By Marilyn Odneal
We all love the rich and beautiful hues of the fall landscape and often gather native flowers and berries for indoor decoration from farms and roadsides. Did you know, however, that fall is the perfect time to plant natives in your own cutting garden?
Evaluating native perennial plants for cut flower production is the goal of a research project at Missouri State University in cooperation with the Grow Native Program. Inspired by Tammy Bruckerhoff of Grow Native, she observed: “when I worked for a florist, we had beautyberry shipped in. It was not as pretty as our own Missouri beautyberry, so why not use our own?”
Here are some natives for you to consider planting this fall with tips on how to use as cut flowers throughout the year.
Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) – A short-lived perennial with white flower heads. Harvest in May and June when most of the flowers are open.
Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) – Pretty with or without its petals. Harvest in June-July when petals are expanding.
Orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – Wear gloves when cutting and handling since sap can irritate skin and eyes. The sap may also affect vase life of other flowers. Harvest June-July when ½ to ⅓ of the flowers are open.
Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) – A lovely black-eyed Susan! Harvest in July and August when the first flower on the stem has opened.
Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) – Nice both fresh and dried. Harvest when seed heads are full sized and green in August and September. To dry, bunch and hand upside down in a dark, dry spot – or just leave upright in a vase without water.
Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya) and Eastern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa) – Both have pretty pink-purple flower heads. Harvest in July and August (Prairie) or August and September (Eastern) when ¾ flowers have opened.
Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) – Yellow flowers won’t make you sneeze! Harvest in late summer and early fall. You can harvest for bouquets when the head is green and looks a little like broccoli or you can wait until ½ of the yellow flowers are open.
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) – Needs mulch at the base for winter protection. Beautyberry is definitely not your typical fall color – more of a pink-purple. Harvest in October when basal berries are pink and those at the tip are green. You need to strip off the leaves.
For best fresh cut bouquet results, cut in the morning after the dew has dried. Cut the stems at an angle and place in the water. Change the water every 2 – 3 days for a lasting display – or use a floral preservative.
For information on how to grow and where to buy native plants, check out the Grow Native website. If you have specific questions concerning the native plants as cut or dried flowers, contact Marilyn Odneal.
Marilyn Odneal is a horticulturist at the Missouri State University-Mountain Grove Research Campus. She is in charge of the development the educational plantings on Campus and has been involved in fruit and flower crop research, outreach and education for over 25 years.