine greenish gray leaves of the yarrow are a good indication how hardy this plant is. The flowers come in a wide range of colors from white, to yellow, to even pinkish red.

This is just a sample of my favorites, but there are many more interesting wildflowers to learn about. More information about wildflowers can be found in a Nebraska Extension NebGuide, a University publication, ‘Wildflowers for the Home Landscape’. Go to http://extensionpubs.unl.edu/ and search for the keyword ‘wildflowers’.

Elizabeth Killinger is the Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. For more information contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, her blog at http://huskerhort.com/, or HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter.

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