Gardening in the Midwestern United States is challenging because of the wide fluctuation in temperatures between the winter and summer seasons. The summers can be very warm and dry and it is often difficult to spend time in the garden taking care of blooming plants. However, there is a large selection of blooming plants that have low maintenance requirements and are considered good Midwest heat-tolerant perennial flower bed plants.
Purple Cone Flower
The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) produces long-stemmed flowers of pink, red or purple, depending on the variety. It grows to 3 feet tall and has few insect or disease problems. The purple coneflower is a dependable bloomer and the number of blooms increases every year as it spreads rapidly from the root system. It is a popular plant for butterfly gardens.
Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is a popular heat-tolerant perennial for planting in the Midwest garden. They are available in blooming colors of pink, blue, purple and red. There is even a bi-color variety of autumn sage that produces blooms of red and white. Autumn sage is an important hummingbird and butterfly plant. It freezes to the ground in the coldest areas but returns in the spring. In warmer parts of the Midwest, it remains a semi-evergreen and should be trimmed back, or shaped, in the spring for best bloom production.
Sedum, or stonecrop, is the name of a variety of succulent plants that store water in the stems and leaves. They are extremely heat and drought tolerant. There are hundreds of varieties; some grow low to the ground, while others, such as the autumn joy, grow 24 inches tall and produce long-stemmed flowers suitable for cutting.
Buddleia, or butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), is a fast-growing perennial that is a favorite plant for butterfly gardens in the Midwest. There are many improved varieties of buddleia available, with some producing dark purple flowers and others with pink, lavender or white blooms. The spiky flowers, or panicles, are made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. Prune and shape buddleia by removing dead wood in the spring rather than fall or winter. The plant uses old wood to insulate itself from cold winter temperatures.
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) has delicate light green or silvery foliage and produces blue or lavender flowers most of the summer. It prefers to grow in direct sun and becomes lanky if planted in shade. Russian sage is very heat and drought tolerant and is native to the rocky dry areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It looks best if planted in a mass or border because of the narrow stems and fine foliage. Cut Russian sage between 4 to 6 inches from the ground in the spring before new growth begins to promote fuller growth.