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18 Types of Wildflowers in Kentucky (Pictures)

Kentucky has many different types of wildflowers that make the scenery colorful and fragrant. From the delicate blooms of water lilies and bluebells to the brilliant displays of purple coneflower and primrose, these native wildflowers in Kentucky thrive in meadows, forests, and prairies, attracting appreciation from both nature enthusiasts and pollinators.

Let’s dive in further and familiarize ourselves with some of the state’s wildflowers.

18 Wildflowers in Kentucky

The Goldenrod, designated as Kentucky’s state flower in 1926, adorns the state’s landscapes with its bright golden hues every late summer and fall. Often mistaken as the culprit behind hay fever, it’s typically the simultaneously blooming ragweed that is to blame.

Beyond the Goldenrod, Kentucky hosts a rich variety of wildflowers. The spring bloom includes the Virginia Bluebell and the Redbud. The summer showcases the Purple Coneflower and Black-eyed Susan, while fall welcomes the Smooth Aster and Joe-Pye Weed. From mountainous regions to plains, these wildflowers enhance Kentucky’s natural beauty and biodiversity.

1. Purple Coneflower

Purple coneflowers
Purple coneflowers | image by Jakub T. Jankiewicz via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Bluegrass Region, Allegheny Plateau, Interior Plateau
  • Bloom in:  June/July 

The purple coneflower is a perennial herb native to the central and southeastern United States. In the state, you can see this plant growing up to 2 to 4 feet tall and producing pinkish-purple flowers from June to July.

It likes soil that’s neutral with a pH of about 6.5 to 7, but it can grow in different types of soil too. Since they draw pollinators like butterflies, you can usually find them in borders, groupings, native gardens, meadows, and naturalized environments. 

2. Little Evening Primrose

Little evening primrose
Little evening primrose | image by David J. Stang via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Oenothera perennis 
  • Zone: 4-9
  • Where to see: Cumberland Mountains and Western Highland Rim
  • Bloom in: June to September

Little Evening Primrose is a beautiful flower that opens its delicate yellow flowers only in the evening. The plant has thin stems with many flowers that come in shades of light yellow to vibrant gold, making it a beautiful sight. This hardy perennial requires loamy soil and grows best in full sun, attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinators

3. Common milkweed

Common milkweed
Common milkweed | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Asclepias syriaca
  • Zone:  
  • Where to see: Interior River Valleys and Hills to Mississippi Valley Loess Plains
  • Bloom in: July/August

In Kentucky, common milkweed is among the most common wildflowers to see. It’s named because of the milky sap it contains, and it’s also an important feeding source for Monarch caterpillars.

Milkweed is a great option for gardens attracting many different types of pollinators because it has pink to white flowers blooming in clusters from July to August. 

4. White turtlehead

White turtlehead
White turtlehead | image by Charles de Mille-Isles via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Chelone glabra
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Throughout the state
  • Bloom in: September

The White Turtlehead is a flower that has white snapdragon-like flowers arranged in clusters. These flowers have a hint of pink, and you may also notice that they look like a turtle’s head.

With a preference for moist to wet soil and partial shade, it thrives in bog gardens and along pond edges. It provides food for Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly larvae and draws bees, butterflies, and other pollinators with its blooms. Additionally, it’s resistant to deer. 

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5. Blue False Indigo

Blue false indigo
Blue false indigo | image by peganum via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Baptisia australis
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Cumberland Plateau and Interior Plateau
  • Bloom in: June

The Blue Wild Indigo is a plant that thrives on riverbanks, gravel outcrops, and open meadows. It has three bluish-green leaflets on each of its clover-like leaves, and in the spring, it sends up thick racemes of purple pea-like flowers.

You might want to consider this wildflower if you’re looking for a low-maintenance native addition to your garden that prefers full sun to partial shade and somewhat moist to dry soil.

6. Meadow Phlox

meadow phlox
Meadow phlox | image by John Brighenti via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Phlox maculata 
  • Zone: 3-8
  • Where to see: East to South Kentucky
  • Bloom in:  July/August

Among the wildflowers you’ll see in Kentucky is the meadow phlox, which has a fragrant flower that’s tubular in shape and can be pink, maroon, or white. They’re located in the Eastern to Southern regions of the state, where they flourish in full sun to light shade and appreciate moist, loamy soils. It’s resistant to powdery mildew, and its blossoms also draw hummingbirds. 

7. Common Sunflower

Common sunflowers
Common sunflower | image by San Bernardino Nat’l Forest via Flickr
  • Scientific Name: Helianthus annuus
  • Zone: 2-11
  • Where to see: North, West, and South Kentucky
  • Bloom in: July-Sept

One of the most familiar wildflowers you’ll see growing among the disturbed areas, roadsides, and low moist ground of the state is the common sunflower. It has huge flower heads with yellow ray florets and reddish to purplish disk florets that are supported by long stalks with spreading hairs.

You can use almost every part of this flower, including the seeds for food and oil extraction, the flowers for dyes, and the stalks for making life preservers. 

8. Spiderwort

Spiderwort flower
Spiderwort flower | image by Fritz Flohr Reynolds via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Tradescantia virginiana  
  • Zone: 4-9
  • Where to see: Statewide
  • Bloom in: June

You can admire the spiderwort plant’s beauty with its white, blue, or purple blossoms if you’re in Kentucky from spring to summer. It grows well in meadows, open woods, and limestone outcrops, and it adapts well to various soil types and light conditions, making it appropriate for both sunny and shaded locations.

You can also plant this wildflower in your garden as it also attracts bees and serves as a nectar source for butterflies. 

9. Virginia Bluebells

Virginia bluebell flowers
Virginia bluebell flowers | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Mertensia virginica 
  • Zone: 3-8
  • Where to see: Statewide
  • Bloom in:  April

Virginia bluebells are a native perennial wildflower that brings a touch of elegance to the state. As a gardener, you can appreciate their beauty when they bloom in warm spring weather, showcasing delicate, pendulous, blue bell-shaped flowers.

They can also grow up to 2 feet tall and have charming oval, bluish-green leaves. Naturally, they flourish in the damp, nutrient-rich soils of the thickets and woodlands that line the floodplains. 

10. Dwarf Crested Iris

Dwarf crested iris
Dwarf crested iris | image by peganum via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Iris cristata
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Statewide
  • Bloom in: April 

The Dwarf crested iris, a native species in the iris family, is a wildflower that forms a charming groundcover in its peaty woodland habitat. This plant is great for rock gardens and woodland areas because its colorful blooms appear in early spring, and it can grow in partially shaded areas.

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The leaves of the dwarf crested iris are still helpful in covering the ground in shaded forests even after the flowers have bloomed. 

11. Foamflower 

Foamflower 
Foamflower | image by bobistraveling via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Tiarella cordifolia 
  • Zone: 4-9
  • Where to see: South to Eastern part of the state
  • Bloom in: April-May

The Foamflower, with its heart-shaped leaves and delicate star-shaped flowers, adds beauty to the shady areas of the state. You’ll see them blooming in spring, with the flower stalks rising above the foliage, showcasing white to pale pink flowers with frothy-looking stamens.

To thrive, this plant requires shade and moist, well-drained, acidic soil. It serves as an excellent ground cover for shady woodlands, rock gardens, perennial borders, and stream banks.

12. Cardinal Flower 

Cardinal flower
Cardinal flower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Statewide 
  • Bloom in: July-Sept

The brilliant red Cardinal Flower thrives in moist areas with some sunlight and has tubular-shaped flowers as its blossoms. You can see its beautiful appearance near streams, wetlands, and damp bushes. However, be cautious, as the leaves, stems, and fruits of the Cardinal Flower can be poisonous to livestock. 

13. Fragrant Water-lily

Fragrant water lily
Fragrant water lily | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Nymphaea odorata
  • Zone: 4-11
  • Where to see: Bluegrass Region, Allegheny Plateau, Mississippi Valley Loess Plains
  • Bloom in: July to September 

The Fragrant Water Lily is a beautiful flower in the state that’ll capture anyone’s attention. If you love gardening or nature, you’ll enjoy this plant’s heart-shaped, shiny green leaves and showy, white, and aromatic flowers.

This water lily spread across the continent because of its economic appeal and ability to survive in still, shallow water bodies with silty, mucky beds. This spread can have positive as well as negative consequences on aquatic ecosystems.

14. St. Johnswort

St. johnswort
St. johnswort | image by hedera.baltica via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Hypericum perforatum
  • Zone: 5-9
  • Where to see: Statewide
  • Bloom in: June to August 

St. Johnswort is a wildflower with pretty flowers used for herbal purposes. You’ll appreciate their simple opposite or whorled leaves and characteristic yellow, five-petalled flowers with united stamens.

It’s also used in herbal medicine for depression treatment. However, it’s important to note that it’s toxic to grazing animals and can spread aggressively in certain regions. 

15. Bee Balm

Scarlet bee balm
Scarlet bee balm | image by Thomas Quine via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Monarda didyma 
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Parts of North, East and South Kentucky 
  • Bloom in: June 

One of the native wildflowers you’ll notice blooming in Kentucky is bee balm, which has scarlet blooms and foliage that has a lovely scent. With the center bursting forth and the back petals expanding outward, the slender, tubular flowers resemble fireworks or pompoms.

Bee balm is adaptable and may thrive in a variety of soil types, including wetlands and other bog-like environments. 

16. Smooth Beard-tongue

Smooth beard tongue
Smooth beard tongue | image by John Newton via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Penstemon digitalis
  • Zone: 3-9
  • Where to see: Throughout the state except for Cumberland mountains
  • Bloom in: May 

Native Smooth Beardtongue is a perennial that grows 2 to 4 feet tall. It bears spectacular panicles of white, tubular flowers from mid-spring to early summer.

You’ll often find it in prairies, fields, woodland edges, and roadsides, thriving in full sun and dry to moist soils. Propagation can be done through seeds, cuttings, or division, giving you options for expanding its presence in your garden.

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17. Goat’s Beard

Goat’s beard
Goat’s beard | image by Megan Hansen via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Aruncus dioicus 
  • Zone: 3-8
  • Where to see: Statewide but mostly in Eastern region of the state
  • Bloom in: June 

Goat’s Beard is an interesting flower to see in Kentucky. It features beautiful, plume-like spikes of white blooms resembling a goat’s beard. You might find it in moist areas and along streams, and it’s also a dioecious plant, which means that it‘s either all female or all male flowers. 

18. Black Cohosh

Black cohosh
Black cohosh | image by DM via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Cimicifuga racemosa 
  • Zone: 3-8
  • Where to see: Statewide
  • Bloom in: July 

Black Cohosh is a remarkable deciduous plant that’s captivating, with its small, creamy white flowers that smell pleasant that make any place look more elegant. It’s a perennial herb that grows in eastern North America and has been used for traditional medicine for a long time.