Best Landscaping Plants for Iowa: Top Choices for Your Garden

Welcome to our guide to the best landscaping plants for Iowa. When it comes to designing a beautiful garden in Iowa’s unique climate, choosing the right plants is crucial. Not all plants can thrive in Iowa’s often-extreme weather conditions and heavy clay soils. But fear not! With the right knowledge and planning, you can create a lush and vibrant garden that will flourish year-round. In this article, we’ll explore the top choices for Iowa-friendly landscaping plants. From native plants to low-maintenance options, colorful blooms to shade-tolerant foliage, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover the best landscaping plants for Iowa and transform your garden today!

Understanding Iowa’s Climate and Soil Conditions

When selecting the best landscaping plants for Iowa, it’s important to consider the unique climate and soil conditions of the region. Iowa’s climate is characterized by hot summers and cold winters, with temperatures ranging from highs of 90°F to lows of -20°F. Additionally, Iowa’s soil is predominantly heavy clay, which can be problematic for some plant species.

To ensure your plants thrive, it’s essential to select varieties that can withstand these conditions. Plants that are well-suited to Iowa’s climate and soil will require less maintenance, perform better, and contribute to a thriving garden ecosystem.

Native Plants for Iowa Gardens

If you want to add a touch of authenticity to your Iowa garden, consider incorporating native plants into your landscaping. These plants are well-suited to Iowa’s climate and soil, making them easier to maintain and more resilient to local weather conditions.

Native plants also play an important role in supporting local wildlife, providing food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other insects. In addition, they are often low-maintenance and require less watering and fertilizing than non-native species.

Native Plants for Iowa Gardens Type Growth Habits
Wild Columbine Perennial Spreads by rhizomes or seed
Wild Blue Indigo Perennial Slow to establish, prefers well-drained soil
Prairie Smoke Perennial Forms clumps, attractive seed heads in fall
Butterfly Weed Perennial Blooms in summer, attracts butterflies and bees
Switchgrass Grass Tolerates drought and poor soil, provides cover for wildlife

These are just a few examples of the many native plants that can enhance your Iowa garden. Incorporating these plants into your landscaping not only adds to the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space, but also helps to preserve Iowa’s unique ecosystem.

Low-Maintenance Plants for Iowa Landscaping

Landscaping can be both beautiful and effortless with low-maintenance plants that are perfect for Iowa gardens. These plants require minimal care and can thrive in Iowa’s unique climate. Here are some of the best low-maintenance plants for your Iowa landscaping:

Plant Name Description
Daylilies These hardy plants come in a variety of colors and can thrive in full sun or partial shade. They require minimal watering and can survive harsh winter conditions.
Black-Eyed Susans These cheerful yellow flowers can withstand drought conditions and poor soil. They also attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees to your garden.
Ornamental Grasses These grasses come in a variety of sizes and colors and add visual interest to any garden. They are also drought tolerant and require minimal maintenance.
Sedum These succulent plants are perfect for Iowa’s dry conditions and require very little watering. They are also available in a variety of colors and can add texture to your garden.

By choosing low-maintenance plants for your Iowa landscaping, you can save time and effort without sacrificing beauty. These plants are hardy, versatile, and can thrive in Iowa’s unique climate.

Colorful Plants for Iowa Gardens

Adding a touch of color to your Iowa garden can brighten up any outdoor space. There are plenty of colorful plants that thrive in the region’s unique climate. Here are a few options to consider:

Plant Name Bloom Time Color Maintenance
Siberian Iris Early summer Purple, blue, white, yellow Low
Coneflower Summer Pink, purple, white, yellow, orange, red Low
Black-eyed Susan Summer Yellow, gold Low
Daylily Summer Orange, red, yellow, pink Low

These plants are not only colorful but also easy to care for. They can thrive in Iowa’s climate without requiring excessive maintenance.

Be sure to incorporate these plants into your landscape design to add a pop of color to your garden!

Shade-Tolerant Plants for Iowa Landscapes

Shaded areas in Iowa landscapes pose a unique challenge for gardeners, but with the right plants, it’s possible to create a lush and vibrant space. Shade-tolerant plants are those that can grow and thrive with minimal exposure to direct sunlight. These plants are ideal for planting under trees, along north-facing walls, or in areas of your garden that receive only a few hours of sunlight each day.

Here are some shade-tolerant plants that are well-suited for Iowa landscapes:

Plant Light Requirements Description
Hosta Partial Shade A classic shade plant appreciated for its large, broad leaves that come in different shades of green, blue, and yellow. Hostas are low maintenance, grow slowly, and produce lovely flowers in the summer months.
Ferns Partial to Full Shade There are many varieties of ferns that are well-suited for Iowa’s shaded areas. Some popular types include Maidenhair ferns, Lady ferns, and Japanese painted ferns. Ferns add texture and color to your garden and thrive in moist soil.
Coral Bells Partial Shade Also known as Heuchera, coral bells are a popular perennial that produces colorful foliage in shades of purple, pink, and green. They also have delicate flowers that bloom in the summer months, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.
Astilbe Partial Shade Astilbe is a perennial that produces feathery plumes of pink, white, or red flowers in the summer months. It’s a versatile plant that can be planted in borders, containers, or as a ground cover.

When planting shade-tolerant plants, it’s important to prepare the soil properly and provide adequate water and nutrients. Incorporating compost or other organic matter into the soil can improve drainage and nutrient availability. Mulching around plants can also help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Regular watering, especially during dry spells, can help keep your shade-tolerant plants healthy and thriving.

Drought-Tolerant Plants for Iowa Yards

Iowa is known for its unpredictable weather conditions, including occasional dry spells that can stress plants and landscaping. Drought-tolerant plants are an excellent choice for Iowa yards as they can conserve water and maintain their beauty.

Plant Water Requirements Sun Exposure
Yarrow Low water needs once established Full sun
Black-eyed Susan Low water needs once established Full sun to partial shade
Gaura Low to moderate water needs Full sun to partial shade
Lavender Low to moderate water needs once established Full sun

These plants can be used as groundcovers or as part of a larger landscaping design. When planting drought-tolerant plants, it is important to prepare the soil properly and ensure proper drainage.

“Drought-tolerant plants are an excellent way to save water and maintain a beautiful landscape.”

In addition to their water-saving benefits, drought-tolerant plants also attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies to your yard, creating a thriving ecosystem.

By incorporating drought-tolerant plants into your Iowa yard, you can conserve water and create a beautiful, sustainable outdoor space.

Winter-Hardy Plants for Iowa Gardens

When planning your Iowa garden, it’s crucial to choose plants that can withstand the harsh winter temperatures. Here are some winter-hardy options that can add visual interest to your outdoor space and survive freezing temperatures.

Plant Name Plant Description Maintenance Needs
Winter Jasmine This plant produces bright yellow flowers in the winter and early spring, providing a burst of color during the dormant months. Pruning may be required to maintain its shape, but otherwise, winter jasmine requires minimal care.
Purple Coneflower This striking plant features purple petals surrounding a spiky center, adding texture and color to winter landscapes. Purple coneflower requires little maintenance, but deadheading spent blooms can encourage new growth in the spring.
Winterberry This deciduous shrub produces vibrant red berries in the winter, providing food for birds and adding a pop of color to snowy landscapes. Winterberry requires little maintenance, but pruning can help maintain its shape and encourage new growth.

Be sure to properly prepare the soil and mulch around the base of winter-hardy plants to protect their roots from freezing temperatures. With the right care, these plants can add beauty and interest to your Iowa garden even during the coldest months of the year.

Popular Plants for Iowa Landscapes

When it comes to Iowa landscaping, there are some plants that have become incredibly popular due to their visual appeal and suitability to the state’s unique climate. Here are some of the most popular plants for Iowa landscapes:

Plant Name Growth Habits Maintenance Needs Visual Appeal
Liatris (Blazing Star) Perennial Low maintenance Tall, purple spikes of flowers
Daylilies Perennial Low maintenance Large, colorful flowers with a variety of hues to choose from
Black-eyed Susan Perennial Low maintenance Large, bright yellow flowers that attract butterflies and birds
Hydrangea Shrub Medium maintenance Beautiful, large blooms in shades of blue, pink, and white
Serviceberry Tree Low maintenance Spring flowers and colorful fall foliage

These plants are not only visually appealing but are also well-suited to Iowa’s climate and soil conditions, making them easier to maintain in the long run. Consider incorporating some of these popular plants into your Iowa landscaping for a beautiful and thriving garden.

Planting and Care Tips for Iowa Gardens

Choosing the right landscaping plants for Iowa is just the first step in creating a beautiful garden. Proper planting and care are essential to ensure your plants thrive in the local climate and soil conditions. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Soil Preparation:

Before planting, it’s important to prepare your soil properly. Iowa’s heavy clay soil can be improved by incorporating organic matter, such as compost or aged manure. This will help loosen the soil and improve drainage, which is essential for healthy plant growth.


Proper watering is crucial for the survival of your plants. In general, it’s best to water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. This encourages deeper root growth and promotes drought tolerance. Be sure to water in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation and minimize water waste.


Fertilizing can help your plants grow faster and stronger. Use a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and apply according to the instructions on the package. Overfertilizing can damage your plants, so be sure to follow the recommended dosage.


Regular pruning can help keep your plants healthy and promote better flowering. Remove dead or diseased branches, and cut back overgrown stems to promote new growth. Be sure to use sharp, clean pruning shears to avoid damaging your plants.

Planting Tips:

When planting, be sure to select a location that is appropriate for the plant’s needs. Some plants require full sun, while others prefer shade. Be sure to follow the recommended spacing and planting depth, and avoid planting too close to structures or other plants.

By following these tips, you can ensure your landscaping plants thrive in your Iowa garden. Happy planting!


Choosing the right landscaping plants for Iowa is essential to creating a beautiful and thriving garden, while also minimizing maintenance efforts. As we have seen, there are numerous native, low-maintenance, colorful, shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant, winter-hardy, and popular plants that can flourish in Iowa’s unique climate and soil conditions.

By incorporating these plants into your garden and following our planting and care tips, you can enhance the beauty of your outdoor space and support the local ecosystem. So whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a newbie, take the time to carefully select the best landscaping plants for Iowa and watch your garden bloom.


Q: What are the best landscaping plants for Iowa?

A: The best landscaping plants for Iowa are those that can thrive in the state’s unique climate and soil conditions. Native plants, low-maintenance plants, colorful plants, shade-tolerant plants, drought-tolerant plants, winter-hardy plants, and popular plants for Iowa landscapes are all excellent choices. It’s important to choose plants that are well-suited to Iowa’s cold winters, hot summers, and heavy clay soils.

Q: Why should I choose plants that are well-suited to Iowa’s climate?

A: By choosing plants that are well-suited to Iowa’s climate, you can ensure better growth and overall health for your garden. Iowa’s climate and soil conditions can be challenging for some plants, so selecting varieties that can withstand cold winters, hot summers, and heavy clay soils will increase your chances of gardening success.

Q: What are the advantages of using native plants in Iowa gardens?

A: Native plants have several advantages in Iowa gardens. They are well-adapted to the local conditions, requiring less water, fertilizer, and overall maintenance. Native plants also provide food and habitat for local wildlife, support biodiversity, and help create a sense of place in your garden.

Q: Can you recommend some low-maintenance plants for Iowa landscaping?

A: Certainly! Some low-maintenance plants that are suitable for Iowa landscaping include coneflowers, hostas, sedums, black-eyed Susans, and ornamental grasses. These plants are known for their hardiness and ability to withstand Iowa’s weather without requiring excessive care.

Q: What are some colorful plants that thrive in Iowa gardens?

A: There are many colorful plants that thrive in Iowa gardens. Some popular choices include daylilies, asters, phlox, bee balm, and daisies. These plants come in a variety of colors and bloom at different times, adding vibrant hues to your garden throughout the growing season.

Q: Which plants are suitable for shaded areas of Iowa landscapes?

A: If you have shaded areas in your Iowa landscape, you can still have beautiful plants. Some shade-tolerant plants that are suitable for Iowa gardens include ferns, hostas, coral bells, bleeding hearts, and lungwort. These plants can thrive with less sunlight and add interest to your shaded areas.

Q: Are there any drought-tolerant plants that can thrive in Iowa yards?

A: Yes! Including drought-tolerant plants in your Iowa yard is a smart choice, especially during dry periods. Some drought-tolerant plants that can maintain their beauty in Iowa’s climate include yarrow, Russian sage, lavender, sedums, and prairie dropseed grass. These plants have adapted to survive with less water.

Q: Which plants are winter-hardy and can withstand Iowa’s cold winters?

A: It’s important to select winter-hardy plants that can withstand Iowa’s cold winters. Some winter-hardy plants for Iowa gardens include evergreen shrubs, ornamental grasses, hellebores, winterberry, and witch hazel. These plants can provide visual interest and maintain their beauty even during the winter months.

Q: What are some popular plants for Iowa landscapes?

A: There are several popular plants that are well-suited to Iowa landscapes. Some commonly used plants include hostas, daylilies, hydrangeas, coneflowers, and ornamental grasses. These plants offer a variety of growth habits, maintenance needs, and visual appeal, making them popular choices among Iowa gardeners.

Q: What are some essential planting and care tips for Iowa gardens?

A: To successfully grow and maintain the recommended landscaping plants in your Iowa garden, it’s important to follow these planting and care tips. Prepare your soil properly by incorporating organic matter. Water your plants deeply and less frequently, allowing the soil to dry out in between. Fertilize as needed, following the specific requirements of each plant. Regularly prune and deadhead to promote healthy growth and remove any diseased or damaged parts.