Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: In Praise of a Rather Tall Wildflower!

Silphium perfoliatum is one tall wildflower!

Some would say that this beauty is a beast of a plant and I might have agreed several years ago when it stood 9 feet tall and 3 foot wide in my little sunny Susan's Bed! I've since learned to cut it back at the same time I clip the ex-asters. I suggest you do the same, because banning this beauty from your garden because it's tall and colonizing would be a shame.

You just can't beat the composite flowers when it comes to wildlife value, but, there's something especially wonderful about Cup Plant. Once the flowers open the pollinators descend upon the garden and they stay until the last petal falls from the plant and then the birds eat the seeds. But, even before it blooms, the wasps, Bumble bees, flies and small birds stop by to drink the rain and dew that has collected in the fused leaves that form a cup around the plants square stems. It's a very cool plant.

Cup Plant is a native of tall grass prairies where it grows in moderately rich, moist well drained neutral to alkaline soil. Expect it to make itself at home in your garden by setting down a central taproot and shallow rooted rhizomes. First year seedlings are easily transplantable from where you don't want them to where you do. It can and will spread vegetatively (and by seed) to form a large and tall colony that makes a striking statement in the back of a garden. Plant it with other prairie forbs and grasses to create a pocket prairie. 
Big plant,
good looking flowers,
spreads assertively,
a rough and tumble wildflower,
tons of happy pollinators,
great wildlife value...
A tattered beauty in the garden July 22, 2014
Only you can decide if this beauty is a beast!


Some particulars you might want to know about Cup Plant!
Asteraceae family
Growth: Can grow to as much as 9 ft. tall by 3 ft. wide...I am not kidding!
Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul, Aug, Sep
Distribution USA: AL , AR , CT , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV Canada: ON Native Distribution: S. Ont. to NC, w. to e. Great Plains
Native Habitat: Moist woods; prairies; low ground
Growing Conditions: Wet to mesic soils. Will tolerate clay soil. It grows in my garden, it will grow in yours!
Comments: Unstoppable urge to reproduce, they will pop up everywhere; very little care needed. (source)

Thank you for stopping by and welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky. 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I have had problems getting this to grow but mostly because I need to find a good site for it...but I will find it a place of honor for Cup Plant in my garden. This month I went back to May to visit with a special new plant in my garden...hope you like it Gail!

  2. I now have Cup Plant blooming for the first time in my garden, thank you for helping me identify it last week. I think it s a beauty, but it's in the wrong place in my garden. I need to move it! I shall look around for a better place for it to establish a colony as I would hate not to have it in my garden now that I've met it in person. Class is now in session on my blog for WW, with a much smaller flower than Cup Plant.

  3. I have seen this beauty popping up in gardens all around. It is striking during the dry hot times during summer.

  4. I've always enjoyed seeing this plant in prairie plantings, and it's one of the few "tall yellows" that I can usually identify. I've tried to grow it from seed with no luck, but if I ever do get it established here, I appreciate the warnings about where to site it.

    I didn't realize it was Wildflower Wednesday already--I'm still trying to get my first Fling post together:) But I have a new native, also tall and yellow, blooming in my garden this year, so I definitely intend to get organized and join in.

  5. I too love plants in the composite family and you're absolutely correct about those plants being the best among the best for wildlife. Often, they get rangy, but that's why stakes were invented! Beautiful photos; love that tattered, well-traveled butterfly!

  6. I so wish I had room for this beauty...you know I'm not intimidated by tall plants!

  7. Bright yellow looks great against the summer sky. Tall plants like this are valuable in the garden--disguise the fence or a transition area. Moist soil is usually in short supply but we have several tall native sunflowers that I've added this year. Not quite 9' tall but I hear they can take over and that's what I'm looking for.

  8. I don't have cup plant but I do have swamp sunflower. It gets pretty tall as well. I know fall is here when I see it blooming.

  9. Hi Gail,
    I have some photos taken, but have not gotten a post together yet. Since I have already shown most of the blooms I was taking photos of, I was thinking about doing a post on one plant like you frequently do. Guess what the plant was going to be? Well, I may just do it anyway, and talk about cup plant from my experiences with it.

    1. Yes please do...it's a plant that needs as many viewers as possible seeing it! xo

  10. Love the Cup Plant. Mine, started from seed in 2012, were BIG and blooming last year. This year, the seedlings are everywhere. I still think it is a great plant. Thanks for your post. P.s. I am in Nova Scotia, Canada, and have seen this plant very seldom in gardens here. It is not native here.

  11. I do believe this is my husband's favorite native plant! Whenever we see it during our hikes, he gets so excited and chats about what a nifty plant it is--the way the leaves form a cup to capture water. I love the fact that it's utilitarian, native, and it has pretty flowers that the pollinators love. I hope to join in yet tonight or tomorrow morning. Sorry--running late. ;-)

  12. What an awesome plant! It's been on my list of plants to grow, and now that I have a large area in the back where it can roam, it would be perfect and can grow as large as it likes!

  13. What a beautiful looking plant! I'm pretty sure we don't have this in the UK, unless it goes by a different name. Your photographs are lovely by the way, glad I came across your blog.

  14. I've never grown cup plant, Gail. It sounds like another perfect plant for your conditions. Fascinating how the fused leaves collect water. That's a wonderful shot of the ragged butterfly.

  15. Spectacular. I heart this plant. So how/when exactly do you cut it back to control the height?

  16. I have this in my garden, too and the birds/pollinators love it. I don't cut mine back, though. It's in the very back in an out of the way spot and I just let it do what it wants. :o)

  17. I planted my first plant this spring. I like the large leaves also as a contrast to grasses. I know I have planted it in the wring place but I willing to be proved wrong in that decision, guess I'll prune it with the asters.

  18. I love this plant for the late summer drama. You do have to keep an eye on it but I find keeping it in bounds to be a manageable task.

  19. I'm a week late, as I aim at the last Wednesday, and use your meme for my garden this month.
    Flaming in red and yellow against winter frost.
    25C today!

  20. Even later here, but I finally have a post up. I'm already writing some notes so I won't be so late for August's WW!

  21. Even with your advice, I think I'll pass on adding this giant to my garden. It just doesn't sound right for suburbia. But I must admit that I often wish that I had a more "wild" type garden area, like my own little prairie. I constantly admire all the wild areas growing along the roads and such. I'll just admire your cup plant from here!

  22. I have a thing for tall perennials and have come to love this one. We have it paired with 'Autumn Minaret' daylily in a garden at work. which is another tall thing.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson