The summer welcomes numerous sun loving wildflowers that grace a diversity of wildlife habitats natural and manmade. As July comes to a close and August arrives, wildflowers in delicious colors serve delicacies of nectar and pollen to pollinating visitors like bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and solitary wasps. My top three include summer phlox, rose mallow, and Joe pye weed. These native plants have one special thing in common. Of course, you guessed it, flowers in shades of pink.

1. Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

Wild summer phlox in full flower (Photo credit: Lydia Martin).

Summer phlox reminds me of watermelon sorbet‒a refreshing and delicious treat on a warm summer day. Fragrant, soft pink to magenta pink flowers shower their colorful blossoms from June through August and sporadically into early fall. While summer phlox comes in a variety of colors, the pink to magenta colors of wild occurring species is breathtaking spotted throughout local woodland edges, meadows, and mostly sunny areas. Wild summer phlox rivals cultivated forms in local garden centers as showy additions to perennial borders and all kinds of gardens. This tall native beauty grows to 4 feet preferring moist to well-drained soils. Flowers with tube corollas attract hummingbirds and numerous butterflies, moths, and large bees with a long proboscis to delve deeply for the rich nectar. A fascinating visitor is the hummingbird clearwing, a daytime moth that delights on the nectar of summer phlox. Often mistaken for a hummingbird this moths name comes from its clear wings and amazing rapid wings beating up to 70 beats per second. Summer phlox is a lively addition to any pollinator friendly garden, garden border, and wildlife garden.

2. Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos

A lovely pink rose mallow in full flower (Photo credit: Lydia Martin).

One of my childhood favorites, rose mallow begins blooming in July, lasting for a month or more into early September. Huge saucer shaped flowers vary in color from the common white with a crimson eye to shades of pink. Like frequent beach goers, this wildflower is sun loving and thrives around water preferring moist to wet soils. Rose mallow adds grace to the landscape growing 4-7 feet tall without needing staking, a lovely perennial for rain gardens, cottage gardens, wetlands, and water wise gardens. A beneficial host plant for caterpillars of painted lady butterflies, skippers, and moths. Best of all these exotic blooms attract a diverse array of pollinators from our beloved ruby throated hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies, to long tongued native bees providing wildlife action in the midst of summer. Easy to grow from seed and self-seeds freely.

3. Joe Pye Weeds (Eutrochium spp.)

A male tiger swallowtail and silver spotted skipper on Joe pye weed (Photo credit: Lydia Martin).

Joe Pye weeds are stately plants rising to 6 feet or more with firm stems that need little staking. Dusty pink to rose colored domed flowers start blooming in July through early September depending on the species. The delicious fragrance of Joe Pye weeds permeates the air during warm summer days. While Eutrochium fistulosum exceeds 10 feet or more and strives for attention in the backdrop adapting to average to dry conditions, Eutrochium maculatum adorns moist to wet soils and thrives in the sun. Dwarf cultivars like ‘Little Joe’ and ‘Baby Joe’ are exceptional for smaller spaces. Regardless of which Joe pye receives an invitation to be part of your garden party be prepared for lots of visitors. Monarchs, swallowtails, skippers, a host of bees, and other pollinators show up in droves for drinks of irresistible nectar on long flowering blossoms. Afterwards the fall seeds feed a variety of birds and spread easily. Joe pye definitely joins the A list for the life of the summer party in any conservation landscape, rain garden, or pollinator friendly garden.

The Power of Pink!

The power of pink-flowering native plants entices hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and diverse wildlife galore! Compassion, love, nurturing, and caring — words that embody this color to humans, in native plants they also sustain wildlife naturally. These three long flowering, perennial plants combine well together to add excitement to our landscapes. Native plants are the mainstay of our green spaces ensuring wildlife like the birds, bees, and diverse pollinators we love survive and thrive in our local environment.