10 Native Flowers and Grasses to Plant in a Central North Carolina Piedmont Prairie

Our Treecologists' favorite flowers and grasses that thrive in planting zones 7b/8a.

Piedmont Prairies are robust ecosystems that are a mix of native flowers and grasses. The combinations of plants that can make up these meadows are endless. The variety is truly incredible! These meadow flowers thrive in a variety of conditions, while they all need full sun, some tolerate drier soil while others prefer to have more moisture. Below are some of our favorite flowers and grasses that are native to planting zones 7b/8a.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

What’s not to love about Milkweed? Not only is it gorgeous, it is also the ONLY food source for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. In the past, these plants were considered weeds and were sprayed with herbicide, but the loss of wild Milkweed is likely one of the main reasons Monarchs have become endangered. Adding native Milkweed to prairies feeds a variety of beneficial insects and increases the Monarch population.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

These sunny flowers are some of the first to bloom in the spring, and they provide a food source for various butterflies. They thrive in sunny locations with healthy soil and are often used as foundational plants for Piedmont Prairies.

Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata)

Beebalm flowers look like they are straight out of a Dr. Seuss story. True to their name, they are very popular with native bumblebees and other beneficial insects. They are also drought-tolerant and have a long bloom season. These plants are members of the mint family, so they have a strong flavor that rabbits and deer often ignore.

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)

Also known as Trumpet Weed, this towering flower has bright green foliage and fluffy, purple flower crowns. They can grow up to 8 feet tall and are a particular favorite of butterflies, especially Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

TThese showy, bright purple blooms add a color pop to Piedmont Prairies, but they’re important for more than just their looks. They attract numerous pollinators and have been used medicinally by many Native American tribes.

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Grasses are often overlooked but are key components to a healthy Piedmont Prairie. Native grasses often have deep root systems that help break up compacted dirt and bring essential nutrients to the soil. In the case of Big Bluestem, also known as Turkeyfoot, the roots can reach a depth of up to 12 feet! In addition to improving soil quality and preventing erosion, the calming blue-green leaves and deep purple flower clusters add texture and depth to a prairie.

Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)

Commonly known as Tall Tickseed, the blooms on this species look like smaller versions of Black-eyed Susans. But the flowers are the only part of this plant that grows on a smaller scale... the stems sometimes reach a towering 9 feet tall.

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Switchgrass shines in the dormant season. A green backdrop in spring and summer, it turns to a warm golden color in the fall and winter. This native grass also has very deep roots that help sequester carbon and build soil health.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Common Yarrow is part of the Aster family but has unique fern-like leaves, and the bloom consists of clusters of florets, also known as inflorescence. This plant has so many superpowers! It helps prevent soil erosion, has deep roots that break up compacted soil, can be made into a tea, and is a great companion plant because it attracts beneficial, predatory insects that feed on pests.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

False Indigo is a striking plant with pea-like flowers that cluster at the end of tall stems. The blue flowers can be used to create natural dyes, and because this plant is part of the legume family, it also adds nitrogen back to the soil. Baptisia also comes in a yellow variety.

Clearly, the variety of flowers and grasses in a Piedmont Prairie make up an entire rainbow, but that’s not even the best part. Once established, these rich ecosystems provide food and shelter for so many different kinds of life including bees, butterflies, and birds. They are a colorful, buzzing, chirping paradise.

If you have any questions about Piedmont Prairies or would like to know more about the process of installing one, please send us a message.

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