Ohio NativesPlantsJune 1, 2023by Colin0Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

Purple Prairie Clover, scientifically known as Dalea purpurea, is a stunning native perennial that brings a splash of vibrant color to prairies, meadows, and gardens. With its eye-catching purple flowers and unique foliage, Purple Prairie Clover adds beauty and ecological value to landscapes. Native to various regions, including parts of Ohio, this plant is highly valued for its ornamental appeal, pollinator attraction, and ability to enhance biodiversity. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the history, growing instructions, maintenance tips, and other important aspects of Purple Prairie Clover.

History and Significance

Purple Prairie Clover has a fascinating history and cultural significance. Native American tribes recognized the plant’s value and used it for various purposes, including making medicinal teas and poultices. The deep purple flowers were also used for natural dyes. Today, Purple Prairie Clover is treasured for its ecological benefits, as it provides food and habitat for a wide range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

Growing Purple Prairie Clover

Here are some essential guidelines for successfully growing Purple Prairie Clover:

  1. Location: Purple Prairie Clover thrives in full sun and well-draining soil. It is adapted to various soil types, including sandy or rocky soil, and is tolerant of dry conditions once established. Choose a location in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
  2. Planting: Start Purple Prairie Clover from nursery-bought plants or seeds. Plant them in early spring or late fall. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds or grass and loosening it to a depth of a few inches. Sow the seeds or transplant the young plants, ensuring they are spaced at least 12 to 18 inches apart. Lightly press the soil around the seeds or root ball and water gently.
  3. Watering: Purple Prairie Clover is drought-tolerant once established. Water newly planted seeds or transplants regularly to help them establish a strong root system. Once the plants are established, they generally do not require additional watering, relying on natural rainfall. However, during prolonged dry periods, providing supplemental water can help maintain their vigor and blooming.
  4. Maintenance: Purple Prairie Clover is a low-maintenance plant. Once established, it is relatively self-sufficient. Remove any competing weeds or grasses around the plants to reduce competition for nutrients and water. Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming and prevent self-seeding, if desired. In late fall or early spring, you can cut back the plants to a few inches above the ground to promote new growth and maintain a neat appearance.
  5. Wildlife Benefits: Purple Prairie Clover is a valuable plant for pollinators and other wildlife. The vibrant purple flowers act as a magnet for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, providing them with nectar and pollen sources. The plant’s foliage also serves as a host plant for various butterfly larvae. By incorporating Purple Prairie Clover into your landscape, you support local pollinator populations and enhance the ecological diversity of your garden.

Interesting Facts

  • Purple Prairie Clover belongs to the Fabaceae family, which includes other notable plants like peas and beans.
  • The plant’s vibrant purple flowers, held in dense cylindrical spikes, create a stunning visual display and attract attention from both humans and pollinators.
  • Purple Prairie Clover is known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, contributing to its health and fertility. This makes it a valuable plant for prairies and meadows, as it enriches the soil and supports the growth of neighboring plants.

Purple Prairie Clover is a captivating native perennial that adds beauty, ecological value, and pollinator support to gardens, meadows, and prairies. With its vibrant purple flowers, unique foliage, and ability to thrive in various soil conditions, it is a wonderful addition to any landscape. By cultivating Purple Prairie Clover, you contribute to the preservation of native plant species and create a welcoming habitat for important pollinators.

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