Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer-Blooming Native Plants of Montana

Looking to supplement your Montana flower garden’s blooms of Spring? These summer-blooming native plants make for a great complement to the spring blooms. These go throughout the heat of the summer.

Aquilegia caerulea
Common Name: Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado Blue Columbine
Synonyms: Aquilegia coreulea
Lifespan: Short-lived Perennial
Description: As Colorado’s state flower, the Rocky Mountain columbine has blue or white flowers and light green cut leaves. It will grow 1 to 2 feet high with spurred blooms and an upright form. Flowers will bloom between June and August.
Planting Guide: Aquilegia caerulea prefers shaded areas and a moist rocky soil.
Propagation: Rocky Mountain columbine is propagated by division or by seed. Collect seeds when they turn black, storing them in moist cold sand for 60 days. Sow seed in fall in shallow ground. For division, divide in the first of fall or at the end of the summer.
History: This flower attracts hummingbirds for its nectar.
            Aquilegia is from “aquila” in Latin which means eagle. It is believed to be named for the petals that are spurred resembling the talons of an eagle.
Warnings: It can have aphids as a pest problem. Individual plants may only last five years, but with self-seeding, can still be long lasting.
Distribution: Aquilegia caerulea is found in AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, SD, UT and WY.

Silene acaulis
Common Name: Moss Campion, Cushion-pink
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: This perennial wildflower has glossy leaves and pink or lavender flowers. It grows like moss in a tight pattern. Blooms have five petals and contrast against the bright green foliage. Bloom season is between June and August.
Planting Guide: Silene acaulis prefers full sun conditions and a rich soil.
Propagation: Moss campion is propagated by seed or stem cuttings.
History: Moss campion is a very trouble free plant, perfect for rock gardens.
Distribution: Silene acaulis is found in AZ, AK, CO, ID, ME, MT, NV, NH, NM, OR, UT, WA, and WY.

Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium
Common Name: Willow Herb, Fireweed, Narrow-leaf Fireweed
Synonyms: Epilobium angustifolium
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Fireweed grows 3 to 5 feet high with reddish erect stems and green alternate leaves. Four-petaled blooms are in a tapered spike and are rose-purple or white. Blooms will be seen between June and August. Seeds are in slender pods.
Planting Guide: Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium should be planted in sunny locations in moist nearly-neutral well-drained soil.
Propagation: Fireweed is propagated by seed or division. Seed should be cold stratified for 30 days before planting to improve germination. Plant the seeds in the fall.
History: Attracts butterflies and can be a food source. Leaves can be cooked like greens and stems are split for the edible pith, or center.
            Stem fibers can be made into nets for fishing.
            It is known as fireweed by invading areas that have burnt and forming a mass of green and flowers.
Warnings: This plant has to be in full sun conditions to grow.
Distribution: Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium is found in AK, MT, WA and WY.

Sporobolus heterolepis
Common Name: Prairie Dropseed
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing 2 feet in height, this fine textured deciduous grass has curved leaves and seed heads that rise above mid-summer tufts. The green foliage turns a nice tan-bronze in the winter and gold-orange in the fall. Blooms are pink, green, brown or yellow and come June through August. The flowers are also fragrant and bring a light scent to the landscape. The aroma has been described as a mix between popcorn and cilantro.
Planting Guide: Sporobolus heterolepis is hardy in USDA hardiness zones of 3 through 8. Prairie dropseed needs a soil pH of 6 to 7.2 and at least 100 frost-free days. It prefers sunny locations and dry sandy soils. It will be both slow to grow and slow to establish.
Propagation: Prairie dropseed is propagated by seed that is collected in October. Seed can either be unstratified and sown in the fall season or stratified and sown in the spring. Sow prairie dropseed 1/4 inch deep into the soil; the cooler the weather, the better the germination of the seed.
History: The seeds of the prairie dropseed are well-loved by birds and the plant will attract them. Native Americans used the seed to grind into fine flour.
Warnings: The plant is not prone to pest, disease or toxicities.
Distribution: Sporobolus heterolepis is found in AR, CO, CT, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, VA, WI and WY.

These four lovely natives are great for providing a burst of color in the middle to end of the summer season. From grasses to flowering plants, these natives will work in a variety of settings.

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