New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a tough plant, and its name was given to it in recognition of the strength of its stems. However, it's not just strong -- it's also quite beautiful. Each branch bears a grouping of deep violet flowers in a cluster of about 30 to 50 blossoms. These beautiful blooms will show up in late July or early August and can last as late as the end of October, depending on the onset of winter. Even when the blooms begin to fade, they'll dry up and turn a stunning rust color to provide a few more days or weeks of color before the plant goes dormant for the winter. The other main attraction is of course the butterflies. Butterflies love the nectar of New York ironweed and will frequent any garden with plenty of these flowers [source: eNature.com].
Plant ironweed where it will get as much sun as possible. Ideally, the site should have slightly acidic but rich soil, though ironweed can tolerate an impressive range of planting conditions.
If you don't want the plant to self-seed, flower heads should be removed before the seeds develop; otherwise this hardy plant can easily multiply year after year. Ironweed can be slow to adapt to the quick-drying soil of the Northeast and may need extra attention when it comes to watering for the first six weeks after planting. With a minimal amount of attention and a little planning, New York ironweed will bring beautiful deep purple flowers to any Northeastern garden for years.
Learn about another popular perennial on the next page.