MONTANA Botanical Park

"Perserve, Protect, Enhance and Assist"


(information courtesy of


(Symphyotrichum novi-belgii'Professor Anton Kippenberg')

Name: Although Aster is the traditional genus name, advances in science have led botanists to reclassify many varieties into different names. If you see labels such as Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, and Doellingeria on plants resembling asters, don’t be scared off or confused; these are really just asters hiding behind other names.  
Size: Asters range from 1 to 6 feet tall and 1 to 4 feet wide, with some varieties being of indeterminate width. 
Conditions: Most asters perform best in full sun—though some tolerate partial shade, only with fewer blooms and less vigor. 
Planting: Asters can be planted almost any time of the growing season; in the North, however, it’s best to plant no later than early fall to allow plants time to establish. 


Hibiscus ('Kopper King') "hy-BIS-kus"
Genus: Hibiscus

A hardy hibiscus, 'Kopper King' has leaves that are a coppery red on top and orange-red underneath. Large (10 to 12 inches across) ruffly white to pale pink flowers bloom from midsummer to mid-fall if you deadhead. 'Kopper King' dies back to the ground in autumn and is late to break dormancy in the spring. It should be interplanted with spring bulbs and overplanted with winter annuals; that way you'll get color year round without disturbing the hibiscus. -Pat McKernan, Regional Picks: Lower Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
Noteworthy Characteristics: Coppery foliage; large, disc-like flowers that attract butterflies; long bloom period.
Care: Provide full sun to partial shade and a moist soil high in organic matter. Generally, if these plants are happy, they won't need staking. Deadhead regularly. 'Kopper King' is slow to break dormancy in spring.
Problems: Nothing serious, but watch for the occasional leaf spots, blights, rusts, canker, Japanese beetles, whiteflies, and aphids.


Tickseed (Bidens) BY-denz

The genus Bidens includes a diverse group of annuals, perennials, and shrubs, with uses ranging from hanging baskets, meadows, gravel gardens, to borders. Some species are considered invasive in certain states.
Noteworthy characteristics: Daisy-like, usually yellow flowers. Bidens can grow up to 3 feet high under certain conditions.  Some species have been developed to grow small enough for baskets and small pots.
Care: Grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Bidens can be hardy plants for wind-prone areas.
Propagation: Sow seed in spring; take root cuttings of perennials in spring or fall.
Problems: Mottle virus, Cercospora leaf spot, white smut, downy mildew, powdery mildew, rust, leaf miners, aphids.

Indian Grass

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) "sor-GAS-trum NEW-tanz"    Genus: Sorghastrum

Golden yellow plumes and a vase-like form give 'Indian Steel' a refined look. On the flower spikes, bright yellow pollen sacs stand out against the darker seed heads. Metallic blue foliage morphs to a coppery tan shade after frost. 'Indian Steel' tolerates a range of soil types, including heavy clay. -Scott Vogt, Native grasses, Fine Gardening issue #124
Care: For best results, plant in medium to dry soil and in full sun.
Propagation: By dividion or by seed.
Problems: No serious problems.

Height 3 ft. to 6 ft.
1 ft. to 3 ft.
Growth Habit
Growth Pace
Moderate Grower
Full Sun Only
Dry to Medium
Showy Fall Foliage, 
Showy Flowers, 
Showy Foliage.

Blue Stem Grass

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
"skiz-ah-KEER-ee-um sko-PAR-ee-um"

Little bluestem is a tidy, finely textured clumping grass with a blue-green summer color. Its silvery seed heads rise to a height of nearly 2 feet in late summer and are at their best when backlit in the morning or afternoon sun. In fall, the grass turns a rosy rust color that lasts all winter.

Noteworthy Characteristics: This prairie grass occupies a wide range in North America. It is an excellent choice for native, wild, or meadow plantings, as well as for adding structure and texture to borders and formal situations. It has given rise to a number of showier cultivars.
Care: It is widely adaptable to most soils, except for wet or highly fertile ones. Grow in full sun. Trim close to the ground in spring; it is late to emerge.
Propagation: Sow seed in fall or early winter; divide in spring.


(Iris) Multiple Varieties "EYE-riss"

Iris is a large genus of some 300 species from the Northern hemisphere. Irises are mostly rhizomatous or bulbous perennials grown for their flowers, which can be bearded, beardless, or crested. Some species also have variegated foliage. They are one of the best known and best loved garden plants.
Noteworthy characteristics: Beautiful blooms in many color combinations and forms. Excellent in many situations, including borders, beds, wet areas, and rock gardens.
Care: Each iris group has specific cultural requirements. See individual species accounts for information.

Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in autumn. Lift and divide clumps, or separate bulb offsets, and plant bearded irises within a few weeks in mid-summer. Plant beardless irises immediately after dividing in early autumn.


Iris borer, verbena bud moth, whiteflies, iris weevil, thrips, slugs, snails, aphids. Bacterial leaf blight.

Joe Pye

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe')
"yew-ph-TOR-ee-um DOO-bee-um"

'Little Joe' is a dwarf cultivar of a species of our native Joe Pye weed. It can reach 3 or 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, and it has the familiar large domes of lavender-pink flowers that attract lots of butterflies in late summer and early fall. Its smaller size makes it a better fit in moist borders, beds, meadows, or roadside plantings.

Noteworthy Characteristics: 

A smaller Joe Pye with the same domes of lavender flowers loved by butterflies. U.S. native.


Grow in full sun or part shade in average to moist soil with good drainage.


Sow seeds in a cold frame or divide plants, both in spring.


Snails, slugs, rust, white smut, leaf spots, Southern blight.


Blue phlox (Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume')"floks div-air-ih-KAY-tah"

This is a very fragrant native woodland phlox with powder-blue flowers in spring. Reaching only 1 foot tall, it can spread to almost 2 feet and makes an attractive groundcover under shrubs or planted with other spring-blooming wildflowers. Leaves are semi-evergreen and hairy; stems root along their length. The blue flowers are salverform with petal lobes. This plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Noteworthy Characteristics: Very fragrant. Spreads by stem roots.
Care: Grow in humus-rich, fertile, moist but well-drained soil in partial shade.
Propagation: Sow seed in a cold frame when ripe or in spring. Take basal cuttings in spring or root cuttings in early fall or winter. Detach rooted stem pieces in spring or early autumn.
Problems: Powdery mildew, stem canker, rust, Southern blight, stem nematodes, leaf spots, leaf miners, and caterpillars. Rabbits can also cause damage.


(Miscanthus) "mis-KAN-thus"

Miscanthus are perennial grasses from moist meadows and marshes from Africa to East Asia. From reed-like stems come green, blue, or purplish green leaves, sometimes with striping or banding. Flowerheads resemble tassels and are more numerous following long, hot summers. Fading growth and dried flowerheads provide fall and winter interest. Use as specimens, in borders, as screening, or at waterside.
Noteworthy characteristics: Attractive foliage and flowers, good autumn color in many cases, and structural form in winter provide a long season of interest. Flowerheads may be used as cut or dried flowers.
Care: Best in fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun, but plants tolerate most conditions except for excessive winter moisture. Cut to the ground by early spring.
Propagation: Sow seed in cold frame-spring for best results.

Shrub Roses

Rose (Rosa) "ROE-sah"

Roses are divided into 150 or so species, some of which have been garden plants for many centuries. Stems are often prickly or thorny and can be erect, arching, scrambling, or trailing. Flower form may be flat, cupped, rounded, high-centered, urn-shaped, rosette-shaped, quartered-rosette, or pompon. Flowers are often fragrant and range in color from white to nearly black. Species and cultivars are divided into old garden roses (in existence before 1867) and modern roses. Each division has many subgroups. There are many thousands of cultivars. Grow roses as specimens, in the border, as hedges or climbers, in the rock garden or cutting garden, or in containers. They can fill pretty much any garden need.
Noteworthy characteristics: Some species have been used in gardens for hundreds of years. Beautiful, fragrant flowers that are often good for cutting. Work well in a variety of garden situations and provide lasting beauty.

Pampas Grass

Varietal grasses-example

 Just a handful of varieties were available when the perennial boom of the late 1980s and ’90s exploded onto the American gardening scene. Now a dizzying array of grasses is available to gardeners throughout the country. Not all are zone 4-5 for Montana.

A number of reasons explain the increased popularity of ornamental grasses: low maintenance, adaptability, and good looks, to name just a few. But the range of grasses often recommended has inexplicably remained quite narrow. Many more options exist beyond mis­canthus (Miscanthus spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9), ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis 2 acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zones 5–9), and blue fescue (Festuca glauca and cvs., Zones 4–8).  While some are new to the nursery trade, others either have been overlooked or were just plain hard to find in prices, sizes, and quantities that suited their use. Some may still require a bit of hunting to track them down but the hunt will be worth it..


Tulip (Tulipa) "TEW-lih-pah"

Tulips originate in regions with cold winters and dry summers. (They require a cold treatment in order to bloom.) They are invaluable for early spring color in bedding schemes, parterres, cottage gardens, and mixed borders. Smaller species are suitable for rock gardens. Many only last and bloom reliably for one season (best treated as annuals, or lifted six weeks after blooming, dried, with only the largest bulbs replanted), but some of the species will naturalize. Many are suitable for forcing. Tulips are grouped into 15 divisions: Single Early, Double Early, Triumph, Darwin Hybrid, Single Late, Lily-flowered, Fringed, Viridiflora, Rembrandt, Parrot, Double Late, Daufmanniana, Fosteriana, Greigii, and Miscellaneous.
Noteworthy characteristics: These beloved bulbs offer a definite sign that winter is history, and spring is here to stay. Their vessel-like blooms take many forms—single, double, peony, fringed, and lily—and are offered in every color of the rainbow.

Gardens of special note !

You may have walked right past some of the special gardens within the Sensory Garden. As you enter the Sensory Garden from the northeast take a look at the shade gardens on your right and left. The gardens boast a huge selection of plants cultivated for shady and cool micro-climates. Here you'll find hostas, huechera, ferns and much more !