‘Orange’ you glad for this bold color in the garden?
Orange is one of the hottest and rarest colors in the garden. While various annuals, perennials and bulbs have been hybridized to bear various ranges of orange blooms, true orange appears in just a few:
Butterfly weed – Asclepias tuberosa is a standout in the prairie. This native is in the milkweed family and has clear sap. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators love this plant.
It typically grows in a clump one to three feet tall with clusters of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers in early to mid-summer. Flowers give way to prominent, spindle-shaped seed pods that are three or more inches long. When ripe, they split open, releasing numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. If you leave the seed pods, don’t be surprised to see butterfly weed establish in various parts of your perennial garden. Some use the seed pods in dried flower arrangements.
Hairy stems have narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Butterfly weed prefers well-drained soil and does fine on sandy or poor, dry soils.
Butterfly weed, like many prairie plants, may be slow to emerge in spring and slow to establish.
The plants have taproots that resent disturbance. If you attempted to move butterfly weed, dig deeply.
Tiger lily – Lilium lancifolium bear fiery orange flowers with dark purple to black spots in late summer to fall. Flowers can be five- to nine-inches wide, and plants grow five to six feet. They prefer evenly moist acid to slightly alkaline soil.
The tiger lily was first described by famous Swedish botanist Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) in 1753. With recurved petals, it’s an old-fashioned favorite.
It grows as a wildflower and can be found in ditches in many parts of America, propagated by tuberous roots. The oriental variety propagates through bulbs that form at leaf axils.
Most parts of the tiger lily are edible – but has a toxic effect on cats. The tiger lily has significant medicinal use. A tincture made from the plant and has been beneficial for uterine pain, congestion, irritation, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Flower essence helps suppress aggressive tendencies.
Because tiger lily can carry viral diseases, it’s best to grow this species away from other true lilies. It’s also best to tuck them in around other plants because they will go dormant after blooming.
Another true orange is common daylily, or ditch lily as many people refer to them. Common yes. Too aggressive for most residential properties, true. But pretty nonetheless.
Blackberry lily – Belamcanda chinensis is a member of the iris family and looks much like a daylily before it flowers. Small, six-petal flowers are orange to yellow, with darker speckles on the petals. Individual blooms generally last only a day, but plants produce a succession of striking flowers over several weeks in summer.
Flowers are followed by pear-shaped seed capsules that fade to tan. They eventually open to reveal the round, shiny black seeds arranged in clusters resembling large blackberries, hence the common name. The seed clusters are useful in dried arrangements. They are easy to grow.
Oriental poppy – Paper-thin orange poppies are striking in early summer, even if blooms last only a few days. They pair well with bearded purple iris.
These orange perennials mix nicely with blue, purple, even pink-flowering plants. They’ll stand out and make great container plantings. For a bolder look, combine orange with red and gold flowering plants. I’ve paired tiger lilies with red hibiscus, red daylilies and gold yarrow.
Many other perennials and annuals are available in a range of orange hues, from peach and apricot, to copper and ochre. If you want to add orange to your landscape, consider other options:
Asiatic lilies grow two to five feet and bloom in a variety of colors, including orange. Asiatic lilies are the earliest of the true lilies to bloom, in June. These perennials are easy to grow in sunny, well-drained areas.
Echinacea – Recent introductions of coneflowers include several in orange hues: “Tangerine Dream,” “Tiki Torch,” “Solar Flare” and “Hot Papaya,” to name a few.
Bulbs – Fritillaria is an unusual spring bloomer, filling the gap between tulips and early summer flowering. Most can overwinter.
Cannas are available in a host of foliage and flower colors, including orange. So are dahlias. These tender bulbs need to be dug before a hard freeze. They look good all summer.
Gladiolus corms produce flowers in a myriad of colors.
Annuals – Agastache “Apricot Sprite,” “Apache Sunset” and “Firebird” offer small trumpet-like orange flowers hummingbirds love. Scented foliage keeps critters at bay.
You’ll find orange lantana, alstroemeria, flowering maple, crocosmia, kniphofia, petunias, impatiens and moss roses, among other orange flowers that we can grow as annuals in central Wisconsin.