12 Native Plants in Iowa

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: July 17, 2023
Share on:

Advertisement


Iowa State is endowed with multiple native plants attributed to its varying climates. While the east and northern parts of the state are primarily humid, the northern parts are pretty cold. On the other hand, the western regions are dry, creating a desert atmosphere. 

The different climate changes mean that some plants are more adaptable to some zones than others. 

Apart from providing a beautiful ambiance to the environment, native plants help to prevent soil erosion. They are also low maintenance since they are accustomed to the local climate and help support local wildlife

Only The Top 1% Can Ace our Animal Quizzes

Think You Can?

Today, we look at some of the native plants in Iowa State.

1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

The yarrow has beautiful flowers that release a floral fragrance which aids in attracting native bees and insects.

©Starover Sibiriak/Shutterstock.com

The yarrow also goes by the name “the old man’s pepper.” It is an upright plant that grows up to three feet tall. The plant is ideal for ground cover or a new garden because it proliferates. 

The yarrow has beautiful flowers that release a floral fragrance which aids in attracting native bees and insects. It consists of alternate leaves with a myriad of highly divided leaflets. The results are a lacy and delicate appearance. 

It can appear in two colors, White and Pink, and blooms from April to September. It is highly tolerant to drought conditions since it thrives well in dry soil. 

The yarrow supports local wildlife, such as birds and butterflies. Apart from ornamental use, it also serves medicinal purposes since it formerly helped to lower fever. 

2. Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Known for their perennial qualities, columbines can get as tall as 12 feet. 

©Martin Hibberd/Shutterstock.com

Columbine is one of the famous native plants in Iowa for a garden. Known for its perennial qualities, it can get as tall as 12 feet. 

Amazingly, it has showy yellow and red flowers that can make your landscape glow. Its shape is ideal for long-tongued insects such as hummingbirds. The plant grows well in dry to medium water environments and sandy and loamy soils. Its raging blooms commence between May and June. 

3. Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)

Also known as muskrat root, it previously worked as traditional medicine thanks to its psychoactive properties. 

©Volodymyr Nikitenko/Shutterstock.com

The sweet flag plant makes it to the list of Iowa’s native plants. It is also a perennial plant that grows up to four feet tall. 

The low-maintenance plant consists of basal leaves that have a lovely fragrance, just like its name suggests. Also known as muskrat root, it previously worked as traditional medicine thanks to its psychoactive properties. 

It is bright green and appears in a sword shape, making it highly notable. In ancient times, the plant acted as medicine to cure gastritis and was also used during ritual ceremonies.

It is low maintenance and often blooms during spring. 

4. Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Wild ginger’s leaves are large, heart-shaped, and have a velvet feel that makes them conspicuous.

©Gabriela Beres/Shutterstock.com

Wild ginger is another Iowa native plant that can make an impeccable ground cover. This is because its length can only go as high as eight inches and are members of the colony-forming perennial. 

Wild ginger’s leaves are large, heart-shaped, and have a velvet feel that makes them conspicuous. Red flowers may bloom at the beginning of spring, mostly hidden by the large leaves. 

The plant grows well on either sandy, loam, or clay soils. Also, partial shade makes it thrive. This is one of the best host plants. However, it requires plenty of moisture to survive. 

5. Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

blue false indigo

The blue false indigo grows well in sandy or clay soil and requires medium moisture for survival.

©iStock.com/magicflute002

You will identify the blue false indigo by its large, brush-like flowers in blue clusters. As much as it is deer-resistant, bees and hummingbirds are the most significant pollinators for the plant. 

The blue false indigo grows well in sandy or clay soil and requires medium moisture for survival. In addition, partial to full sun is the ideal weather condition for the Blue false indigo

When it comes to length, it ranges between three and four feet when mature and can therefore be conspicuous when integrated with smaller flowers. It mainly blooms around June and July, allowing its blue and purple flowers to pop. 

6. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

butterfly weed plant

The butterfly milkweed falls under the bushy perennial plants, and its height may range between one to three feet.

©iStock.com/McKinneMike

Also known as the butterfly weed, this is a native species found in Iowa. The plant attracts butterflies in the region because of its massive nectar levels and bright colors. 

The butterfly milkweed falls under the bushy perennial plants, and its height may range between one to three feet. It is also characterized by huge flowers that appear in a cluster design. The yellow and orange flowers bloom between May and September. 

The butterfly milkweed does well in dry regions and was initially used to weave ropes. Some parts of the butterfly weed also acted as food. 

7. Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

Northern Blue Flag Iris

The blue flag iris thrives with shade and sun in equal proportions, while medium to wet soils contributes to its stability.

©Edgar Lee Espe/Shutterstock.com

This plant has various names, including the larger blue, poison, harlequin, and northern blue flags. It stands out because of its colors, which range from pale blue and deep blue to violet. 

The plant grows up to three feet tall and has long, sword-like leaves attached to the rhizomes beneath. They bloom from May to June and produce flowers as wide as four inches. 

The blue flag iris thrives with shade and sun in equal proportions, while medium to wet soils contributes to its stability. 

As a native plant in Iowa, the blue flag iris comes with minimal maintenance requirements. However, insects such as aphids can be damaging to the species. 

The plant can lead to skin irritation when you come into contact with it and is also poisonous when ingested. 

On the flip side, it has medicinal value, such as aiding blood purification and treating mild acne or even eczema. In addition, it has large lobes that allow bees, its primary pollinators, to land and suck the nectar. 

8. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Field of purple coneflowers

The purple coneflower blooms from April to September, making it an ideal option for local plants that can color the garden for the better part of the year.

©Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock.com

Purple coneflower is pretty popular in the Midwest parts of the country, and Iowa is one of them. 

As a perennial plant, its height ranges from two to five feet, and it produces purple or lavender flowers. Apart from the two hues, the plant can exhibit pinkish flowers occasionally. 

The purple coneflower blooms from April to September, making it an ideal option for local plants that can color the garden for the better part of the year. 

When it comes to water and sun requirements, the two need to balance out for the plant to thrive. In addition, the sandy soil in which it flourishes needs to be well drained. 

However, it is noteworthy that the purple coneflower exhibits quick spreading characteristics that may become aggressive if not controlled. Therefore, the ideal zones for purple coneflower are three to nine. 

9. Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)

The monkey flower blooms from June to September, which is a long time to color your garden.

©Beach Creatives/Shutterstock.com

Also known as the Allegheny monkey flower, this plant belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family under the division of magnoliophyta, which means flowering plants. 

The monkey flower is a shrubby plant that thrives well in zones three to eight, and its height ranges between two and three feet. 

As an upright perennial, the plant produces lilac-colored flowers and may have a width of up to one foot. The flowers position themselves from the base of the stem upwards. 

The monkey flower blooms from June to September, which is a long time to color your garden. The Mimulus attracts hummingbirds because of its nectar. 

The monkey flower does well in the shade or with minimal sun. Besides, it looks beautiful in a pot, just like in the garden. 

As one of the native plants in Iowa, the monkey flower is known to be low maintenance and deer, rabbit, and squirrel resistant. Besides, it provides an alluring look for a garden and thrives well in bog gardens. Wet and moist soils are also perfect for growing the monkey flower. 

10. Prairie Lily (Lilium philadelphicum)

Wood Lily

The Prairie lily is one of a deer’s favorite foods. Consequently, the increased deer population in America threatens the plant’s existence.

©iStock.com/BrianLasenby

“Western red” and “wood lily” are the other names associated with the Prairie lily. It belongs to the lily family and also identifies as a perennial plant. 

Although it is a smaller variety in the family, it still exhibits remarkable properties like the other flowers in the group. It is funnel-shaped with red-orange petals and can only get as high as one foot. 

The Prairie lily is one of a deer’s favorite foods. Consequently, the increased deer population in America threatens the plant’s existence.

Occasional removal of vegetation around the plant may help maintain its survival. 

Some of the wildlife attracted by the pollen and nectar of this wood lily include hummingbirds, bees, and large butterfly varieties such as swallowtails and monarchs. This is one of the reasons you should have it in your garden. 

Blooming for the western red takes place from July to August. It does well in loam to sandy loam soils and moist conditions. Partial sun is also a preference for its survival. 

11. Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)

The Nymphaea has rounded leaves that appear wax-coated and are supported by long stalks with numerous air spaces that help them stay on top of the waters.

©Wulan Rohmawati/Shutterstock.com

The Nymphaea is perfect for those with water next to their garden. It is a hardy aquatic plant that produces pink or white flowers with a beautiful scent. 

The plant has rounded leaves that appear wax-coated and are supported by long stalks with numerous air spaces that help them stay on top of the waters. The stems hold steadily beneath the water supported by mud and creep upwards to keep the stalks in position. 

From March to October, the flowers and leaves float on water when they bloom. The flowers appear cuplike with a spiral arrangement, with some only opening up in the morning or evening to allow pollination. Lilies are primarily perennial and attract birds. 

12. Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

Jacob's ladder

Jacob’s ladder has a sprawling look thanks to its short stems that tend to droop on the side during flowering.

©Alex Kinval/Shutterstock.com

Like many other plants in this category, Jacob’s Ladder is a perennial herb. It comes from the species of “reptans,” which translates to creeping, pointing to the creping nature of the plant. 

Besides, it has pinnately compound leaves that form the shape of a ladder. 

Jacob’s ladder has a sprawling look thanks to its short stems that tend to droop on the side during flowering. 

In spring, Jacob’s ladder blooms to a unique hue of blue that renders them conspicuous among its peers. 

It thrives well in zones three to eight and can get as high as two inches with the same measure for the width. 

A sun and a shade blend are the ideal weather conditions for Jacob’s ladder, which blooms from April to June. In addition, it has an extended stigma that allows butterflies, moths, and bees to pollinate it. 

In ancient times, Jacob’s Ladder helped to treat coughs, colds, and lung infections. Its roots would be ground and infused in wine for lung treatments. 

This plant does well in moist, well-drained soils. Despite being a spring ephemeral, it thrives perfectly well during summer. Like many plants on this list, it is low maintenance and can withstand disease and insects. 

Summary of the 12 Native Plants in Iowa

Here are the 12 Native Plants in Iowa:

RankNative Plants
1 Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
2Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
3Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
4Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
5Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
6Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
7Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)
8Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)
9Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)
10Prairie Lily (Lilium philadelphicum)
11Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)
12Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

Final Thoughts

The list above offers some of the best native plants for a garden in Iowa State. While some can bloom for up to six months, others are more attractive to bees and butterflies due to their high nectar levels. If you need to start your garden but feel stuck, you can consult the local experts for help on what will work best for your landscape.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/McKinneMike


Share on:
About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Britannica, Available here: http://www.britannica.com/science/perennial
  2. USDA, Available here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/acorus_americanus.shtml
  3. Wisconsin Horticulture, Available here: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/wild-ginger-asarum-spp