Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum): A Seasonal Look

The first mistflower plant I ever grew was the Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum.

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Like Gregg’s Mistflower which I profiled in the most recent A Seasonal Look, this stunning native ground cover is a good autumn perennial to showcase for Texas Native Plant Week. I always think of this mistflower as the blue-headed step-child, especially in comparison to the more commonly grown Gregg’s Mistflower.  Blue Mistflower is not as well-known or popular–not one of the cool kid plants, or at least that’s true here in the Austin area.  I’m amazed at how few gardeners know about this lovely Texas ground cover.

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Just as tough and hardy as its more admired cousin, it’s also a real looker. Pollinator gardening notwithstanding, the Blue Mistflower is my personal favorite.  The deep purple-blue flowers,

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…in all their puffy pulchritude,

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…make me swoon!

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I don’t think  photos capture the depth of its color.  You’ll just have to plant this beauty and see for yourself.

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Interestingly, Blue Mistflower has a much wider range of distribution than the Gregg’s Mistflower.  I follow several Northern garden bloggers who’ve planted this pretty, though I think it’s probably an annual or tender perennial  in some of those places that experience true winter.  Its native range is Texas to Florida, but also northward into Illinois and New Jersey (plenty of winter there!) and is grown in other parts of the U.S. as well.

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I purchased a four-inch pot of Blue Mistflower for about $1.50 (I don’t remember exactly how much I spent, but it was very little) some 20 years ago.  Over time, it filled in a back corner of my garden and put on a reliably gorgeous late summer/fall flower show every year.  Eventually, that spot became…something.  I never quite figured out the problem, but one spring, only about 10 sprigs returned.  So I popped them out of that spot and into a another which receives a tiny bit full sun, but primarily dappled light, throughout the year.

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The Blue Mistflower patch has thrived. With an almost identical growth and seasonal pattern as the Gregg’s, the zenith of its blooming occurs during September, October and into November.  It is at its peak now.

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As the autumn days shorten and cool, the blooms fade from deep blue-purple,

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…to soft beige.

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After the first hard freeze, the seed heads are wheat-colored and fragile.  Like the Gregg’s, I’ve never experienced the Blue Mistflower seeding out, but if you’re so inclined, it’s at this point of the year that the seeds can be sowed.

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I tend to leave the winter dormant plant alone until I can’t stand it anymore, then cut it back to not-much-of-anything, except for a light covering of Shumard Oak leaves.

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You’ll notice the soaker hose which runs  through the middle part of the Blue Mistflower plant.  That one hose is generally enough for summer watering, although by hot August and especially if there’s been no precipitation, I sometimes hand water the Blue Mistflower because one hose doesn’t deliver enough moisture to cover all the roots of the entire group.  I don’t want the Blue Mistflower to sulk, bloom less, and then cause me to miss out on its gorgeous blooms. I’m not the least bit selfish as a gardener, am I?

With the warmth of spring, the plant returns rapidly.   If you look closely at the bottom of the photo, you can see the newly emerged spring growth in March.

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Once spring has sprung, the form of the ground cover is firmly established.

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While not much of a re-seeder in my garden, Blue Mistflower spreads by the roots.  I keep it in bounds by weeding up the edges and passing along sprigs to other gardeners.  As with the Gregg’s, I plant smaller evergreens like Iris and Purple Coneflower at the perimeter edges and I also have some container plants placed to visually enforce a stopping point and to give some winter interest. If this Blue Mistflower were planted in full sun, I would have more options for evergreen and structural plants, but this gardener plays the plant cards she’s dealt.

In summer, the foliage is thick and lush.

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More than the Gregg’s, which has a comparably controlled growth habit, the Blue Mistflower is a straggler, stems growing wonky and wild over the course of its growing season and that’s especially noticeable once its purple, puffy, floral hats appear.

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If you’re a neat-freak gardener you might not like this plant, but I find it casually charming.

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Adding to its rangy behavior, Blue Mistflower also puts out stems taller than any of  the Gregg’s–upwards of two feet or so.

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The leaves of the Blue are triangular-shaped and a darker green shade contrasting with the palmate form and light green foliage of the Gregg’s,

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Over the course of summer the foliage continues to grow  and the perennial maintains itself as an unexciting, but generally handsome green ground cover, tolerant of heat and summer dry, and sporting the occasional bloom here or there.

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In August and in tandem with the Gregg’s Mistflower–the fun begins with fuzzy-wuzzy blooming!!

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While Tina the Gardener finds the flowers more alluring than those of the Gregg’s Mistflower, the same cannot be said about most pollinators.  The Blue is a good pollinator plant, but not an excellent one, like the Gregg’s.

Monarchs like it just fine.

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Honeybees tend to agree.

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This Southern Oak Hairstreak, Satyrium favonius favonius, isn’t complaining about Blue Mistflower, either.

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But I’ve never witnessed quite the variety of  pollinator activity on the Blue Mistflower as on the Gregg’s.  If you only have room for one,  I’d suggest the Gregg’s, because the pollinators need all the  help we can give them and the Gregg’s Mistflower is a Boss Pollinator Plant.

There is a fast flying and hardly landing tiny moth or skipper that I see each fall, flitting around the base of the plant, but it’s been a tough one to capture.  I finally snagged a decent photo of one who perched (briefly!) for the camera.

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I’ve also seen this one on the Gregg’s too, but it seems to prefer the Blue.  I’m glad the Blue Mistflower has a committed pollinating pal.

Even though it’s not quite the power-house pollinator plant that some others are, Blue Mistflower still warms my heart and will always be welcome in my Texas garden!

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As a whole and as an addition to a native plants/wildlife garden, Blue Mistflower is a terrific choice for anyone gardening in its range, who seeks a water-wise, attractive, hardy native ground cover that thrives–in both bloom and foliage–in sun or part-shade.

In Spring.

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Summer.

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Fall.

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Winter.

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Foliage Follow-Up, November 2014: The Non-Freeze

My gardens are slowing down in preparation for winter, but haven’t experience the frosty nip that was promised earlier in the week. Thank goodness!  I’m not quite ready to give in to the dark season.  Not Just Yet.

Focusing on mid-November foliage, I’m joining with Pam at Digging for Foliage Follow-Up.

In one corner of my garden with dappled light most of the day and some direct sun off and on, are a couple of favorite foliage vignettes.  One such is of Iris straps, Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum,  and cobalt-blue containerized succulent Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense.

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Planted alongside that mix are several  Dianella or Variegated Flax Lily, Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’. IMGP1865.new

I love the wide, grass-like foliage of Dianella with its snazzy white stripes down the sides.IMGP2017.new

When a freeze was predicted this week, I covered the Dianella, though my concerns were unwarranted.  Last winter, I covered all of my Dianella each time the temperature sank into the ’20s, especially for extended periods. They soldiered through winter like the garden champs they are and thrived in our long, hot summer. Dianella nicely combine with Iris and Soft-leaf Yucca straps,IMGP1864.new

…as well as with these snuggly Love-Critters.

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Ghost Plant is unkillable:  it goes for months without water, isn’t fazed by freezes (or at least mine haven’t been), can re-grow if a stem is broken.

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My kinda plant.

Maiden GrassMiscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’ is in its glory now.IMGP1868.new

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The beautiful seed heads reflect the sun as it briefly peeked through our mostly cloudy week.

Toasty-seeded Inland Sea OatsChasmanthium latifolium and the green swath of Cast Iron Plant,  Aspidistra elatior are a striking pair.

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Added to this scene is Purple HeartSetcreasea pallida, which dramatizes that story a bit.

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Big MuhlyMuhlenbergia lindheimeri and Soft-leaf YuccaYucca recurvifolia  are cool weather troopers.IMGP2399.new

Graceful while also lending structure to the garden, these two are beautiful companions throughout the year, hot or cold.

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I took this photo of  evergreen Yarrow, Achillea millefolium and Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum,  just before what was supposed to be a freezing night.  I figured the fruits wouldn’t survive the plunging temperatures and wanted to record them for posterity.IMGP2529.new

I’m happy to report that the fruits are still available for dining by interested birds.

I love the twisty-curvy foliage of Corkscrew RushJuncus effusus spiralis, silhouetted over a pair of Mexican FeathergrassNassella tenuissima.

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Finally, the leaf change is beginning on my Red Oak, Quercus coccinea.

IMGP2641.new Here in Central Texas, our tree foliage color change occurs later than that of our northern kin, but beautiful and appropriate for our climate and region. There will be more of this in the weeks to come.

Digging hosts Foliage Follow-Up–drop in for a look at November foliage fanfare.

Bloom Day, November 2014–Dodged the Frozen Bullet

After a chilly week and our first real touch of winter, there are still blooms in my gardens. Lucky gardener!  Lucky pollinators!  I live in central Austin and those supposedly in the know predicted our temperature would fall to the high 20’s by early Friday morning.  Well there was no freeze for me and mine.  Outlying areas received their first freeze, but much of  Austin was spared–this time. To celebrate those lucky blooms, I’m joining with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for November Garden Blogger blooms.

The Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus, bloomed its signature fuchsia necklace  rather late this year.

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Now with colder temperatures and shorter days, the blossoms are fading on the vine.IMGP2341.new

I think my honeybees will miss this favorite nectar source.

The native Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis,  still blooms, IMGP1507.new

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…though it’s going to seed. One patch blossoms in tandem with the blue Henry Duelberg SageSalvia farinacea,’Henry Duelberg’.

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A freeze would have quickly ended that pretty pairing.

Rock RosePavonia lasiopetala, sports flowers this November and that’s unusual–they normally stop production by late October.IMGP2383.new

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Heavy with seed, I’ll expect more of these lovelies in seedling form next year.  Any takers?

And GoldeneyeViguiera dentata?  It just won’t quit.  This most photogenic of flowers, has bloomed since September.

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This is one of my two last blooming Goldeneye plants.

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The Goldeneye plants in the back garden bloomed first, then set seed and were followed by others throughout my gardens, each individual plant taking turn at adding cheeriness and wildlife goodness to the world.  I’m glad these hardy natives have planted themselves all over my gardens.  Bees, butterflies, birds, as well as this gardener, enjoy and appreciate a long season with these pretties.

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The last FrostweedVerbesina virginica, is in flowering mode.

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While most of that species are setting seed.

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A few Turk’s CapMalvaviscus arboreus, still bloom.

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Yellow BellsTecoma stans, ‘Esperanza’, are available for passing bees and butterflies.

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Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum,

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and Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii, 

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…are toward the end of their season.  A true freeze will force the blue blooms into a tawny fluff, ready for dormancy.

Red YuccaHesperaloe parviflora, blossoms on its long bloom spike until a hard freeze.

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This hasn’t been a banner year for my salvia species.  They’ve bloomed, but not regularly nor as fully as usual.  But they aren’t quite ready to close up shop, so bloom they will until it’s just too chilly and dark.  Salvia like this red Tropical SageSalvia coccinea,

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…and this Purple Sage, S. greggii x mycrophylla,

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…and this red Autumn SageS. greggii, 

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…and another,

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…and this coral Autumn Sage.

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They’re determined, if not prolific.

The remains of Fall AsterSymphyotrichum oblongifolium, are tired of blooming and ready for seeding themselves.

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When I thought there would be freezing temperatures, I cut the last of the fall blooms of Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea and Tropical Sage and did this:

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As well, I cut a few Goldeneye and basil and did this:

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I’m not much for cut flowers in the house (I much prefer a garden full of blooms), but they are nice when it’s gloomy outside. I guess November in my garden and my house is not so barren after all!

Pop on over to May Dreams Garden and enjoy a show of November blooms from all over