The Plant Native

Ironweed

Highlights

Ironweed is a beautiful, tall native flower that helps ensure pollinators have something to eat in the late summer and fall. The strong, rigid stalks offer contrast against their delicate flowers. The tallness of ironweeds (2-10 feet!) can be intimidating—but don’t be scared! Simply place these beauties in the center or back of your sunny garden, paired with shorter flowers and grasses. There are 25 species of ironweed native to North America. Scroll down to meet a few.

Sun – Part Sun
3-10′ tall, depending on species
Longlasting summer flowers
Vernonia genus
An Orange Sulfur butterfly finds needed food on New York Ironweed in the fall

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native ironweeds

Table of Contents

Why is it important to plant native plants like ironweed?

Planting native plants makes our yards and spaces gorgeous while helping the birds, butterflies, and animals (and helping save us time!) Here are three reasons why planting native is worth it:

  1. Without native plants, iconic animals like Monarch butterflies and songbirds won’t have the food or homes needed to survive
  2. Native plants save time and money: after the first year of getting established, native plants like NY Ironweed are happy with rain
  3. Native plants are gorgeous! Ironweed is a perfect example of how beautiful and resilient native plants are—they are always the best choice for our gardens.

Native ironweeds

There are 25 species of ironweed native to North America; all are in the Vernonia genus. Here are a few species found at local plant nurseries (to date, Home Depot and Lowes have never carried this plant.)

Curlytop or Arkansas Ironweed

Curlytop or Arkansas Ironweed

Vernonia arkansana

Native to the Midwest and several states in the South. They are known for their rail-straight stalks paired with their wide-topped flowers.

Giant Ironweed

Giant Ironweed

Vernonia gigantea

As you can guess from the name—these get tall, topping out at 7′. Giant Ironweed is happy in a wide range of water conditions, from dry to wet. Flowers are more airy on thin stems.

Missouri Ironweed

Missouri Ironweed

Vernonia missurica

It looks so similar to other ironweeds, but has even more flowers: up to 60 blooms on a single stalk. 

New York Ironweed

New York Ironweed

Vernonia noveboracensis

NY Ironweed can get tall—8′!. It prefers full sun and moist soil, like other ironweeds. It can bloom for a month or two at the end of the summer. A must for pollinator gardens!

Ironweed likes consistent water

Ironweeds are perfect for those sunny areas that consistently get water—in nature, they’re found on the sides of streams and lakes. You might have an area that’s low and collects water after rainfall. Or, perhaps you have an area that’s full sun where your drainspouts end. These are the types of areas where ironweed will thrive.

If you’re looking for native plants that can take full sun and some drought—Rattlesnake Masters, Blazing Star, and Coneflowers are known for their toughness in dry areas.

What to plant with ironweed

Ironweed is a fantastic companion to other plants that like full sun and consistently wet conditions, like Buttonbush, Cardinal Flower, Swamp Milkweed, and Mountain Mint.

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Buttonbush

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Cardinal Flower

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Joe Pye Weed

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Milkweed

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Mountain Mint

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Queen of the Prairie

Ironweed is a perfect end-of-season bloomer for sunny, consistently wet gardens. Because they are perennials, you can plant them once and enjoy them for years. Their height makes them stunning flowering towers; give them a place to shine in your garden alongside shorter native plants.

UPDATED —
02/19/2024
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