I love tall plants, and below is a tour of some of the more interesting and robust ones that work for me. And we're talking herbaceous perennials, ones that grow 4, 6, 10 feet in a single season. Without this added height, I'd have to wait a decade for shrubs and small trees, and wouldn't benefit from a long bloom time, or even any blooms at all. These tall perennials add much needed structure, a sense of privacy, safe perches for birds, and are pollinating insect magnets.
Joe Pye Weed
There are lots of eupatoriums, and I have several species. It's fairly familiar, I think, but it's important because every species I have draws in the bugs like crazy. The Joe Pye in the foreground will get to 10', the one further back is at 7' and I figure it's maxed out. A stunner Joy Pye is E. altissimum 'Prairie Jewel,' whose Jackson-Pollock-speckled green leaves erupt with white blooms. Unfortunately, for some reason, my 5' beauties this year have all struggled out of the gate and only one is doing ok, but only at 3' tall. Too much rain I figure.
Last fall I put in a half dozen plugs of this coreopsis not expecting to see 7' tall whispy stands this summer. Whoa. I am in love with this unique coreopsis. Holds up very well to our high Nebraska winds, and it takes up so little space.
Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’
Queen of the Prairie
I can't stand the Barbie-pink blooms in May, even though they smell like roses (when roses used to have scent, remember those days?). The second image shows the much more interesting copper after-blooms that last all summer. There are short cultivars, notably Filipendula ulmaria 'Flora Plena' which blooms white, but there are also white blooming and gold-leaved cultivars out there that get to 4'.
If you plant milkweed and liatris ligulistylis together, you are guaranteed monarchs all day long. This liatris, among all others, draws them in (see?). It's a thin, tall plant that doesn't take up much space, so you can plug one in anywhere. The seed heads are also nice. Blooms now into September.
Bees love this unique foliage plant. And look at the seeds. Neato. It gets a bit wide, 4' in one direction for me in year 2, but its foliage is a nice change of pace while the blooms take their time in mid summer.
I admit the blooms of this guy are boring--you can't see them unless you have a zoom lense. However, it's candelabra winter form is appealing to me, and I use it to brace other tall perennials nearby, like ironweed and monarda.
Prairie or Common Ironweed
New York Ironweed
Ironweed gets its name from the color of its post bloom / pre seed color, not its ablity to stand straight, which it doesn't after the first windstorm. The blooms are purple and brief but glorious and always awash in bugs come early July.
This native bee balm blooms a few weeks after the more common red, and is a much more appealing color than those gaudy pinks of the newer cultivars. It loses its leaves as you go down the stalks, like most monarda seem to do, so it's best to have something 2' tall in front of it. It stands strong fairly well.
Sanguisorba menziesii ‘Dali Marble’
This bloom is from another burnet, since 'Dali Marble' blooms in mid to late fall for me, just barely sneaking in before frost. The foliage, in the first image, is tipped in cream. A robust grower and stands strong, as well.
There are many other tall plants that grow well for me, and provide unique foliage and blooms across the season. I particularly like fall flowers, so Salvia azurea 'Nekan,' a Lincoln, NE native found just minutes from my house, is a good bet with its sky blue blooms (really!) and 4-5' height. It's also a space saver. Below is a list of plants I have, all alive, all thriving:
Thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’
Brillaint mauve blooms on top of sturdy black stems
Late spring, dainty / whispy blooms
Yellow Meadow Rue
Late spring bloomer, nice blue leaves
Rough Blazing Star
I call it the shorter cousin to L. ligulistylis, blooms mid to late summer as well
Another favorite, white turtle heads on sturdy and thin stalks. Blooms August to September. Bumble bees like the challenge.
White-spiked blooms in mid to late summer, takes its time flowering while bees and wasps gorge
Agastache cana ‘Sinning’ Sonoran Sunset
Very giant for me in its spread and height
Aster puniceus ‘Eric’s Big Blue’
Love this guy! Similar to A. tataricus below but doesn't take up as much room
Blue / violet blooms from September to frost
Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’
Dwarf Tatarian Aster
Blue / violet blooms from September to frost
Cabbage Lead Coneflower
Large blue leaves, blooms in late June / early July (zone 5)