Home to over twenty-five hundred plant species, Kentucky is a veritable wildflower garden. Kentucky native fall flowers include aster, goldenrod, and ironweed.
Fall Kentucky Native Flower
Kentucky asters bloom from summer to fall in multiple colors: violet, white, blue, and pink. Depending on species and variety, they can grow from eighteen inches to five feet tall. Height can be controlled by pruning during summer, before buds develop. Be careful to remove no more than one-fourth of the total height at a time so as not to overstress the plants.
Asters are prone to powdery mildew and verticillium wilt, especially when overcrowded. Prevent these diseases by providing the plants with good air movement. Asters grow best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.
Kentucky Native Flower in Bloom
Goldenrod, Kentucky’s state flower, blooms in the late summer and early fall. Thirty-one species of goldenrod are native to Kentucky, including two endangered species: White-Haired Goldenrod and Short’s Goldenrod.
It is a common misconception that goldenrod is responsible for fall allergies. In truth, it is the inconspicuous ragweed, blooming at the same time, that causes hay fever. Green and weedy in appearance, ragweed blends right into its surroundings. Its tiny, green flowers release waves of pollen into the air, contributing largely to fall allergies. Goldenrod, on the other hand, is insect-pollinated and therefore not the culprit of your allergic reaction.
Goldenrod blooms in full sun from late summer to early fall. Species vary from two to five feet in height. Some varieties will aggressively take over a garden, so goldenrod is not a common landscape plant. They are susceptible to several diseases, but most are easily avoidable if proper air circulation is provided and good watering practices are used.
Kentucky Native Wildflower
From late summer through early fall, ironweed blooms in fields and along roads all across Kentucky. The most common species in the state is Tall Ironweed, but Missouri Ironweed and New York Ironweed also grow in some regions.
Ironweed can grow between four and six feet tall, but pruning in June can help keep the size manageable. It prefers growing in full sun and well-drained, moist soil. Few pests and diseases affect this Kentucky native wildflower. With an aggressively spreading root system, ironweed is perhaps the most troublesome pasture weed in Kentucky. Livestock avoid it due to its bitter taste.
Native Plants Attract Butterflies and Bees
Interested in planting wildflowers for pollinators? Aster, goldenrod, and ironweed all attract butterflies and bees.
For more information on using native plants to attract butterflies, check out the following resources:
- Attracting Butterflies with Native Plants
- Native Wildflowers at the Arboretum
- Planning a Native Habitat Garden
- Plant Life of Kentucky: An Illustrated Guide to the Vascular Flora by Ronald L. Jones is published by the University Press of Kentucky.
- Wild About Wildflowers
Photographs by Greg Hume and SteampunkGypsy. Used under the Creative Commons License.