The Five Best Native Blue Flowers

CLEOPATRA:          Is it true that when Caesar caught you on that island, you were painted all over blue?

BRITANNUS:         Blue is the color worn by all Britons of good standing. In war, we stain our bodies blue; so that though our enemies may strip us of our clothes and our lives, they cannot strip us of our respectability.

– from Caesar and Cleopatra, by George Bernard Shaw

I may not seek to maintain my respectability by painting my body blue, but I do love blue flowers. Blue is so serene and tranquil in the garden, and makes a satisfying contrast to yellows, pinks, and reds. There are many fine blue flowers from all over the world, but my favorites tend to be from here in the American Midwest.

Speaking of which, here are my five favorite blue flowers from this region.

Anise Hyssop
Straight species Anise Hyssop (with Yellow Coneflower and Joe Pye Weed in the back).

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).  An extremely tough and adaptable plant, great for pollinators and goldfinches. It’s only serious fault in my experience is a tendency to flop in fertile soil – it may require a lot of staking and/or cutting back to keep it upright. Also, it self sows like crazy, in case that bothers you. I should point out that most cultivars of this genus (like ‘Blue Fortune’ or ‘Honeybee Blue’) are hybrids of North American and exotic species.

Aromatic Aster with Anise-Scented Goldenrod
Aromatic Aster with Anise-Scented Goldenrod

Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius). This aster tends to stay relatively compact and wants full sun and dry to medium soil. Completely covered with blue daisies in the fall. There are some really nice cultivars, but I only have the straight species.

Harebell, Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Harebell with Lanceleaf Coreopsis

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). A native American bellflower that does well on drier, sunny sites. Harebell is low-growing and self-sows moderately. Blooms over a long period in summer.

Virginia Bluebells
Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). How can you look at this flower and not fall in love? In Chicago the blue flowers usually appear in May. Spreads by root and seed, so that a few in time will turn into many. And how can that be bad? Only drawback is that it turns raggedy and eventually disappears after blooming, so it needs to be mixed with other plants.

Culver's Root 'Fascination'
Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’

Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’ (Veronicastrum virginicum). Some would say that I’m cheating since, as a cultivar, ‘Fascination’ is not a real native. To these people I say: phooey. Anyhow, this is a really nice plant. Tall (4-5′) and generally needs staking in my garden. Another big favorite for pollinators that blooms in mid-summer.

So those are my top five. Do you have any favorite blue flowers?

49 Comments on “The Five Best Native Blue Flowers

  1. I’m not sure I necessarily have a favorite blue flower but I generally can’t get enough blue in the garden. Blue & red are colors I generally can’t resist…orange and yellow are close runner ups.

  2. All your blue flowers are pretty, Jason. I love most the bluebell but they often disappear in my garden. I think because of they are biennial. Also I love scilla and pushkinia, they both are vernal blue flowers.
    Have a nice week!

  3. I love blue flowers too and you can’t beat our native bluebell: Hyacinthoides non-scripta for carpets of blue in spring. And in summer how about cornflowers: Centaurea cyanus and Love – in- the-Mist: Nigella damascena?

    • I don’t think I have ever seen Nigella growing and it has such an intriguing common name. I wonder if I could grow it here. I would probably have to find a seed source, I don’t think plants are sold at nurseries in this area.

      • It’s an annual and very easy from seed, you just scatter it about. It is very pretty.

  4. Reading your post I realise I don’t have that many blue flowers, I don’t know why as it is a colour I love. For a really dark blue you’d have to go a long way to beat Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’. The Muscari in spring a a good strong blue that I like too. I really like your Anise Hyssop.

  5. Yes, I agree with Chloris, our native Bluebells in Spring are a sight to behold, in my own garden any shade of blue, Echinops ritro, Eyringium ‘Blue Steel’, Geranium ‘Rozanne’. Phacelia tanacetifolia is one of my favourites, self seeds and lovely for Bees.

      • Similar, but genuinely not as lovely, English Bluebells growing wild in woodlands are one of the great floral sights to see.

  6. All natives today, Jason; I’m impressed. A few more are Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis), Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), and Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis).

    • I’m kicking myself for not mentioning blue wild indigo. I do have Ohio Spiderwort but it is not a favorite of mine as it is kind of sprawling.

  7. Your Anise hyssop is stunning. When I had sun, I also loved African Blue basil for the number of bees it attracted, but if my memory is correct, the flowers are more purple than blue.

  8. Yes, aster, blue bell and annise hyssop. Your flowers look so beautiful. Do you use any kind of fertilizer?

    • Not for any of these plants. They are all wildflowers except for ‘Fascination’. Occasionally I give them some compost.

  9. I was pulled in by the title of this post, especially when in the next line I saw Cleopatra was going to comment, but shades of Mel Gibson! LOL, Jason! To get down and dirty, I have always considered the agastache more to the purple side. I would also take you to task, being a native promoter (although I am not sure of its authenticity), that you did not include the indigo baptisia (I think the white is the one that is more “native”).

    One comment I would make to those who feel campanula rotundifolia is a biennial, there are a lot of look-a-likes for this native, some which are biennial. Also, there might be a bit of misnaming out there when gardeners try to buy this native. I think the true native certainly is perennial and does well even in some shade.

    There are some other blues which come to mind that don’t flop (what is it with you and your plant torture (reference the poor amaryllis of the past few postings!)?

    When listing natives, although it tends to be a bit of a thug I cannot leave out the Ohio spiderwort, which has to be the bluest of blues among natives. Also, I would include blue vervain (verbena hastate) which grows 3′-4′ and never needs a stake, but can be a tad thug-like, but since it spreads from seed rather than runner roots, I can easily tolerate it.

    Two other blues I really like but I seem to always weed out by accident are blue bottle gentian (which I quickly replant, but doesn’t do a lot for its settling in!) and blue flax, which has a long bloom period, but only works half days, blooming until the heat of the day for about 2 months.

    An annual I really enjoyed last year was laurentia. Another I grew from seed, but readily grows from cuttings (and is perennial) is the more shrub-like hyssop officialis, which should not be confused with agastashe. It forms a low (14″ mound) with blue spires, and has good rebloom.

    Of course my all time favorite has to be either caryopteris ‘Dark Knight’ or lavender ‘Munstead’. Both are touch and go here zone and climate-wise. I will be curious to see the effects of our harsh winter on their winter hardiness.

    Can you tell I really like blue flowers?

    • Baptisia australis is definitely a native, and one I wish I had mentioned. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post with more blue flowers.

  10. I love blue in the garden a grow the hyssop and asters. I also have a favorite salvia that is baby blue called ‘reference’ and I also like the deep blue of Salvia ‘May night’

  11. A compact aster? Wonderful! Mine tend to get too tall, even the “dwarf” forms. I love blue flowers too; Ajuga, Veronica, Nigella, Cornflowers and Forget-me-nots, to name but a few! I really like the look of that Veronicastrum, and must keep my eyes open as I think it might like my warm and dry garden… 😀

  12. Blue flowers are my favorite. I love Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’, Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ and our native camassia. I have loads of blue in spring but no so much as the summer goes on. I think I need to fix that–thanks for the ideas!

    • I’ve been tempted by ‘Golden Jubilee’. I’ve thought about planting camassia, I’ve heard they will grow in my area.

  13. Looking at your post, I think I should try again Anise Hyssop. I used to have some. It looks very good in your picture. You should try love-in-a-mist – it is one of the easiest plants to grow from seed.

  14. I love blue in the garden too, but I always thought some of that is because true blue is a more difficult color to get for the garden. I love Delphiniums in blue…

    • I guess I’m happy even with near-blue. Delphiniums are lovely, have you ever grown the native D. exaltatum? I had some but they eventually died and I didn’t replace them.

  15. Some wonderful choices! I just planted bareroot Anise Hyssop in the fall. I don’t know if it will make it through this arctic winter, but if it does I’ll be thrilled! I also planted seeds for Virginia Bluebells. I’ve heard they’re hard to start from seed, so we shall see. I share your love of blue blooms–especially certain shades of blue. Wild Geraniums are a favorite, too.

    • Given how easily Virginia Bluebells seed themselves around, I’d be surprised if they were that hard to grow from seed.

  16. What a wonderful post,you have some gorgeous plants here. I love blue plants too, especially campanula and forget-me-nots. I really liked that hyssop too.xxx

    • There are two North American Campanulas, C. rotundifolius which I mention in this post, and C. americanum, which is a tall biennial.

  17. Nice! I love the virginia bluebells, but my one plant mysteriously disappeared last year. I’ve been trying seed but was told the seed loses viability quickly if not stored moist, so no luck yet. Polemonium reptans is a great native blue!

    • Yes, I have P. reptans also. I like it a lot, but not as much as Virginia Bluebells. Try ordering a couple of bare root Virginia Bluebells from Prairie Moon. With a little time I’m sure they will spread in your garden.

  18. I ❤ Virginia blue bell.
    The Shaw quote finally solves the mystery of 70s blue eyeshadow! :0

  19. Is 3 years later too late to post? Anise hyssop is a saviour in my dry, sunny, clay zone 5 garden. It is always upright, has self-seeded beautifully, and is covered in bees from the first bloom to the last. The licorice smell is so lovely, I’m hoping to make a tea from it this year. Blue flag iris is another native blue garden star for me. Great post!

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