From the vast open plains to the towering mountain ranges, the rugged beauty of Montana provides an amazing backdrop for gardening. As the Big Sky Country falls within USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 6, gardeners have a wide array of flowers to choose from that can thrive in these conditions. Whether you’re a beginner gardener or a pro, knowing the right flowers to plant can transform your garden into a colorful, vibrant paradise. So, in this article, let’s go over the 15 best flowers to grow in Montana.
1. Anise Hyssop
Let’s kick off our list with the well-loved perennial, anise hyssop. This upright, clump-forming plant produces captivating spikes of small, tubular flowers ranging from lavender to purple. These beauties bloom from the start of summer until the early fall, providing a lovely vertical element to your garden.
The plant’s leaves emit a delightful anise aroma when crushed, hence its name, contributing to the overall sensory appeal of your garden. These leaves can also serve a practical purpose, perfect for brewing herbal teas or even creating jellies.
For optimal growth, the plant prefers a location with full to partial sunlight. It thrives in average soil conditions, with a preference for well-drained soils with dry to medium moisture levels. Plant it after the last frost or spring. Anise hyssop is also drought tolerant once established.
2. Showy Milkweed
The showy milkweed is another excellent flowering plant for Montana’s climate. This upright perennial has stunning ball-shaped clusters of aromatic, pale pink, star-shaped flowers. These blossoms appear from the end of spring through the beginning of summer, emerging on stalks from leaf junctions and at the stems’ peak, which are adorned with large, velvet-like, oval, blue-green leaves.
Importantly, the milkweed plants are a lifeline for monarch butterflies. Over the past two decades, the monarch butterfly population in North America has suffered a dramatic 90% decline. So, if you decide to plant showy milkweed in your garden, you are doing your part in helping restore the population of these beautiful butterflies.
For best growth, showy milkweed requires full sunlight and dry to moderately moist, well-drained soil. It is also resilient enough to thrive in poor, dry, and gravelly soils. Consider planting it in the fall or spring.
3. Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
Originating from the prairies and western regions of North America, the Rocky Mountain bee plant is a rapid-growing annual species. It captivates with its stunning, elongated clusters of pink flowers, each distinguished by lengthy, purple stamens that jut out from the flowers. These plants provide a fairly extended blooming period, typically from late spring through to fall, with the timing varying based on location and altitude.
For optimal growth, this plant needs full sun to light shade and prefers average, well-drained soil with dry to medium moisture levels. The best time to sow the seeds of the Rocky Mountain bee plant is in late fall.
4. Golden Tickseed
Native to the western regions of the United States, the golden tickseed is another fast-growing, upright annual. This plant boasts plentiful, daisy-like flowers that shine in a yellow hue. Each flower, spanning up to two inches, is highlighted by a reddish-brown central disc.
The blooming period lasts from early summer through to fall, and every blossom has 7-9 notch-tipped yellow rays with a reddish-brown spot at the base.
This flower thrives best in full sunlight, though it can also manage in light shade. It prefers well-drained soils with dry to medium moisture levels. The optimal time to plant the seeds of the golden tickseed outdoors is after the last frost date has passed.
5. Purple Prairie Clover
The purple prairie clover is a resilient native of the prairies, known for its longevity. As an appealing perennial, it flaunts chubby, bumpy flower heads in a lovely rose-purple shade, which sit atop its sturdy, wiry stems. When they bloom for four to six weeks during the summer, these flowers become a magnet for perennials like bees, bumblebees, and butterflies.
This clover is a highly beneficial range species, praised for its rich protein content. For this reason, it’s often employed in re-vegetation efforts and prairie restorations and serves as nutritious fodder for both livestock and wildlife.
The purple prairie clover thrives under full sun exposure in soils that are average in nature and range from dry to moist, with good drainage. It’s tolerant to drought once it’s well-established. The best planting time? Think mid-spring to early summer.
6. Narrow-Leaved Purple Coneflower
The narrow-leaf coneflower is a compact perennial known for its generous display of daisy-like flowers. These flowers span about 3 inches across and typically bloom from early to midsummer, and occasionally, they might continue to bloom through the rest of the summer season. These lovely flowers showcase soft pink to purple petals that hang from a dome-shaped central disk in an appealing shade of orange. This coneflower variety grows from a somewhat delicate but extremely deep taproot.
The narrow-leaf coneflower thrives when placed in full sun, favoring average to well-drained soils that range from dry to medium moisture levels. It can also tolerate high soil alkalinity. For the best results, you should plant coneflowers in spring or early summer.
7. Maximilian Sunflower
The Maximilian sunflower is an assertive presence in the landscape, being a tall perennial marked by firm, hairy stems adorned with elongated, rough, and hairy, grayish-green leaves. What stands out, however, is its abundance of radiant yellow flowers, each one measuring 2 to 3 inches across.
These flowers bloom from late summer into the fall, spanning roughly six weeks. Each flower features around 15 to 19 vibrant yellow rays encircling a central disk of a darker yellow hue. Given its size and spread, this plant may not be ideal for smaller perennial borders as it requires ample space.
The Maximilian sunflower prefers full sunlight and thrives in average, well-drained soils with moisture levels from dry to medium. The best time to sow the seeds for this plant is from November to May, particularly in the central Great Plains.
8. Dotted Blazing Star
The dotted blazing star is a perennial plant that stands upright and forms clumps, and it’s particularly recognized for drawing native bees and butterflies. From late summer to fall, it flaunts dense clusters of rose-lavender blossoms up to 12 inches long.
The dotted blazing star flourishes best in full sunlight and in soils that are well-drained and range from dry to moist. It can withstand alkaline soils and periods of drought. The ideal time to plant its seeds outdoors is in the late fall. This flower is notable for its longevity and resilience to drought, making it both easy to grow and low maintenance.
9. Stiff Goldenrod
The stiff goldenrod, a robust perennial plant standing tall and unbranched, brings an element of joy with its colors in the later parts of the year. It features compact, round, or flat clusters of small, vivid yellow, daisy-like blooms from late summer to early fall.
This resilient plant is easy to grow and versatile, making it an excellent choice for prairie restorations or gardens that cater to wildlife. The stiff goldenrod flourishes in full sunlight with well-drained soils that can range from dry to moderately moist. It can handle drought conditions and is also tolerant of clay soils. You can plant goldenrod either in the fall or spring, using either seeds or potted nursery starts.
10. Eastern Pasque Flower
The eastern pasque flower, a perennial plant that grows in clusters, is known for its upright, unique bell-shaped flowers that come in shades of blue, purple, or white. These bloom on short stems in early spring, marking one of the first appearances of herbaceous plants in the flowering season. The stunning flowers make a beautiful contrast against the glowing cluster of golden yellow stamens. Eastern pasque flowers pair well with other spring-blooming bulbs and ground covers.
This plant thrives in full sun, with a preference for gritty, well-drained soils that range from dry to medium moisture. It’s important to ensure good drainage for the plant’s survival. Starting this plant from a seed is quite easy, and the best time to plant is spring or late fall.
11. Western Wild Rose
The western wild rose is a rapidly growing, highly cold-resistant plant. It’s a deciduous shrub that expands by sending out rhizomes. Between late spring and mid-summer, this shrub dazzles with clusters of incredibly fragrant, single flowers in shades ranging from pink to lavender, each measuring up to 4 inches across.
This shrub does best when it gets full sun or light shade. It thrives in a range of soil types, from moderately fertile clay loam to sandy loam or sandy soil. While it prefers well-drained, moist soils, it can also withstand drought once it’s established. The ideal time to plant roses is from November to March.
12. Smooth Blue Aster
The smooth blue aster is a blue aster variety that stands out for its beauty. This perennial plant forms a clump and has mostly straight stems. It’s covered with an abundance of daisy-like flowers in clusters, which bloom from late summer through fall. Lasting several weeks, these flowers are usually less than an inch across and flaunt a golden-yellow center framed by radiant lavender-blue petals. An adaptable plant, the smooth blue aster is a superb pick for your perennial border, where it can beautifully complement other late-blooming perennials.
This plant thrives under full sun and does well in a range of soils, from moderately fertile to dry or medium-moisture, well-drained types. You can plant it anytime up until early fall, giving the roots enough time to establish before winter.
13. Prairie Ironweed
The prairie ironweed is a perennial plant that brings height and a burst of color to your garden late in the season. This upright plant is known for its dense clusters of small, feathery, intensely violet-purple flowers with delicate petals. These bloom from the middle of summer through to the early fall.
While the prairie ironweed isn’t an overly aggressive grower, it does have the potential to become a bit weedy. So, when planting it, particularly in smaller gardens, careful planning is advised. It thrives best under full sun and prefers average, medium to wet soils. It even withstands short periods of seasonal flooding. As for when to sow the prairie ironweed, you can plant it outdoors in the late fall.
14. Rocky Mountain Iris
The Rocky Mountain iris is a perennial plant that is not just hardy but also quite expansive due to its rhizomatous nature. It features large, light blue or bluish-violet flowers, which are 2-3 inches long and characterized by their striking dark purple sepals with a distinctive yellow-white signal. The flowering period ranges from late spring to early summer, and you can expect anywhere between 1 to 4 blossoms on each stem.
The plant serves as an excellent addition to sunny perennial borders or as a foundation plant. Rocky Mountain iris grows optimally in full sun and favors medium to wet, fertile, and slightly acidic soils that drain well. In regions with intense summer heat, the plant appreciates a bit of shade during the afternoon. When it comes to planting the Rocky Mountain iris, the ideal time is summer.
15. Pearly Everlasting
Pearly everlasting, an award-winning plant, is a sturdy perennial that’s perfect for brightening up flower beds or borders. Its bushy structure is adorned with numerous clusters of durable, button-like flowers that are excellent for creating dried floral arrangements. The petite flowers are characterized by golden-yellow centers and papery, see-through bracts in a pearl-white shade that mimics petals.
This plant has been recognized with the prestigious Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
The pearly everlasting grows best in full sun or part shade and in well-drained soils that have an average to medium moisture content. Although it prefers sandy soils and full sun, it’s also adaptable to dry conditions and poor-quality soils. As for planting, you can do this anytime from spring through fall.
Summary of Best Flowers to Plant in Montana
|Early summer to early fall
|Late spring to early summer
|Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
|Late spring until fall
|Early summer to fall
|Purple Prairie Clover
|Summer (4-6 weeks)
|Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower
|Throughout the summer
|Late summer to fall
|Dotted Blazing Star
|Late summer to fall
|Late summer to early fall
|Eastern Pasque Flower
|Early spring to summer
|Western Wild Rose
|Late spring to midsummer
|Smooth Blue Aster
|Late summer to fall
|Midsummer to early fall
|Rocky Mountain Iris
|Late spring to early summer
|Midsummer to fall
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Roman Velychkovskyi/Shutterstock.com