Flowers for the front of the border that help wildlife


If you have beds that are 4 feet or more deep, then you have the potential to add a vertical dimension to your garden, which can be achieved by planting low plants at the front to offset the higher plants at the back. Some of the woodland flowers fall back into dormancy by the middle of summer. If you plant those, have something else ready to take place later on in the growing season. The woodland plants are often spring flowering while those that need plenty of sunlight are summer flowering.

If you are doing some version of prairie style planting in your garden, it does not really matter what you have at the front of the border. In a typical suburban garden, the front of the border is actually important in setting the tone for the whole bed. People notice the details in this part of the garden. In general, I prefer to make the patches in the front of the border wider than the patches behind them. The flowers in short plants are often small and larger patches are needed to make them noticeable. If you are looking for really low plants that form carpets, then consider Houstonia or Calamintha arkansana or Antennaria.

  Plants for the front of the border  
  The large leaved plants in the foreground are Heartleaf Alexanders. Next to them are yellow flowered Lakeside daisy with Dwarf Lake Iris. Behind the Alexanders is a large patch of Prairie Smoke and a smaller patch of dark purple flowered Prairie Crocus. These are all plants that do well in full sun.  


Perennials for the front of the border:

Name Notes
Allium cernuum native

Nodding wild onion has upside-down flowers to attract bumblebees.

Anemone patens native A spring flower that needs a well drained soil.
Antennaria sp. native The leaves of this plant hug the ground. It flowers in the spring on stalks 6 inches high.
Asarum canadense native A plant that is grown only for its foliage in the shade.
Asclepias ovalifolia native A low milkweed that does well in average partly shaded sites.
Asclepias verticillata native One of the lowest and daintiest milkweeds available. Needs dry sandy soil.
Baptisia bracteata A mid-western prostrate Baptisia
Blephilia sp. native A low growing member of the mint family
Calamintha sp. An excellent non-native front of the border plant that attracts hordes of pollinators.
Calamintha arkansana native A native calamint.
Callirhoe involucrata A postrate plant with long summer blooms.
Dalea sp. native Purple prairie clover needs to be planted en masse at the front of the border to have any effect.
  White wood aster  
  When Virginia Bluebells die back for the season, this White Wood Aster will take over.  
Dicentra cucullaria An ephemeral woodland plant that needs moist soils.
Eurybia divaricatus native A late flowering woodland aster.
Gaillardia sp. native Long summer blooming plant that can take heat and drought.
Gentiana andrewsii native A versatile plant with unusual closed flowers at the end of the summer.
Geum triflorum native Flowers do not open, but the seed heads provide interest. They attract bumblebees.
  Low growing Prairie Smoke  
  Prairie Smoke is a low growing plant that spreads slowly and acts as a living mulch. It looks good in large patches.  
Geranium maculatum native Flowers in the spring for a few weeks. Plant en masse.
Hepatica acutiloba native Early to mid spring with seasonal moisture required.
Hymenoxys herbacea native A late spring yellow flower for sunny dry sand or rock gardens.
Houstonia longifolia native Flowers for a long time from early summer. It forms a carpet.
Iris lacustris native A rare and very low growing Iris that flowers in spring.
Liatris cylindracea native Great for xeriscaping.
Maianthemum canadense native A plant that carpets the floor of some woodlands. Looks best when grown en masse.
  Maianthemum canadense  
Maianthemum canadense
Mertensia virginica native A spring ephemeral that is eye-catching when planted en masse.
Monarda bradburiana A mid-western plant that flowers in late spring.
Oligoneuron album A goldenrod that looks like an aster. It attracts bees.
Phlox divaricata native Requires moist woodland soil.
Podophylum peltatum native A spring flowering woodland plant.
Pulsatilla patens native A spring flower that takes sun and dryness.
Sanguinaria candensis native A fantastic woodland flower that has large and striking flowers.
  May Apple  
  May Apple is a low growing plant that can form large patches. It has distinctive leaves and a beautiful flower that hides underneath.  
Spigelia marilandica A woodland flower of the Eastern United States that feeds hummingbirds.
Trillium sp. native A true woodland ephemeral.
Verbena simplex native A mid-summer perennial that does well in sandy soils.
Zauschneria garretti A very low plant that flowers from mid-summer throught to frost. It attracts hummers.
Zizia aptera. native The plants are low but the flowerheads double the height. It is one of the first plants to flower in spring.