Plants of the week: Tall, Aggressive Plants for Big Spaces (Smallanthus uvedalia, Verbesina alternifolia, and Verbesina occidentalis)

Plants in 3 quart pots for $5 each

5 plants for $20 (Any combination of species)


Verbesina occidentalis

The three species on sale this week share a lot of common characteristics: heights over 6 feet (S. uvedalia can actually grow up to 8 feet tall); production of abundant yellow flowers in late Summer; reputation for being aggressive; and lack of availability from most nurseries because of the latter reputation.  (At my first Lewis Ginter Plant Sale a few years ago, a proprietor of a native plant nursery came up and said to me: “I never saw anyone try to sell that plant [Verbesina alternifolia] before.”)

So if you like a neat, static landscape, you can stop reading this week.  But if you have a large area you would like to “naturalize” with native plants or would like to add some diversity to a meadow habitat, these species are definitely for you as well as for wildlife.  Butterflies and bees love the flowers, birds and other wildlife eat the seeds, and solitary bees can find cozy winter homes in the stems.  Although it is true that these species can spread rapidly by both seeds and by rhizomes, they are perfectly well-behaved in a meadow environment with competition from grasses, goldenrods, bonesets, New York ironweed, etc.

In addition to attractive flowers, these species offer some unique landscape features.  Smallanthus uvedalia (Hairy leafcup) has huge maple-like leaves that give rise to the other common name of Bears-foot.  The stems of Verbesina alternifolia (Wingstem) and Verbesina occidentalis (Yellow Crownbeard) have four vertical “wings” along the entire length of the stems.

These species thrive in partial sun (e.g. habitat along the edge of woods) with soils that are moist to average in moisture.  In nature, they can also be found under powerlines and other sunnier, dry sites where the large leaves may get droopy on hot summer afternoons.  But these are tough, resilient plants that bounce back quickly from unfavorable conditions.

For more pictures and information, consult the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora ( or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (

Due to the pandemic, sales are by pre-order only with contact-free pick-up/payment.  To order, send an email to:

The complete plant list can be viewed here:…/RCE%20Plant%20List%202020.docx…

Stay safe.



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