Iris flowers in the garden at CCE-Tompkins
Image by Sandy Repp

Iris flowers in the garden at CCE-Tompkins

Wildflower Q&A

Question: I recently went on a great spring wildflower walk. Can I grow any of our native wildflowers at home?

Answer: Many of our spring-blooming wildflowers are a delightful addition to the dappled shade garden under deciduous trees, or the east-facing flower bed where they receive morning sun. Before purchasing any, however, be sure that the wildflowers you buy are nursery-propagated, not just nursery-grown.

Among the spring wildflowers that I have found easy to grow are the large white Trillium grandiflorum , the dark red Trillium erectum, bloodroot, both single and double-flowered, wild columbine, twinleaf, golden ragwort, false Solomon's seal, foamflower, wild geranium, Iris cristata, and the tall green native Solomon seal. Easy to grow and use as deciduous groundcovers are native ginger, Asarum canadense, the native Pachysandra procumbens, barren strawberry Waldsteinia fragarioides, and mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum. Easy to grow native ferns include Christmas fern, lady fern, maidenhair, ostrich (a vigorous spreader), royal, cinnamon, and interrupted ferns (the last three much prefer a damp shaded site). Spring ephemerals that are easy to grow (these go dormant quickly after blooming) include Virginia bluebells and Dutchman's britches. All these plants are happy with the same growing conditions that make Hosta, Astilbe, bleedingheart, and Heuchera thrive.

For a great selection of native plants, as well as perennials, shrubs, trees, and veggie and annual transplants, come to the Garden Fair Plant Sale, Sat. May 14, 9am to 1 pm, at the new location, the NYS Armory, 1765 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca (near the Guthrie Clinic).

Ask a Gardener appears weekly in The Journal during the growing season. For answers to other garden, lawn, landscape and pest questions, call Cooperative Extension at 607-272-2292 or email: This article was written by Patricia Curran, horticulture program manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

Last updated January 29, 2021