The Plant Native

Rattlesnake Master

Highlights

YES, that name is correct. You definitely need these in your sunny garden.

Rattlesnake Master is an amazing native plant with a badass common name. The plant looks like it belongs in the desert, with tall spikey white flower balls at the top of rigid stalks. After it blooms, its round seed pods look like modernist sculptures throughout the fall and winter. It’s a show-stopper in sunny Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Southern gardens. It’s very drought tolerant but difficult to move once planted. Make sure to add a nametag in your garden when you plant! Scroll below for planting tips.

Full Sun
2-4″ tall
Longlasting summer flowers
Eryngium yuccifolium
No need for garden sculptures with Rattlesnake Masters in your garden

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Rattlesnake Master

Table of Contents

How did Rattlesnake Master get its name?

First off, let’s talk about the name. According to the US Forest Service:

“The Mesquakies used it in their ceremonial rattlesnake dance and used the roots to treat rattlesnake bites. The bristly flower heads are arranged like a pitchfork, suggesting a possible use as a snake stick to pin down the head of a rattlesnake. There is no evidence for the efficacy of this plant in prevention or treatment of any medical condition. Native Americans would use the fibrous leaves of this perennial plant for weaving purposes, like making sandals and baskets.”

To say it plainly: although its name says otherwise, Rattlesnake Master does not help or prevent snakebite or any other medical condition. It will however make your garden look like a living sculpture garden.

More about the name (it’s a…carrot?)

Rattlesnake Master’s Latin name (Eryngium yuccifolium) includes “yucca”—which was inspired by its cactus-like looks. But it’s not part of the yucca family—it’s actually related to carrots!

Rubbing a leaf between your fingers will release its carroty smell, and it has a long root (called a taproot) that looks very carrot-like.

Taproot = drought-resilient powers

This carrot-esque taproot is the reason why Rattlesnake Masters are drought-resistant experts. They store up water in this taproot, allowing the plant to thrive even during dry spells. (In fact, every plant that has a taproot is great with droughts—they’re like an underground water bottle for plants. Butterfly Weed also has a taproot and is similarly resilient.)

Rattlesnake Master has a great story and it looks incredible year-round. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Midwest (or even the lower parts of the Northeast), plant some in your sunny garden ASAP. Read on to find out how to plant Rattlesnake Masters.

Rattlesnake Master + purple Hummingbird Mint (aka Agastache) is a great native garden combo

What are benefits of planting Rattlesnake Master?

Rattlesnake Masters are very easy to grow and exceptionally easy to keep alive over the years. They are:

  • Drought resistant: don’t worry about them surviving dry summers; they are made to survive low-rain seasons, thanks to that carrot-like taproot
  • Low maintenance: no fertilizer or special needs are required for Rattlesnake Masters to thrive
  • Longtime bloomers: their sphere flowers are often open from May to September!
  • Perennials: they will come back year after year. Once you plant them and they are happily established, you can enjoy them in your yard for years to come.

Where to plant Rattlesnake Master

Once you’ve found a sunny spot, it’s time to plant these incredible native plants. Pair them with other tall flowers that also like full sun, like Blazing Star, Black-eyed Susan, and Coneflowers. All these plants get tall! It’s gorgeous to use them almost like a living flower fence (like The Highline does, below). Otherwise, you can put them behind shorter flowers like Bee Balm to make a multi-level garden.

Rattlesnake Masters + Coneflowers at The Highline; image by Cultivar513
Rattlesnake Master has a HUGE native range! Map from USDA.

What is Rattlesnake Master’s native range?

Rattlesnake Master’s native range includes almost half of the United States, from Connecticut south to Florida, and west to Texas (map from the USDA).

No wet areas for Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake masters like to be planted in sunny and well-drained soil. They do not like wet soil or standing water. (The benefit of liking drier areas is what makes them drought-tolerant.) Once established, rainwater will keep them happy for years.

A note about transplanting them once they’re in your garden

As mentioned before, Rattlesnake masters have a taproot. A taproot looks like a carrot: it’s a long, thick root that shoots directly down from the plant’s stem. (Remember earlier when we said they were in the carrot family?) Taproots are great for storing water and helping a plant be drought-tolerant. But taproots make transplanting plants difficult. Once you pick a spot to plant them, it will be challenging to move them.

Rattlesnake Masters + Coneflowers + Little Bluestem = perfect combination

Grow Rattlesnake Master by seed

It’s easy to plant Rattlesnake Master by seed if you are patient: plants started from seed may not flower until the second or third year. Grab a seed head at the end of the fall season to get seeds, or buy a seed packet online.

Fall planting

To plant in the late fall, scatter seeds and loosely throw mulch or dirt over the seeds. Seedlings will emerge in the spring. (Yes, it really is that easy! Remember, native plants have thrived for thousands of years without us and our trowels.)

After the seedlings emerge, water them daily for the first month to ensure they get enough moisture to grow. Rattlesnake Masters will be green the first year and then bloom in future summers.

Spring planting

Direct sow in early spring when the soil is warm, 65°F (18°C). Take the seeds individually and plant them into holes 1/8″ deep. Water daily for the first two months to ensure they get enough moisture to grow. Watch the seedlings emerge in the spring, grow greenery that summer, and bloom in future summers.

Buy Rattlesnake Master seeds online

There are lots of places to buy seeds online for Rattlesnake Masters. A tip as you peruse different sellers:

800-mile tip for seeds and planting

A big tip for picking seeds is to try to buy or obtain seeds from places that are within 800 miles (or less!) of where you live—the closer, the better. This seed provenance ensures that the seeds you’re buying are suited for your area (Rattlesnake Master seeds from New Jersey are probably not the best seeds for a garden in Texas—it helps to have the DNA of Texan summers.) 

Here are some places to buy native Rattlesnake Master seeds online:

Local blooms, fewer glooms

Try to find plants and seeds from within 800 miles of where you live.

Plants and seeds from within 800 miles are best suited for your weather, water, and sunshine. This also fosters cross-pollination among locally grown plants, enhancing the resilience of seeds and plants for generations to come. Stay local for a happy garden!

Grow Rattlesnake Masters from plants

Rattlesnake Master plants will normally flower the first year they are planted and will return in the following years with stronger plants and bigger blooms. (This is because the plant nursery has done the hard work of getting them started and growing for the first year.) There are three reliable ways to find Rattlesnake Master plants for your yard:

1

Buy from a local plant nursery

Your local nursery may have Rattlesnake Master plants to buy, especially at the end of spring / early summer. Whenever possible, buy native plants from local nurseries. To date, Home Depot and Lowes have never stocked this plant.

2

Find a local plant swap

Rattlesnake Masters seeds are easy to give away. Search local gardening groups on Facebook to find local gardeners who often give away seeds during the fall.

3

Visit local plant sales in the spring

Almost all local plant organizations and gardens host plant sales in the spring. These plant sales often include plants that are not available at conventional nurseries. Check your local garden websites for dates.

Leave Rattlesnake Masters in the garden in the fall and winter to give food for birds (and more garden sculptures!)

Rattlesnake Masters in the winter

Leave your Rattlesnake Master plants in the garden throughout the fall and winter and let them become nature’s bird feeders. Leaving our gardens alone throughout the fall and winter gives food for songbirds. The beautiful natural shapes of the dried rattlesnake master plants turn your garden into a sculpture garden during cold months.

Rattlesnake Masters and Blazing Stars living their best lives in a prairie field

What to plant with Rattlesnake Masters​

A good rule of thumb when picking garden pairings is to choose plants that bloom throughout the growing season, so you and the pollinators always have flowers.

Native flowers for the spring

#image_title

American Wisteria

#image_title

Bee Balm

#image_title

Golden Alexander

#image_title

Nodding Onion

Native flowers for the summer and fall

Let’s all plant Rattlesnake Masters

In conclusion: plant a few badass Rattlesnake Masters in your sunny garden for year-round interest. Make sure you add a sign to your garden, so those who pass by are inspired by the name and the looks of this special native plant. To get more ideas on native plant gardening, explore our native plant library.

Or, feeling overwhelmed starting a native garden? We’ve been there. Here are easy steps to get you started:

UPDATED —
03/02/2024
Popular FAQs
native-garden-with-obedient-plant-pairing-black-eyed-susans

Lawns vs. Native Gardens — What’s easier?

Save yourself hours of time
monarch-butterfly-on-a-common-milkweed-plant

Native Host Plants for Butterflies

Help the butterflies!
A Southern Magnolia tree's evergreen leaves are shown with small white flowers in bloom.

Native Magnolias: A Beginner’s Guide

Meet all eight
Heuchera 'Peach Flambé' by Acabashi

What is a cultivar?

And why does it matter?