Is It A Garden Plant Or A Weed Wildflower?

– Posted in: Native/Invasive

Every flower is a wildflower–a native plant–somewhere, though this is easy to forget when that “somewhere” is on the other side of the world. On the other hand, it’s easy to take our own native wildflowers for granted, or even despise them as weeds. And many popular garden plants native to North America had to be recognized as garden-worthy by gardeners in other countries before they were adopted by gardeners here.


For example, the British call asters Michaelmas daisies because they bloom around the time of Michaelmas, a holiday for them and not for us.

And yet many people in North America call them Michaelmas daisies, too, because that’s what the British call them. Is it a garden plant or a wildflower?

For me, it’s both. There are asters I’ve purchased or gotten from friends because they were a particular color, but asters also grow in the fields and verges surrounding my garden, and there’s many an aster seedling I’ve weeded out of the borders. But this time of year, I can’t help but let the ones that escaped my notice bloom before yanking them.

Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia

How about Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)? I know many gardeners curse it as a weed.

Virginia creeper closeup

But it’s also sold as a vine for it’s brilliant fall color.

Is it a garden plant or a wildflower? It doesn’t grow in my garden and strangely enough, I’ve never found seedlings I needed to weed out. It does grow along the road and along the edge of wooded areas around here.


Goldenrod positively glows in the fields right now.

Is it a garden plant or a wildflower? That depends on which goldenrod you’re talking about! I’ve already ranted about the thuggish behavior of Solidago canadensis. I weed it out as soon as I find it in my cultivated gardens. But Gail of Clay and Limestone endorses several cultivars and species as garden-worthy, well-behaved plants. I haven’t tried any of them. Yet.

Lemon Queen helianthus

‘Lemon Queen’ perennial sunflower is “naturally-occurring midwestern US hybrid of Helianthus pauciflorus var. subrhomboideus x Helianthus tuberosus“, according to Plant Delights Nursery.

It’s not native to my area, though I find many plants native to midwest North America do very well here. I was given a small piece of this beauty in 2015, and look how much it’s grown in two years!

Is it a garden plant or a wildflower? It started out as a garden plant, but I am hoping it will become a wildflower. I recently dug out this big clump and planted a shrub in its place. I replanted a small piece in another part of this bed as insurance, in case the three bigger clumps I planted in a wild area along the road don’t “take”. ‘Lemon Queen’ is marvelous with tall ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, but in order for it to stay in the Slope Garden it will need yearly editing. I really love it, but I’d rather grow it in an area where I can just let it be without constantly checking its growth. At least its stolons don’t range as far as those of goldenrod.

Rudbeckia aster jewelweed

I am more tolerant of weeds wildflowers along the side of the garden shed, where the lawnmower will keep them in check.

I planted the black-eyed Susan, but the asters and the jewelweed (profiled here) just showed up. Is it a garden plant or a wildflower? By now you’ve figured out that–it depends. It depends on the behavior of the plant, and it depends on your expectations–what do you want from the particular piece of land under your care? What else do you want to grow there, and how much time do you have to tend it? One gardener’s weed is another gardener’s botanical treasure.

Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogosphere. “It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!”

There’s still time to register!

There’s a few spots remaining for the Great Plants Symposium in Sturbridge, MA, where I’ll show attendees how to Fight Cabin Fever with Your Garden. This exceptional symposium features dynamic lectures filled with inspirational plants and design ideas for creating exuberant, planet-friendly gardens. Gardeners of all ages and abilities will enjoy five informative lectures: Unique and Unusual Perennials for the Northeast; Ravishing Foliage Plants Steal the Show; Combat Cabin Fever with Your Garden – Tips, Techniques and Great Plants to Create a Winter Wonderland and Brighten Your World; The World of Roses and Hydrangeas; and A Thrifty Gardener’s Guide to Luxurious Gardens. The symposium includes morning coffee and refreshments, a buffet lunch, handouts, door prizes, book signings, and a garden gift. $93 per person; $88 for Master Gardeners, members of Nursery and Landscape Associations, or Groups of 5 or more. For more information click here for details or call Kerry Ann Mendez at 207.502.7228.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Janet Davis September 29, 2017, 1:16 pm

I’ve got those guys in my naturalistic cottage garden (meadows) and here in the city. Whatever the bees & butterflies like becomes a garden plant for me. I’ve found ‘Lemon Queen’ is pretty easy to pull out if it’s creeping (unlike S. canadensis).

Kathy Purdy September 29, 2017, 2:35 pm

I agree about ‘Lemon Queen’ being easy to pull out. That’s why I wasn’t afraid to put it in another spot in the same bed I had dug it out of.

Donna@GardensEyeView September 28, 2017, 8:47 am

I agree perception, expectation and desire can certainly color our opinion….for me these are all wildflowers and I do love them but maybe not in all my gardens. It depends on the look I am going for. I will say I have most of these in many areas of my garden.

Kathy September 28, 2017, 7:56 am

I tend to embrace the weed wildflowers as I have found they attract more pollinators and birds with the EXCEPTION of EVIL BINDWEED that I can’t even weed out if I try. I bet your lemon queen is loaded with bees and butterflies much like mine although mine is helianthus macrophyllus. I have been enjoying the influx of Painted Ladies that have been attracted to her and find it somewhat amusing that the UPS man seems to be afraid of bumble bees as it grows close to our garage door and of course, is busy with the bumbles. I had to prune some of it back as a courtesy. Jewelweed I had to weed out one year as it really took over but now I can keep it in check and I love it much like the hummingbirds – they never pass it up.

Lea @ Lea's Menagerie September 28, 2017, 3:43 am

Beautiful wildflowers!
Have a great day!

Jeannie September 27, 2017, 9:12 pm

It is it wildflower or a weed? It depends on whether or not I want it in my garden. If I like it, it is a wildflower; if I don’t like it, it is a weed. Context decides the definition of any word, at least that is my excuse for being temperamental.
I like your wildflower/weeds. They look great.
Jeannie @ GetMeToTheCountry