25 Native Plant Seeds Ideal for Winter Sowing

Are you looking forward to gardening season starting again in the spring? You don’t need to wait until spring to start gardening. There are plenty of seeds that you can sow in the fall and winter months for new growth starting in the spring. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen will introduce 25 beautiful native plants that you can start from seed this winter!

native seeds to winter sow. Close-up of a flowering Blue flax plant in a sunny garden. Blue flax (Linum perenne) is a charming and delicate perennial plant that features slender, wiry stems with narrow, linear leaves. It produces an abundance of striking sky-blue flowers that are saucer-shaped and approximately one inch in diameter.

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Many people believe that gardening primarily happens during the summer months. While we may be most aware of the flowers that bloom during the summertime, some gardening activities and plants keep us busy during each season, including the winter.

Winter can be a time for planning, cleaning up gardening beds, pruning, ordering seeds, and even sowing seeds. It isn’t too late, or too early, to sow many native plant seeds during the coldest months of winter. Plants can regulate when they germinate, and they will wait for the soil to warm to the right temperature before being triggered to start growing. 

Direct sowing native plants in your garden is simple and economical. If you are willing to start plants from seeds, you will be able to find a tremendous diversity of species to try, including many unusual native species that may be difficult to find in garden centers. Native plants can benefit your landscape in many ways:

  • Native plants are a natural part of the ecosystem.
  • They attract butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.
  • Native wildflowers attract hummingbirds and seed-foraging birds.
  • Native plants are easy to grow and low maintenance.
  • Native grasses and wildflowers are well-adapted to natural environmental conditions.
  • They don’t typically require extra watering, fertilizers, or pesticides.
  • Native species are beautiful!

You can grow your plants and seeds in just about any garden. Your native plants can grow in a tiny raised bed garden or throughout the entire landscape. You can grow a themed garden, such as a butterfly garden or a xeriscape.

Choose plants that will thrive in your local plant hardiness zone and environmental conditions, such as available sunlight and soil moisture levels. Then be creative and adventurous and have fun with your garden!

Keep reading to learn more about 25 wonderful native garden plants you can sow in the winter.

Our Preferred Winter-Hardy Native Plant Seeds

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop Seeds

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Anise Hyssop Seeds

Black-eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan Seeds

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Black-Eyed Susan Seeds

Blue Grama Grass

Blue Grama Grass Seeds

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Blue Grama Grass Seeds

California Bluebells

California Bluebells Seeds

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California Bluebells Seeds

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower Echinacea Seeds

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Purple Coneflower Echinacea Seeds

Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot Seeds

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Wild Bergamot Monarda Seeds

Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine

Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine Seeds

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Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine Seeds

Rocky Mountain Blue Penstemon

Rocky Mountain Blue Penstemon Seeds

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Rocky Mountain Blue Penstemon Seeds

Goblin Gaillardia Blanket Flower

Goblin Gaillardia Seed

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Goblin Gaillardia Blanket Flower Seeds

Anise Hyssop

Close-up of a flowering Agastache foeniculum plant in a sunny garden. The plant features upright stems adorned with lance-shaped, toothed leaves. It produces spikes of tubular flowers in shades of lavender to blue-purple, arranged in whorls along the stems.
This is a fragrant perennial with lavender flowers, ideal for pollinator-friendly gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Agastache foeniculum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

Anise hyssop is a pretty herbaceous perennial wildflower native to northern North America. It prefers cooler climates and grows best in full sun or light afternoon shade. Direct sow your anise hyssop seeds in the fall, winter, or early spring in moist, well-drained soil.

Anise hyssop is a mint family member with square stems and fragrant, anise-scented foliage. It blooms mid to late summer with compact spikes of pale lavender flowers. These flowers are a pollinator favorite and will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and native bees. Anise hyssop is a good candidate for an herb garden, container garden, or pollinator-friendly landscape.

Aromatic Aster

Close-up of a profusely flowering plant, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, commonly known as aromatic aster, in a garden. The plant forms bushy, compact mounds of slender, lance-shaped leaves. It produces an abundance of daisy-like flowers with lavender-blue to violet petals and yellow centers.
Native to the central and eastern U.S., aromatic aster is a prolific fall-blooming pollinator magnet.
botanical-name botanical name Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Aromatic aster is a large, bushy perennial wildflower native to the central and eastern United States. Grow it in moist, well-drained soil. Give your aromatic aster plenty of room to spread because this plant will sprawl and multiply rapidly by vigorous rhizomes. 

Aromatic aster is a fabulous fall-blooming plant that is a pollinator magnet. The late-season blooms will densely cover your plants with purple blossoms, attracting butterflies and bees.

Leave the foliage standing even after your plants die back for the winter, and seed-eating birds will come to forage on the seedheads. Aromatic aster also makes excellent cut flowers.

Beardtongue

Close-up of Penstemon digitalis flowering plants in a garden bed. The plant forms upright stems adorned with lance-shaped, glossy green leaves. It produces spikes of tubular, bell-shaped flowers in shades of white or pale pink. Each flower has a distinctive open mouth and a prominent, hairy tongue-like projection, hence the name "beardtongue."
This spring-blooming perennial has tubular white flowers and attracts pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon digitalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Beardtongue, also known as foxglove beardtongue, is a spring-blooming herbaceous perennial native to the eastern and southeastern United States. It grows best in full sun or light shade with dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. 

Beardtongue has beautiful white flowers that bloom in mid to late spring. The tubular flowers are a valuable early-season wildflower that attracts hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. They also make good cut flowers. Use beardtongue in a pollinator garden, cottage garden, or rain garden. 

Black-eyed Susan

Close-up of Rudbeckia hirta flowers against a blurred green background. The iconic daisy-like flowers have golden-yellow petals surrounding a dark brown to black central disk.
Pollinators highly value this common perennial wildflower with golden yellow blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Rudbeckia hirta
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Black-eyed Susan is a familiar wildflower native to the central and eastern United States. These plants are commonly grown as annuals or short-lived perennials. They typically live just a few years before dying back, but you may never notice because they readily reseed themselves in the garden and constantly produce fresh new plants each year. 

Black-eyed Susan blooms in the spring and summer. The perky yellow flowers have dark brown centers and attract numerous pollinators. Leave the seedheads standing to feed hungry summer birds, especially goldfinches.

Black-eyed Susans make good flowers for cutting. These fast-growing plants are some of the easiest wildflowers to start from seed. Sow the seeds anytime during the fall, winter, or spring, and you will likely have flowering plants by the following summer.

Blanket Flower

Close-up of blooming Gaillardia pulchella, commonly known as Indian blanket, in a sunny garden. The plant forms low mounds of lance-shaped leaves and produces striking, daisy-like flowers with a central disk surrounded by colorful ray petals. The ray petals display a gradient of hues, transitioning from red or orange at the outer edges to yellow or gold towards the center, creating a captivating bi-colored effect.
This vigorous native has showy, long-lasting flowers and attracts butterflies and bees.
botanical-name botanical name Gaillardia pulchella
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Blanket flowers are vigorous annual or perennial plants native throughout much of the southern United States and Mexico. It grows in a variety of conditions but prefers loose, sandy soil with excellent drainage. Blanket flowers are a great choice for container gardening, a rock garden, or a xeriscape garden. 

Blanket flowers bloom in the spring, summer, and fall. The flowers are quite showy and long-lasting, with bicolored yellow and reddish-orange petals and large, prominent central disks. The flowers attract butterflies and bees and make good flowers for cutting. Blanket flowers can be easily grown as an annual plant in any climate or as a perennial in warmer climates.

Blue Grama Grass

Close-up of Bouteloua gracilis, commonly known as blue grama grass. Forming dense tufts of fine-textured foliage, the plant features slender, arching stems. It produces delicate, purplish-green to light tan seed heads with distinctive eyelash-like awns, creating an ornamental effect.
This compact ornamental grass is native to the southern and western U.S. and is ideal for xeriscapes and prairies.
botanical-name botanical name Bouteloua gracilis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.75 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 10

Blue grama grass is a hardy and versatile ornamental grass native to the southern and western United States and Mexico. Blue grama grass grows best in full sun with dry to medium-moisture soil. It’s a good option for a xeriscape, naturalized area, or pocket prairie.

Blue grama grass stays fairly compact. Masses of densely packed thin blades radiate outwards into a densely tufted mound of vegetation. This grass blooms in early to mid-summer with showy, horizontal spikelets. As the seedheads mature, they attract foraging birds, making this a very wildlife-friendly variety of grass. 

Blue Flax

Close-up of flowering perennials Blue flax (Linum perenne) in a sunny garden. It features slender stems adorned with narrow, linear leaves. The plant produces an abundance of charming, sky-blue flowers. Each flower has five delicate petals, creating a saucer-like shape.
This adaptable wildflower thrives in well-drained soil, features pale purplish-blue flowers, and attracts pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Linum lewisii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Blue flax, also known as Lewis flax or prairie flax, is a perennial wildflower native to western North America. It grows best in full sun with loose, sandy, well-drained soil and is an excellent plant for a rock garden or xeriscape. This flower is very easy to grow from seed and is adaptable to many conditions. 

Blue flax has slender, leaf-lined stems that are somewhat sprawling. Plants can produce flowering stems up to three feet tall in ideal conditions. The flowers bloom in the spring and summer and are pale purplish-blue with five petals. Blue flax flowers add a delicate floral touch to your landscape and attract pollinators.

Blue Sage

Close-up of a flowering Salvia azurea plant in a garden, with a blurred background. The plant boasts slender, upright stems with lance-shaped leaves. It produces striking spikes of tubular, sky-blue flowers arranged in whorls along the stems.
This Southeastern perennial is easy to grow from seed and thrives in sun or light shade.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia azurea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Blue sage is an herbaceous perennial wildflower native to the southeastern United States. Grow it easily from seed in a location with full sun or light shade. It does well in dry to medium-moisture soil and tolerates occasional drought. It will bloom best and for longer periods with regular soil moisture. 

Blue sage blooms from mid-summer into fall. The flowers are very showy and pale blue, developing along tall flowering spikes. There are several different varieties of blue sage native to specific regions. They vary in flower color and shape, but all can be grown in the home garden. They make good pollinator-friendly plants, attracting butterflies and bees.

Butterfly Milkweed

Close-up of a flowering Asclepias tuberosa plant in a sunny garden. The plant features lance-shaped leaves and sturdy stems topped with vibrant clusters of small, star-shaped flowers. The blossoms, in shades of bright orange to deep yellow, create a striking contrast against the green foliage.
This showy perennial for butterfly gardens thrives in full sun and produces fluffy seeds.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias tuberosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 2.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Butterfly milkweed is a very showy perennial wildflower native to the eastern and southeastern United States. This is an excellent plant for a butterfly or pollinator garden, pocket prairie, or mixed wildflower garden. It thrives in full sun with dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil.

Also known as butterfly weed, butterfly milkweed blooms in the summertime. It develops a dense cluster of yellow-orange flowers atop upright, leaf-lined stems.

Butterflies and other insect pollinators love the flowers, and milkweeds are the larval host plants for monarch butterfly caterpillars. After flowering, milkweed produces elongated pods full of fluffy, wind-scattered seeds. 

California Bluebells

Close-up of Phacelia campanularia annual wildflower in bloom. The plant forms compact mounds of finely divided, fern-like leaves and sends up slender stems adorned with bell-shaped flowers. The flower has a trumpet shape and a bright blue color.
This annual with vibrant blue flowers is easy to grow from seed, attracts pollinators, and self-seeds annually.
botanical-name botanical name Phacelia campanularia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.5 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 10

California bluebells, also known as desert bells, is an annual wildflower native to California and Arizona. This beautiful flower is easy to grow from seed, and if you live in a warmer climate, winter is the ideal time to sow them so they pop up early in the spring, ready to create a mound of beautiful vegetation and flowers. This plant grows best in warm, arid climates with very well-drained soil. 

California bluebells have beautiful, vibrant blue flowers. Clusters of flowers bloom atop a mound of attractive silvery-green leaves. The flowers have a slight fragrance and attract many pollinators, including butterflies and native bees. After blooming, allow your plants to set seeds, and they will readily reseed themselves in your garden for an annual show of color. 

California Poppy

Close-up of blooming California poppy plants in a sunny garden. The plant features finely divided, fern-like, bluish-green foliage and stems. It produces vibrant cup-shaped flowers, showing brilliant shades of orange, gold, and yellow. Each flower has four delicate petals.
This showy wildflower, native to the western U.S., thrives in full sun.
botanical-name botanical name Eschscholzia californica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 1.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6 – 10

California poppy is a showy perennial wildflower native to the western United States. It typically grows on grassy hillsides along the west coast but can be easily grown in a garden setting. California poppy loves full sun with dry, well-drained soil. These plants are easily grown as annuals or perennials and will freely reseed themselves in ideal conditions.

If you have a butterfly garden, pollinator patch, xeriscape, or container garden, the California poppy is an excellent addition to your project. The flowers bloom in the spring and early summer with plenty of bright yellow-orange cup-like blossoms. The vibrant color of these flowers will be a short-lived but much-appreciated feature in your garden.

Culver’s Root

Close-up of flowering Veronicastrum virginicum plants in a sunny garden. The plant features sturdy, erect stems lined with whorls of lance-shaped leaves. It produces tall, slender spikes of small, tubular flowers arranged in orderly vertical patterns. The blossoms are a soft white color.
This robust and reliable northeastern perennial thrives in sun or light shade.
botanical-name botanical name Veronicastrum virginicum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4 – 7 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Culver’s root is an herbaceous perennial native to northeastern North America. It grows best in full sun but also tolerates light shade. It appreciates a site with medium to wet, well-drained soil. Plants can be started from seed, but they are somewhat slow-growing and will take a few years to establish fully. But once they are established, Culver’s root plants are a reliable and hardy addition to your landscape.

Culver’s root can grow to be a fairly large and robust plant. The whorled leaves are attractive throughout the growing season and complement other nearby vegetation well.

In the summer, Culver’s root blooms with several upright finger-like spikes of tiny white flowers. The flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators, making this a good plant for your pollinator garden. 

Garden Phlox

Close-up of Phlox paniculata plants in flower in a garden. The plant boasts dense clusters of fragrant, five-petaled flowers that come in soft pink shades with dark pink centers. The lance-shaped leaves add a backdrop of rich greenery to the garden.
This showy perennial thrives in sun or partial shade and can be prone to mildew.
botanical-name botanical name Phlox paniculata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 8

Garden phlox is a very showy perennial wildflower native to the eastern United States. It does well in full sun but also in partial shade, making it an excellent choice for a woodland garden with dappled light.

Phlox performs best in rich, moist, well-drained soil. These plants tend to develop powdery mildew when grown in hot, humid climates, although they perform very well in cool and moderate climates with lower humidity.

Garden phlox is a lovely wildflower addition to your cottage garden or native plant garden. This is the perfect choice if you also want to support butterflies and bees. Clusters of showy pink, purple, or white flowers bloom in mid to late summer and have a pleasant, light fragrance.

Giant Coneflower

Close-up of a flowering Rudbeckia maxima plant against a blurred warm brownish background. The plant produces sturdy, branching stems topped with bright golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers with prominent dark brown cones at their centers
A tall perennial wildflower with showy yellow blooms, giant coneflower attracts butterflies, bees, and songbirds.
botanical-name botanical name Rudbeckia maxima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 5 – 7 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

The giant coneflower, true to its name, can indeed grow quite tall, reaching a maximum height of around seven feet. This plant grows naturally in open grasslands in the central and southern United States. It enjoys full sun or dappled shade with rich, moist, well-drained soil. 

Giant coneflower blooms in the summertime. It has long-stemmed, showy yellow flowers with large, prominent central seed-bearing cones.

The flowers attract butterflies and bees, and the dried seedheads will attract foraging songbirds, especially goldfinches. This is an excellent perennial wildflower for a cottage garden, prairie landscape, naturalized area, or wildlife-friendly garden.

Globe Gilia

Close-up of a flowering Gilia capitata plant in a sunny garden with a blurred background. The plant features finely dissected, fern-like leaves and clusters of spherical flower heads. The compact, globe-shaped inflorescences consist of numerous tiny, tubular lavender-blue flowers densely packed together.
Gilia is a versatile annual with spherical blue blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Gilia capitata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7 – 10

Globe Gilia is an annual wildflower native to western North America. It is versatile and easy to grow from seed in varied landscape settings. It grows best in full sun with dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. 

Globe Gilia, or blue Gilia, grows a loose, rounded mass of thin-leaved, silvery-green vegetation. Rounded, globe-like masses of pale purple flowers bloom in the springtime before dying back in the mid-summer heat. While blooming, the flowers attract butterflies and native bees. Globe Gilia will readily self-seed itself for recurring annual growth. 

Little Bluestem

Close-up of Schizachyrium scoparium, commonly known as little bluestem, growing in a sunny garden. It is a warm-season grass appreciated for its fine texture and distinctive appearance. The grass forms dense clumps of slender, upright stems. The delicate blue-green foliage takes on a reddish-bronze hue in the fall.
This Eastern North American grass thrives in full sun, adapts to various landscapes, and has purplish-brown flowers in fall.
botanical-name botanical name Schizachyrium scoparium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Little bluestem is an ornamental grass native throughout eastern North America. It grows in various grasslands, including prairies, meadows, and along roadsides and powerline rights of way. Little bluestem thrives in full sun with dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil and is tolerant of occasional drought.

Grow little bluestem in a naturalized area, hillside, pocket prairie, or xeriscape landscape. This warm-season bunchgrass will grow into a dense clump of thin-leaved silvery green blades. In late summer and into autumn, purplish-brown colored flowers create a bronze haze across the tops of these plants. They are especially dramatic when several plants are grouped.

Purple Coneflower

Close-up of blooming Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as purple coneflowers, in a garden against a blurred green background. The plant features dark green, lance-shaped leaves and sturdy, upright stems. It produces large, showy flowers with prominent, spiky orange-brown central cones surrounded by vibrant, reflexed pink to purple petals.
This easily-grown native perennial attracts attention with large purplish-pink flowers and supports pollinators and birds.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea purpurea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Are you looking for a spectacular herbaceous perennial wildflower to attract plenty of attention from humans, pollinators, and birds? Grow a purple coneflower. These plants are easily started from seed and are native to central and eastern North America. Purple coneflowers grow best in full sun or light shade with dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. 

Purple coneflower is a reliable and hardy landscaping plant. It blooms throughout the summer and may have a second re-bloom in the fall. The flowers are large and very showy, with purplish-pink petals and a prominent reddish-orange central disk. These flowers are very popular with butterflies and other pollinators, and birds love to pick apart the dried seedheads.

Red Columbine

Close-up of a flowering Aquilegia canadensis plant, commonly known as Eastern red columbine, in a sunny garden. The plant features delicate, lobed leaves and nodding, bell-shaped flowers. The unique flowers have red tubular spurs that contrast with bright yellow petals, resembling a collection of elegant, dangling lanterns.
These unique red and yellow flowers attract hummingbirds and can easily re-seed.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia canadensis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Red columbine is a spring-blooming perennial wildflower native to eastern North America. This columbine is very easy to start from seeds directly sown in the garden over the winter. In its first year of growth, red columbine doesn’t bloom, but you will see its attractive, somewhat fern-like foliage. During its second year of growth, red columbine blooms with its unique nodding red and yellow flowers that hummingbirds love! 

If allowed to set seeds, red columbine will easily reseed itself in your garden and can naturalize and spread without becoming weedy or invasive. Columbine grows very well in both full sun and partial shade and is a great addition to a woodland shade garden or a hummingbird garden. Give it medium-moisture, well-drained soil. Plants grown in warm, sunny, and humid environments may die back by mid-summer, but as long as the roots are kept moist, they will regrow the following spring.

Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine

Close-up of a flowering Aquilegia coerulea plant, commonly known as Colorado blue columbine, in a sunny garden. The plant features delicate, fern-like foliage and nodding, bell-shaped flowers that are a stunning shade of sky-blue. Each flower has a contrasting white cup and a spiky corolla of petals, creating an intricate and elegant look.
This showy Rocky Mountain wildflower thrives in sun or partial shade, attracts hummingbirds, and has unique flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia coerulea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1 – 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 8

Rocky Mountain blue columbine, also known as the Colorado blue columbine, is a very showy wildflower native to the Rocky Mountains region. This columbine grows well in both full sun or partial shade and in dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil.

If you’re looking for a stunning addition to your hummingbird garden or rock garden, check out this blue columbine. The large nodding flowers combine purple-blue and white with an unusual and dramatic flower shape. The foliage creates an attractive mound and may stay evergreen in mild climates. 

Rocky Mountain Penstemon

Close-up of a flowering Penstemon strictus plant, commonly known as Rocky Mountain penstemon, against a blurred background of green foliage. The plant features slender, lance-shaped leaves arranged along erect stems. It produces showy spikes of tubular, deep blue to violet flowers with white throats.
This beautiful perennial thrives in partial shade with well-drained soil and attracts hummingbirds and bees.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon strictus
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 2 – 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

The Rocky Mountain penstemon is a beautiful perennial wildflower native to the southwestern United States. It grows best in partial shade with sandy or gravelly, well-drained soil. If starting this plant from seed, it’s best to directly sow them in the fall or winter so they can be naturally cold-stratified and ready to germinate the following spring. 

Rocky Mountain penstemon forms an attractive clump of dense, evergreen vegetation. During the spring, it develops several tall, upright flowering stems loosely lined with showy, dark purple, trumpet-like flowers. Hummingbirds and bees love these flowers, and this would be a great plant for your pollinator garden, rock garden, or native desert wildflower garden.

Scarlet Bee Balm

Close-up of flowering Monarda didyma plants in the garden. The plant features square stems and aromatic, lance-shaped leaves. It produces eye-catching, whorled clusters of tubular flowers in vibrant red shade.
This showy native perennial attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators with its vibrant red flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Monarda didyma
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

Scarlet bee balm is a very showy perennial wildflower native to eastern North America. This is an ideal plant for your hummingbird garden and attracts plenty of other insect pollinators. Scarlet bee balm blooms in the summer with spikes of vibrant red, tubular flowers that will last through the summer and into fall. The leaves have a distinctive, somewhat pungent, minty scent.

Grow scarlet bee balm in full sun, although it will also perform well in light shade. Give it rich, moist, well-drained soil. These plants will spread by self-seeding and also by rhizomes. You will want to thin your scarlet bee balm every few years to maintain robust growth and help reduce powdery mildew that is more prevalent in overcrowded situations.

Swamp Milkweed

Close-up of a flowering Asclepias incarnata plant against a blurred green garden background. The plant boasts lance-shaped leaves arranged in whorls along upright stems. It produces clusters of showy, rosy-pink flowers, forming intricate umbels.
This showy milkweed is for moist areas, blooms in late summer, attracts butterflies, and is ideal for rain gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias incarnata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 – 5 feet tall
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Swamp milkweed, or marsh milkweed, is a showy milkweed native to central and eastern North America. As its name implies, this milkweed prefers areas with moist to wet soil. You can grow it in a rain garden, a periodically flooded area, along a wetland edge, or anywhere with consistently moist soil. 

Swamp milkweed blooms in late summer and early fall. The flowers are very showy, pinkish purple, and grow in clusters atop tall, erect, leafy stems. Milkweed flowers attract numerous pollinators and seem especially popular with butterflies. Milkweeds are also the larval host plant of the Monarch butterfly caterpillar, making this a perfect choice for a butterfly garden in a moist location. 

Swamp Sunflower

Close-up of a flowering Helianthus angustifolius plant in a sunny garden. The plant features slender, lance-shaped leaves that are arranged alternately along the stems. It produces an abundance of golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers with a rich, warm hue.
This towering sunflower is native to the U.S., thrives in full sun, and is ideal for rain gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Helianthus angustifolius
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 5 – 8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5 – 9

Swamp sunflower is a towering perennial wildflower native to the central and eastern United States. This grassland plant thrives in full sun, although it will tolerate a bit of dappled afternoon shade. Give it a location with moist to occasionally wet, well-drained soil. This would be a great plant for a rain garden, butterfly garden, bird garden, or large, sunny, naturalized area.

Swamp sunflower is a large plant. It will need plenty of space and want to be the center of attention wherever you plant it. This native sunflower can grow up to eight feet tall and produce numerous bright yellow flowers in mid to late summer. The flowers are great for cutting, but don’t cut them all because the birds and pollinators will also want them.

Whorled Milkweed

Close-up of a flowering Asclepias verticillata plant, commonly known as whorled milkweed, against a blurred green background. The plant is characterized by narrow, linear leaves arranged in whorls around the stems. It produces small, intricate clusters of white flowers that form at the leaf axils.
This compact native milkweed is ideal for butterfly gardens and blooms in mid-summer with small white flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias verticillata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1 – 2.5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4 – 9

If you like milkweeds but want one that stays very small and compact, the whorled milkweed is a good choice for your garden. This plant is native to eastern North America and grows in sunny grasslands. Grow it in your butterfly garden or among other native perennials, where it will attract plenty of butterflies and other pollinators. 

This milkweed has very narrow, thin leaves that grow closely together along compact, upright stems. It blooms in mid-summer with clusters of small white to greenish-white flowers. After flowering, milkweeds produce thin green pods with ornamental appeal. The pods dry and crack open in the fall, revealing fluffy white tufts of wind-blown seeds. These plants will naturally reseed in the garden but are easy to control and won’t become weedy.

Wild Bergamot

Close-up of a flowering Monarda fistulosa plant, commonly known as wild bergamot, in a sunny garden. The plant features square stems and lance-shaped, aromatic leaves. It produces showy clusters of tubular flowers atop the stems. These flowers, which come in lavender shades, are arranged in dense, spherical heads, creating a captivating and visually appealing effect.
Native to central and eastern North America, wild bergamot is a fragrant, long-blooming plant.
botanical-name botanical name Monarda fistulosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2 – 4 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3 – 9

Wild bergamot is a member of the mint family native to central and eastern North America. The leaves have a distinctive minty fragrance and aren’t bothered by browsing herbivores. Wild bergamot has a long blooming period and will flower from summer into fall. The flowers grow in rounded clusters of narrow, pale-purple tubular blossoms that are very attractive to hummingbirds and bees.

Grow your wild bergamot in full sun or light, dappled shade. Plants grown in full sun tend to be more compact and have better blooms than those grown in shade. Wild bergamot appreciates dry to medium-moisture, well-drained soil. Like many mints, this plant spreads readily by self-seeding and by rhizomes. You will want to thin it every few years to maintain vigorous growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I sow my flower seeds?

Most of the plants listed here are very easy to grow from seed and can be directly sown in your garden. In a natural setting, many plants produce seeds that mature in the summer and fall months, fall to the ground at this time, and germinate the following spring. You can mimic this process in your home garden by sowing seeds anytime during the fall or winter. The seeds will naturally wait until the weather is warm enough to germinate.

Do I need to do anything special when I plant my seeds?

In order to germinate, your seeds will need warmth, moist soil, and protection from hungry critters. When you sow wildflower seeds, you can usually just rake a plot of soil to loosen it, scatter some seeds, and water them in to help them settle naturally into the cracks and furrows of the soil. In the springtime, when the air starts to warm, you can encourage your seeds to germinate by trying to keep the soil moist, especially if you live in a dry area with little natural rainfall. You can also protect your seeds and seedlings by covering them with critter cages so birds and squirrels won’t dig them up.

What if I missed the winter? Can I still plant my seeds in the spring?

Some seeds will germinate just fine if directly sown in the springtime, especially fast-growing annual wildflowers. There are some species, however, that require cold stratification for the seeds to germinate. This means the seeds need a period of cold weather (or refrigeration) before they will be ready to germinate. If you have seeds that require cold stratification, you may need to wait to plant them until the following fall or winter.

How soon will my plants bloom if I start them from seed?

If you sow wildflower seeds in the fall or winter, a few of the faster-growing varieties and annual wildflowers will start blooming the following summer. Slower-growing plants can take one, two, or even three years to produce their first flowers. Most commonly, wildflowers started from seed will require one to two summers to start blooming, so you will need to be a little bit patient with this process. Until then, you can enjoy the attractive foliage.

Final Thoughts

Just because winter is cold doesn’t mean you can’t do any gardening. Winter can be a great time to sow some seeds in your garden. Seeds have an amazing ability to know when to sprout. They will lie dormant until the weather and the soil become warm enough to trigger germination.

Then, you will have a garden full of young native plants that will enhance your garden, beautify your landscape, and attract birds and pollinators. Fortunately, you can sow many interesting plant seeds this winter for a head start on the next growing season!

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