Wild flowers provide color in the spring and fall in the garden. Most wildflowers, because they are native to the area where planted, can often grow and bloom profusely without extra moisture or fertilizer. Beneficial plants, they provide nectar for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Many wild flowers reseed freely and return every year while some are perennial, which means they return from their root system every spring.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), are one of the easiest wild flowers to grow. They are adaptable to most soils if given sufficient moisture until established. While not frost tolerant, they reseed freely and return every year from seed. In warmer parts of the United States, they may bloom in the spring, go to seed and bloom again before fall. There are many flower color varieties available including orange, yellow, pink, red, pink, purple and lavender. The eventual height of a cosmos plant is about 4 feet tall.
Gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella), also known as Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket, grows, to 2 feet tall. Its daisy-like red and yellow or orange flowers bloom in early to mid-summer. Improved varieties available produce longer stems or larger flowers than the native varieties. Gaillardia is a tender perennial, which means it may or may not survive the winter in colder climates. However, it produces an abundance of seed, which sprout reliably in early spring.
Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta) grows to 3 feet tall. The common name for Rudbeckia is Black-eyed Susan and it can be seen on roadsides or in pastures blooming profusely in early summer. There are many varieties available for planting. Some improved varieties have orange, red or bi-color flowers on longer stems than the native wildflower. While often described as perennial, Rudbeckia should be treated as a reseeding annual in most parts of the United States.
Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) has feathery foliage and produces one or two flower spikes up to 4 feet tall lined with pink, white, purple or blue flowers, depending on the variety. It is planted in the fall so the seeds can receive the appropriate chilling requirement in order to germinate. Larkspur is a dependable bloomer and reseeds freely. All parts of the plant are poisonous to animals and humans.
Plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) produces yellow or bi-color orange and yellow flowers in late spring. There are many varieties available with most perennial in the warmer parts of the United States. Some varieties grow to 8 feet tall. They can bloom in such profusion, the common name for them is yellow wave because they look like waves of yellow when they fill a meadow.
A dependable perennial, the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)grows in gardens throughout the United States. It produces daisy-like purple or lavender flowers on stems 2 to 3 feet long. The durable plant can survive the hottest environments if given supplemental water. The flower petals of echinacea flowers bend back against the stem giving the flowers a wilted look. However, there are new varieties available that produce flowers that have erect petals, giving the plant a more pleasing appearance in the garden.