En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Friday - June 09, 2006

From: Silver Spring, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Native, non-invasive plant seeds for each region in U.S.
Answered by: Dean Garrett


I need to identify a wildflower from each region that we can package in custom packaging to use as giveaways at our member zoos and aquariums. Our project this year is called Conservation Made Simple and it focuses on backyard habitats. We would love to have flowering seeds that are critter friendly, non-invasive, etc. I understand that one size does not fit all, but am not expert enough to identify one per region. Can you help me?


We can direct you to sources of information that can help you decide which species to choose and we can provide some tentative suggestions. If the member zoos and aquariums are spread throughout the country, this should be quite an undertaking. I can understand why you might want to reduce the number of species you have to deal with.

Ideally, the regions in which you offer the wildflowers would be ecoregions, but these do not correspond with state or cultural boundaries and they vary so greatly in extent that it would be hard to organize your project around them. Even native plant societies are organized at the state or county level and not by ecoregion.

The Wildflower Center has compiled Regional FactPacks arranged by state groupings that correspond roughly to traditional geographic regions like the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, etc. This might be a good starting point. For each region, there's a list of wildflowers that you can peruse to help make a decision.

This may not be feasible for you, but I'm inclined to recommend that you consult with state native plant societies and use a local seed source for each state. This would further limit the size of the region that each species has to adapt to. The National Wildlife Federation has a longstanding Backyard Habitat Program and their website includes a Native Plant Finder function that enables you to sort wildflowers by state.

You might want to ensure that the planting requirements are as uniform across species as possible. For instance, choose only plants that require full sun.

Keeping a few common wildflower names in mind as you look over the suggested lists may help. A few well-known genera with broad ranges include:

Castilleja (paintbrushes) - concentrated in the west
Echinacea (coneflowers) - concentrated centrally and covering much of the east
Gaillardia (Indian blankets) - centrally concentrated
Helianthus (sunflowers) - continent-wide
Lupinus (lupines, bluebonnets) - concentrated in the west
Monarda (mints) - almost continent-wide
Ratibida (Mexican hats) - centrally concentrated
Rudbeckia (Susans, coneflowers) - concentrated in the east

Loosely following our FactPack regions, here are some initial species suggestions for full-sun wildflowers that have wide ranges and are relatively well-known (and thus most likely to be available commercially). Keep in mind that the FactPack regions are based on political boundaries and not ecoregions. None of the species will be fully adaptable to all habitats within the regions. This is especially true for regions that encompass large states such as California and Texas and for those with mountains, such as the Rocky Mountain region and the Southwest.

California region: California gold poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Northwest: Common Camas (Camassia quamash)
Rocky Mountain region: Meadow Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)
Southwest: Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
Midwest: Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Northeast and Southeast: Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Mid-Atlantic: Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma)

Our National Suppliers Directory provides a list of potential suppliers you can contact, both wholesale and retail.

Eschscholzia californica

Camassia quamash

Castilleja miniata

Baileya multiradiata

Echinacea purpurea

Rudbeckia hirta

Monarda didyma

More Wildflowers Questions

School Rain Garden in Iowa
January 08, 2013 - Could you recommend plants for a rain garden to be installed on a middle school campus in the Council Bluffs Iowa area???? Many thanks!
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for a water collection pit in Bronson, FL
August 22, 2013 - I live near Gainesville, FL in a low rural area with many cypress swamps around & bought this 5 acres 2 years ago. About 15 years ago a pit was dug on my 5 acres to give the rainwater somewhere to go...
view the full question and answer

Laws concerning picking wildflowers in Pennsylvania
May 20, 2008 - What is the law (in Pennsylvania or Federal law) that makes it illegal to pick wildflowers and/or other native plants?
view the full question and answer

Is there a variety of bluebonnet called black gumbo
February 04, 2008 - I live in Grimes County, Texas on the eastern edge of the Blackland Prairie. A few years ago my hillside of Bluebonnet seed was harvested. I was told it was a rare 'black gumbo' variety of bluebon...
view the full question and answer

Flowering Deer Resistant Ground Cover for Dry Rocky Soil: Alabama
March 26, 2012 - My question has been partially answered in the FAQ but I live in Birmingham where the soil is clay and rocky so it's a little different. I want to plant on a rocky slope (small rocks like the size of...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center