The Sunflower State is a host to hundreds of plants (including sunflowers), and you can grow most of them in your own garden. Most of them like water, moist soil, and plenty of sunshine, but there are a few exceptions here and there.
In case you don’t want to read through the descriptions of hundreds of plant species, we’ve compiled a Kansas native plants list, picking the 12 best ones you can grow in your garden.
1. Ostrich Fern
Starting off with ferns, of which there are about a dozen species native to Kansas, the ostrich fern is the largest of them all. This fern is often found in moist, shady areas, where it can grow up to 6 feet in height.
They’re called ostrich ferns because their fronds become narrower to the top of the stem. At the top, they completely stick to the fern and bend downwards, resembling an ostrich.
These ferns develop in the fall, and they remain active throughout winter. Come springtime, they release their spores and reproduce.
If you’re thinking about planting this fern in your garden, know that it needs a lot of space. It will aggressively expand, and in just a few years, you’ll see new ferns popping up close to the first fern you planted!
2. New England Aster
Growing up to 4 feet and easily adapting to different habitats, this plant can be found all over North America. The New England aster usually grows in clusters and it’s particularly common in wet meadows, prairies, and marshes, but it can adapt to drier areas.
They’re late bloomers, usually blooming from August to November (although this depends on the climate), but they’re worth the wait because of their beautiful purple flowers.
The New England aster is an easy plant to grow in your garden, as long as it gets plenty of sunlight and enough water. They like slightly acidic soil and they can succeed in hardiness zones 4-8.
3. Blue Wild Indigo
Also known as the blue false indigo, this plant is very common in Kansas. They usually grow just outside of forests and in open meadows because they need plenty of sunlight to succeed.
This plant is impossible to miss if you ever see it in the wild. It has a single stalk, usually up to 3 feet in height, and the stalk is covered with purple flowers during the bloom season. In extreme cases, they can grow up to 5 feet.
The blue wild indigo is an incredibly adaptable plant, and it can be grown in zones 3-9. The most important element of care for the blue wild indigo is sunlight – they need at least six hours of it.
They’re drought-tolerant plants and they don’t need to be fertilized at all, which makes them low-maintenance plants as long as they get enough sunlight!
4. Lanceleaf Coreopsis
You might know this plant under the name lanceleaf tickseed – it’s a crucial addition to any Kansas native plants list as it’s incredibly common there. The reason it’s so common lies in its rate of reproduction, which is so high, this plant has become an invasive species in Japan and China.
The lanceleaf tickseed is a sun-loving plant – it won’t succeed in your garden if it doesn’t get at least eight hours of sunlight a day, but it should be getting more ideally.
Aside from its light requirements, it’s a very easy plant to care for – it can grow in almost any type of soil as long as the drainage is good, as it doesn’t like to sit in soggy soil. It doesn’t need much water or any fertilizer either as it’s drought-tolerant!
It will bloom in late spring or early summer, depending on the temperatures, and reveal its beautiful yellow flowers!
5. Rose Verbena
A stunning pink flower, rose verbena is native to Kansas and a few other central states. It has a bushy growth – it’s no taller than 1 foot, but it will spread into a cluster of stems.
The verbena has a very long bloom, starting in spring and often lasting until the fall. It’s important to plan where you’ll plant this perennial, as it’s known to attract rabbits, which could lead to an invasion.
It’s very often grown in containers, where its bushy growth arranges nicely once the plant blooms. Rose verbena doesn’t like wet soil and it needs at least 6 hours of sun on a daily basis to bloom.
6. Water Lily
A classic in most pond gardens, the American white water lily can be found in still or slow-moving bodies of water in North America. It’s an especially striking addition to a garden if you have a pond, as it can’t survive without water.
This plant has very long stems, called petioles, which connect the roots at the bottom of the waterbed to the leaves and the flower on the surface. They can grow up to 3 feet in length, so no pond is too deep for them.
Water lilies need plenty of sunlight to bloom properly. The flower of the water lily, which is usually creamy white, opens in the morning and closes at sunset. They can be grown in zones 4-11.
7. Garden Phlox
This plant is native to Kansas, but it’s been introduced to other states, as well as Canada and several European countries. As you can imagine, they’re very adaptable, capable of growing in zones 4-8.
The garden phlox will bloom in the summer, provided it gets plenty of sunlight. On top of sunlight, they like water – the soil should be wet, but not soggy. Overwatering can cause root rot.
They don’t do so well in the south because of the high levels of humidity – the garden phlox succeeds best in hot, but dry climates.
8. Orange Cornflower
The orange cornflower is a very common flowering plant in Kansas. They’re typically found on forest edges and in open meadows because they need plenty of sunlight to develop.
This flower grows to about 2 feet in height, and on top of the stem, a characteristically yellow flower with a black center develops. The flowers bloom in late spring and the bloom can last until the first frost in some cases.
Orange cornflowers don’t need a lot of water – they prefer well-draining soil and they tolerate heat very well. Aside from planting them in gardens, some gardeners grow them in containers, where they perform very well.
9. Cardinal Flower
A stunningly red flower, the cardinal flower is a 4-feet tall plant usually found in swamps and near streams and rivers. This plant is very easy to recognize because of its characteristic red flowers.
The flowers form on the very top of the stem, so they can be easily spotted even if the plant is surrounded by bushes. You can plant it as an individual plant or part of a larger garden – it gives the garden a bit of a wild look.
Growing them is easy enough – they do well in climate zones 2-9. They like full or partial sunshine, but the most important aspect of cardinal flower care is water. They like wet, even soggy soil. The plant will die in dry soil.
Keep in mind that this plant is toxic, and if eaten in large enough amounts, it can induce a coma.
Ninebark is a shrub (a genus of shrubs, actually) known for its peeling bark. This ornamental plant takes up a lot of space, growing up to 8 feet in width and 10 feet in height. Because of its size, it’s a common addition in gardens, adding plenty of greenery.
There are also dwarf varieties that don’t take up as much space.
The bush develops plenty of clusters of pink and white flowers during the blooming season, which usually starts in the spring (although that depends on the temperatures). It can be grown in zones 2-8 in the USA.
They flower best when they get plenty of sun, and they don’t need a lot of water, while they’re also tolerant regarding soil pH, making them highly adaptable.
11. Blue Lobelia
This flower is also known as the blue cardinal flower – it’s very similar to the cardinal flower, with the obvious exception being the flower color. It’s a tall plant, growing up to 3 feet, usually found in swamps and other bodies of water.
Just like the cardinal flower, the blue lobelia is a welcome addition to gardens because of its coloration and because they add that ‘wilderness’ look to the garden. They can also be grown individually in large containers or garden beds.
Blue lobelias require a lot of water to survive, while they thrive in slightly shaded areas – they should ideally be planted near bushes or under trees.
You might be familiar with boneset under the name snakeroot – this large flowering plant can grow up to 10 feet in height and it’s often used for its flowers, which can be added to almost any flower arrangement.
Boneset will thrive in full sunlight and it will bloom fully in the summer, while the bloom can last until October in some cases. It’s important to keep an eye out for water – they like moist soil and the chances of root rot are very low, so you can water them as much as you’d like.
It grows in a radius of about 4 feet, so it can be used to fill up empty spaces between plants and provide a little bit of green.
Kansas offers a wonderful mixture of bushes, shrubs, and flowering plants that can imitate the wilderness very well if planted right. Blue lobelia and the cardinal flower are great if you want to add some color, while the boneset and the ninebark are large bushes that are kind to the eyes with their green color.
We also have the water lily, which is a must-have in any garden with a pond, and since most plants native to Kansas love water, a pond garden is a terrific idea.