A Wild American Larkspur for Shade

I was surprised to learn that ther are over 30 species of wild North American Larkspurs. However, the only one I know of that is considered a good garden plant for the Midwest is Delphinium exaltatum, Tall Blue Larkspur.

Tall Blue Larkspur
Tall Blue Larkspur

Here is one of the Tall Blue Larkspurs I planted last fall in our back garden. I’m cheating a bit, as this picture was taken on July 26. There will be more flowering stalks as this plant matures.

As you can see, the flowers are a modest size, so this Larkspur is best planted in groups. Tall Blue Larkspur blooms later than most Larkspurs, late July into August. It likes part shade and limestone soils. Reportedly it can grow up to 6′, but mine has only reached half that height this year.

Though it can grow well in Illinois and the Upper Midwest, it is native in Ohio, Pennsylvania, the Ozarks region of Missouri, and points further east and south. Not too far south, though – it does not like very hot, humid summers.

Of course I love blue flowers, so I’m thinking of a few more spots in our garden where this handsome fellow may find a home.

Do you grow any wild Larkspurs?

38 Comments on “A Wild American Larkspur for Shade”

  1. If I’m not mistaken, that is one that is promoted/recommended by Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, on my “wish list” of gardens to visit. I grew D. tricorne in my Glen Ellyn garden, discovering that it was ephemeral. A lovely blue color indeed. You will have to keep us informed how well this one performs for you.

  2. I was so lucky. A few years ago my neighbours sprinkled some larkspur seed all over their front yard. They looked fabulous the first year and then crisped in the sun. But. Some of that seed must have drifted onto our side of the fence where they have happily grown and self-seeded in the shade. I doubt it is one of the native varieties but it is still more than welcome.

  3. I had some that were part of a wildflower seed mix. They persisted for a number of years but were eventually edged out by other things. They were quite an electric blue and shorter and denser than yours. Now that you bring them up, I miss them. Did you grow yours from seed?

  4. What a beauty! I have never seen this type available in Australia (other Delphiniums are readily available – when the weather warms I’ll plant out the little seedlings I sowed last autumn) but this one certainly looks like it is worth tracking down…especially how it likes shade

      • We have a clump of Delphinium exaltatum in a bed that is beneath some fir trees. The soil would be on the acid side in this particular spot. We also have it growing in a display bed that is quite loamy and just slightly acidic, and it is doing great there as well. It is a wonderful plant and great that it brings some color ( a nice blue hue) to the shade gardens. Enjoy the remainder of these precious summer days!

  5. I love blue flowers, too. Tall larkspur doesn’t grow wild this far north (eastern Canada) so I have never seen it in the wild. We don’t have limestone here at the farm otherwise i would be ordering seed in a nanosecond. (We have put in some blueberries and mulched them with pine needles.) Our great blue lobelia is starting to open – it is my go-to plant for late summer blue. I have some bottle gentian seedlings growing in the greenhouse. I may need to apply some dolomite where I plant them. Do you know anything about growing the eastern North American native monkshoods? I see them listed in seed catalogues and wonder…..

  6. That larkspur is very pretty. The owner of Munchkin Nurseries in Depauw, IN gave a talk here several years ago and one of his pride and joys was what he described as “wild delphinium”. I wonder if they are one and the same – probably.

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