What Flowers Grow Well in Iowa? (9 of The Best Options)

Iowa’s summers are long, warm, and humid, with an average annual temperature of 70°F to 85°F. It’s also prone to drought and cold winters.

Picture of coneflowers used in article titled What flowers grow well in Iowa.

Although not many flowers thrive for long in the state, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a beautiful, flower-rich garden with the right blooms.

All the above begs the question: what flowers grow well in Iowa? Your best options include Penstemons, coneflowers, peonies, yarrows, and black-eyed Susans grow in abundance in Iowa. These blooms are well adapted to the unique climate of the state, and can easily withstand Iowa’s fluctuating weather.

In this article, I’ve listed some of the prettiest and most well-blooming flowers you can grow in the Hawkeye State!

1.  Penstemon

  • Botanical name: Penstemon
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature size: 6 in. to 8 ft. tall, 8 to 20 in. wide
  • Sun exposure  Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained
  • Bloom time: Spring, summer
  • Native area: North America

Penstemons, also known as Beardtongues, are long-blooming herbaceous perennials that are typically used as annual bedding flowers. They’re the largest genus of North American flowering plants and are a favorite among bumblebees, honey bees, native bees, and hummingbirds thanks to their gracious nectars.

With cultivars of many shapes and sizes, penstemons have become the forefront of home gardening in drought-prone areas like Iowa.

Penstemons come in almost every color in the rainbow, with the most common being blue, pink, purple, and red. They thrive under direct sunlight and exhibit the best foliage color in well-drained soil.

2.  Coneflowers

  • Botanical name: Echinacea paradoxa
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature size: 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 1.5 ft. wide
  • Sun exposure  Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained
  • Bloom time: Summer, Fall
  • Native area: North America

If you’re looking for vibrant, long-blooming perennials with low water requirements, coneflowers are the top contenders.

Aside from being heat and drought resistant, they’re easy to grow, return year after year, and come in a myriad of cultivars. When properly cared for, they’d offer a nonstop supply of blooms throughout most of their growing season!

Coneflowers come in an array of eye-catching hues, including yellow, pink, red, orange, and chartreuse—a gorgeous greenish-yellow color.

Like penstemons, coneflowers thrive in full sun. They attract songbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators like honeybees and hummingbirds. 

3.  Peonies

  • Botanical name: Paeonia officinalis
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature size: 3 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained
  • Bloom time: Late spring to late summer
  • Native area:  Europe, Asia, and Western North America

Peonies are among the most popular flowers in the world, and it’s easy to see why: with their broad, glamorous petals and beautiful colors, they’re incredibly Instagram-worthy! They stand out in any bouquet, regardless of the occasion.

Image of Peonies

Dubbed as the “King of Flowers,” peonies are among the easiest perennial plants to grow. As long as they’re placed in moist, well-draining soil and receive sufficient sunlight, they can quite literally last a lifetime.

In Iowa, the best time to plant and divide peonies is in September. If you plant them after September, they won’t be given enough time to establish themselves in your garden before winter.

4.  Yarrows

  • Botanical name: Achillea millefolium
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature size: 2 to 3 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained, sandy, clay, loamy
  • Bloom time: Summer, fall
  • Native area: Asia, Europe, North America

Yarrows are native flowering plants in Iowa that support butterflies, bees, and birds. They produce tiny, tightly packed flowers in spring and summer, which are then used as medicinal herbs to treat swelling, cramping, or the bleeding of minor wounds. They’re also used to treat sunburns.

Available in shades of white, yellow, and pink, yarrows are drought-resistant and pest-resistant. They’re best planted in spring or early summer, just after the frost has passed, in an area that receives full sun.

Once established, yarrows can spread quite quickly. They can become an invasive grower if not planted responsibly.

5.  Prairie Lilies

  • Botanical name: Lilium philadelphicum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature size: 0.75 in. to 2.5 in.
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained
  • Bloom time: Early to mid-summer
  • Native area: North America

Prairie lilies, also known as Philadelphia lilies, western red lilies, or wood lilies, are large, orange-red perennials that flower in late June to early July in Iowa. The flowers are two to three inches long and two to three inches wide, with a single whorl of 3 to 6 leaves.

Prairie lilies grow in abundance in Iowa’s moist meadows, wood groves, and ditches. Their pollen attracts hummingbirds, bees, and large butterflies like swallowtails and monarchs.

6.  Black-eyed Susans

  • Botanical name: Rudbeckia hirta
  • Plant Type: Perennial, biennial
  • Mature size: 2 to 3 ft
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained, evenly moist
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Native area: North America

Black-eyed Susans, otherwise known as Goldsturms or gloriosa daisies, are a local favorite. They perform astonishingly well under Iowa’s mid-summer sun and require little to no maintenance apart from the occasional deadheading.

Black-eyed Susans are often mistaken for their coneflowers cousins because they look strikingly similar. On top of that, they both grow in clumps and bloom at around the same time each year.

Close up picture of a Black-eyed Susan in a garden

But unlike coneflowers, which bloom in pink, red, and orange variations, black-eyed Susans bloom in shades of yellow, gold, or bronze. The latter is also shorter than the former, growing up to three feet tall as opposed to five feet.

Black-eyed Susans grow well in partial to full sunlight and prefer well-draining soil.

7.  Asters

  • Botanical name: Symphyotrichum spp.
  • Plant type: Herbaceous, perennial
  • Mature size: 1 to 6 ft. tall, 1 to 4 ft. wide
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Well-drained, loamy
  • Bloom time: Summer, fall
  • Native area: North America

Blooming in late summer and autumn, asters are low-investment plants with high returns.

These beautiful daisy-like flowers grow in big clumps and bloom predictably and reliably. They come in a multitude of colors, from whites to lavenders to pastel pinks, to hybrids of deep purple and scarlet.

There are over 250 variations of asters. In Iowa, the most common include New England asters, New York aster, Calico asters, and wood asters.

8.  Alliums

  • Botanical name: Allium
  • Plant type: Bulb or rhizome
  • Mature size: 1 to 4 feet tall, 3 to 10 inches wide
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: All types, as long as the soil is well-draining
  • Bloom time: Spring, sometimes fall but rare
  • Native area:  Middle East

Alliums, also known as ornamental onions, are monocot flowering plants that grow best in full sun and well-draining soil of any kind. They’re loved for their tough constitutions, exquisite beauty, and low maintenance.

These drought-tolerant plants multiply naturally, so they can be left untouched in the same spot for years on end.

Most bloom in shades of purple, but some come in shades of yellow, pink, blue, and white. They look sticking in a bouquet and will provide a beautiful background to your flower garden from late spring to early summer. 

9.  Everblooming-bleeding Hearts

  • Botanical name: Dicentra luxuriant
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature size: 1 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 2 inches wide
  • Sun exposure: Full
  • Soil type: Chalk, loam, clay; moist but well-drained 
  • Bloom time: Spring to early summer
  • Native area: North America
Picture of blooming hearts and yarrows on a table

Ever blooming-bleeding hearts, also known as western bleeding hearts, are pinkish-red heart-shaped blooms that flower in big clumps in spring, summer, and fall.

They aren’t as easy to take care of as other herbaceous perennial plants on this list, but they don’t succumb to improper care that easily.

Unlike common bleeding hearts, ever blooming-bleeding hearts won’t go dormant in the midsummer. As their “ever-blooming” name suggests, they’ll bloom throughout the season, provided they’re given enough water and shade.

Wrap Up – What Flowers Grow Well in Iowa?

The best flowers that grow in Iowa include peonies, yarrows, coneflowers, asters, and alliums among others.

Even with Iowa’s unpredictable climate, these flowers thrive with minimal maintenance. Apart from everblooming-bleeding hearts, most require full sun and well-draining soil, and can be year-round to duplicate by themselves.

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