12 Attention Grabbing Native Perennials

native bluebells, blue wildflowers, blue flowers

Native plants are beneficial to the environment, provide food and other resources to wildlife, and are typically easy to care for. If you're interested in adding native plants to your landscaping but you're worried about them looking plain or boring next to more exotic species, check out this list of 12 native perennials with unique features that will grab attention in your garden!

1. Wild Red Columbine

wild red columbine, native red wildflower

Attention Grabber: Flowers

The Wild Red Columbine is a small plant at only a foot tall, but its bright red-and-yellow flowers stand out for their unique shape and downward bloom. A good word to describe the look of this perennial is "whimsical."

2. Red Twig Dogwood Shrub

red twig dogwood, native shrub

Attention Grabber: Branches

The Red Twig Dogwood Shrub is named for its striking red branches. This flowering shrub, which can grow 6-10 feet high, blooms in the spring and has red berries in the fall. After all of the leaves have fallen, the shrub's red branches stand out in the winter garden.

3. Buttonbush Shrub

buttonbush shrubs, native white flowering shrubs

Attention Grabber: Flowers

The Buttonbush Flowering Shrub can grow upwards of 10 feet high with a spread of 8 feet, and in the summer it blooms with spherical white flower heads that look a bit like spiky cotton balls. The flowers end up producing fruits that stay on the plant through winter.

4. Carolina Allspice

carolina allspice flower

Attention Grabber: Flowers + Aroma

Growing 6-10 feet high, Carolina Allspice is a flowering shrub with flowers so fragrant and sweet-smelling that it is also known as sweet shrub or strawberry bush. The flowers themselves are interesting as well, with a dark reddish-brown color that makes them stand out from the surrounding foliage.

5. Virginia Bluebells

virginia bluebells, blue flowering wildflowers, native perennials

Attention Grabber: Flowers

Virginia Bluebells grow 1-2 feet high and bloom in early spring to early summer, with small, tubular, bell-shaped flowers that change colors as they age. The buds start off a deep blue before turning purplish and then pink. The flowers are blue when they open, and later fade to pink on the bottom. The changing pastel colors give the plants a fairy-tale-like feel!

6. Shenandoah Switch Grass

shenandoah grass, native switch grass

Attention Grabber: Foliage

Shenandoah Switch Grass is a tall prairie grass, growing up to 4 or 5 feet high with an 18-inch spread. It changes color with the seasons, the maroon foliage becoming tinted with orange in the fall and then turning beige for the winter. It blooms in the summer.

 7. Little Goblin Red Ilex

native berry plants, winterberry ilex, native holly

Attention Grabber: Berries

The Little Goblin Red Ilex is a dwarf winterberry shrub that grows 30-40 inches high. It blooms in late spring and later produces masses of bright red berries that stand out against the green foliage. (A male plant is needed to pollinate the female plants for berries.)

8. Yucca Color Guard

yucca, native yucca

Attention Grabber: Foliage + Tall Flower Spike

The Yucca Color Guard stands out both for its foliage and its tall flower spike in the summer. Its leaves are long and narrow, and variegated in color with green on the outside and bright yellow centers. They grow in a clump up to 2-3 feet high. The flower spikes grow even higher, and bloom with white flowers.

9. Agastache Blue Fortune

agastache, blue fortune, native agastache, hummingbird mint plant

Attention Grabber: Flowers

Agastache Blue Fortune, a perennial also known as hyssop or hummingbird mint, reaches 18 inches in height with long flower spikes rising above the bright green, fragrant foliage. The spikes are full of small purple-blue flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

10. Oakleaf Hydrangea

Attention Grabber: Flowers + Foliage

The Oakleaf Hydrangea is a native shrub that reaches 5-6 feet high. It has large, deep green, oak-like leaves that turn to purple, then bronze, then red in the fall. The flowers of the Oakleaf Hydrangea bloom in the summer, growing in cone-shaped clusters that stand out from the foliage. Over the season, the flowers shift from white to pink and then fade to brown for the fall.

11. Sambucus Black Lace Elderberry

Attention Grabber: Flowers + Foliage

The Sambucus Black Lace Elderberry stands out for its dark foliage and its bright pink flowers. It has narrow, purple-black foliage that is reminiscent of a Japanese maple. In the spring, it blooms with small pink flowers that both pair and contrast nicely with the foliage, giving an overall striking look. This plant reaches 6-10 feet in height.

12. Northern Sea Oats

Attention Grabber: Seed Heads

Northern Sea Oats are an ornamental grass that grows 3-4 feet high. The leaves start off bright green in the spring, and in the fall they turn to bronze, darkening to brown for winter. This grass blooms in the summer and then produces seed heads, similar in appearance to agricultural oats, which sway easily in the wind with a unique visual appeal.