Dalea purpurea (Purple prairie clover)

Dalea purpurea flowering spike

Zone: 3 to 8

Soil: sand to loam

Light: Full sun to part sun

Bloom colour: Purple

Bloom period: Late July to September

Height: 1 - 3 feet

Moisture: Dry to medium

Attracts: Bees

Notes: Purple prairie clover is a good plant for the front of the border as it typically is less than two feet high. The flowers, which are electric purple with yellow stamens, start growing at the base of a compact cylindrical spike. Over the course of about one and a half months, the spike extends upwards and the flowers blooms up the spike.

While the plants can tolerate dry sandy soil, they prefer a loam soil with more moisture, but they must grow in a soil that is well drained. In good conditions, the plant can mature in 3 years, but in drier conditions, it may take up to 5 years. These plants take their time to fill in and the slow growth is probably the reason why they are not planted that often. Their flowers are pretty and are worth the wait. This flower is one of the last plants to emerge in spring so do not assume that it has died on you.

As a garden plant it is a great for edging due to its low height or you can place it in a rock garden. It is not very effective as a specimen plant due to its small size. The flowers are also small so you need to plant a minimum of 4 or five plants together to make an impact. It survives drought quite well, but the lower leaves fall off and limited watering will prevent this. It can grow in clay, but it may not overwinter as it prefers well-drained soils. Do not cut the stems all the way down to the ground at the end of the summer as new stems grow from their woody base in the following spring. Your plant will grow faster if you leave a few inches of stem over the winter.

White prairie clover is a rarer plant that has similar flowers and leaves that are more clover-like. Treat it exactly as you would Purple Prairie Clover. It may take several years to get it to flower.

Rabbits quite like this plant so put it in an area where these furry creatures will leave them alone.

The plant is native to the central provinces of Canada (including Ontario) and the plain states of the USA as far south as south as Texas.

Dalea purpurea

Dalea purpurea flowers close up
Individual flowers of Dalea purpurea
Dalea purpurea flowering spikes get tallier over time
Dalea purpurea flower spikes get longer over the course of the blooming period.
Dalea purpurea has a dainty fern-like foliage
The leaves of purple prairie clover are slender and give an airy overall appearance to the plant.
Do not cut down the woody tissue
The woody base of the plant is the source of new shoots each spring so this should not be cut.
Dalea candida
White Prairie Clover - Dalea candida