Minnesota is famous for a few things: the more than 10,000 lakes, winter (of course), and the beautiful natural landscape. The abundance of water and the climate have produced lovely native plants that will thrive in a flower bed as well as they do on the prairie. These are the flowers that have grown here before the first European settlers arrived. Here are some popular native wildflowers, shrubs and trees in Minneapolis.


    Prairie Onion

    This wild onion produces pretty pink blossoms in clusters about 2 inches across. The pinks range in vividness from a pale pearly hue to deeper shades. The prairie onion grows naturally in most of Minnesota, preferring drier soils, and tolerating cold winters well. The plants can get up to about a foot and a half high and will produce flowers through July and August — prime Minnesota growing season.

    Rough Blazing Star

    Rough blazing star in the Smith-Reiner Drumlin Prairie Wisconsin State Natural Area #654, Dane County. Credit: Joshua Mayer

    This Minnesota native produces spikes of purple clusters. Each of these frilly clusters consists of 25 to 40 flowers that bloom throughout the summer and into September. The rough blazing star can grow up to four feet high and prefers partial shade and drier soils — perfect for a Twin Cities garden. 



    The native winterberry shrub has something to show throughout much of the year, even through a harsh Midwest winter. In late spring and early summer, the winterberry produces delicate white flowers, both male and female. Those flowers develop into bright red berries that decorate the snowscape through the winter. Bees love the flowers; birds and small animals eat the berries. The winterberry shrub grows anywhere between five to twenty feet high.

    Wild Honeysuckle

    Several honeysuckle species in Minnesota are invasive and should be eradicated. The wild honeysuckle, however, is a native plant with deep red or yellow flowers that bloom in May and June. The blooms sprout mid-leaf, giving it a distinct look. It’s one of three native vining honeysuckle plants and thrives in partial shade. It loves the woodlands and often grows along trails. After pollination, the flowers develop into clusters of orange-red berries.


    Northern Red Oak

    If you’re looking for magnificent fall color, the Northern red oak is your tree. This Minneapolis native grows up to 80 feet tall and produces big acorns that feed small mammals and birds through the fall and winter. The Northern red oak belongs in the woods and does well in part shade and part sun.

    Paper Birch

    When people think of birch trees and their distinctive papery white bark, they’re thinking of the paper birch in particular. In the fall, the birch leaves turn a brilliant yellow, adding to the autumn landscape. This tree can grow up to 90 feet tall, but keep in mind that it does best in a more wooded area, not an urban setting. But if you have a good-sized property with plenty of other big trees, the paper birch may fit right in.

    Bitternut Hickory

    You’ll find the bitternut hickory throughout southeast Minnesota. This is a tree that does well in residential landscapes and can grow more than 100 feet tall. It’s a great shade tree and can increase the value of your property. The bitternut hickory produces small flowers in late spring. It then develops small bitter nuts inside of a hard shell. This is another tree that puts on a show in the fall when its leaves turn golden yellow.

    Minneapolis and St. Paul are home to a rich and enduring natural landscape. Despite the frigid winters, native plants not only survive, they thrive here with little to no maintenance. You will find the seeds or young plants for sale at most local nurseries that specialize in native and/or naturalized plants.

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