Late summer and early autumn is go time for pollinators: give them a big boost with 'Southern Cross' vernonia (ver-NO-nee-uh). Also known as ironweed, this native perennial looks a bit like a New England aster at first glance, but each flower is an exuberant little puff of pink. The foliage is narrow, with a slightly spiky, willow-like look, and is more disease resistant than most asters, too. Butterflies love this plant, and thanks to its August-September bloom time, sustains them in that crucial period before they wind down for the season.
'Southern Cross' differs from other vernonia in that it is much shorter and more compact, with an elegant, garden-friendly habit that works well in flower, perennial, and pollinator gardens. It was developed by perennial breeder extraordinaire, Brett Horvath of Intrinsic Perennials in Illinois.
Plant size: 4-4.5'/1.2-1.3m tall and wide
Light: full sun (6+ hrs/day)
Hardiness: USDA zone 4-9 (Find your hardiness zone)
Pollinator value: attracts butterflies, especially swallowtails, monarchs, and painted ladies, as well as other pollinating insects
Notable features: native, compact, deer resistant, long-blooming, drought tolerant
Pot size: one quart
Plant name: Vernonia x 'Southern Cross'