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A 1993 recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, shooting star is known as one of the most beautiful blooming prairie perennials to behold. The flowers can be pink, purple, or white. This is a spring perennial that will go dormant in the summer (spring ephemeral), saving energy in its roots to reappear during the following spring season. Shooting star is a superb addition to a cottage, wildflower, or native garden. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Primrose
  • Family (botanic) Primulaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Narrow, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Shooting stars are often between 9 to 20 inches tall and 9 to 12 inches wide. Difficult to grow by seed, shooting star seeds would need to be planted immediately in the summer or go through a moist or dry stratification process over the winter. Also, shooting star seedlings may take three or four years before flowers appear. Shooting stars can be propagated by division in the fall when dormant. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Shooting star is native to the Eastern and Central United States. C-value: 6.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Shooting star does not have nectar but has pollen that is specially collected by the vibrations of bees. Bumblebees and native bees are best known to pollinate these plants.

Leaf description:

The leaves of shooting stars grow at the base of the plant (basal) in a rosette pattern. They have smooth edges (entire margins) and are long and narrow with pointed tips (lance-shaped). The central veins of the shooting star leaves are prominent, and the bases of the leaves are often reddish purple in color. 

Flower description:

The flowers of shooting star plants are known for their dangling appearance. The petals of shooting star flowers appear to bend backward (reflexed petals) and are fused at the base, where rings of white, yellow, and reddish brown are often present. The center portions of the flowers (stamen and style) converge to form a point. Groups of 8 to 20 flowers (umbels) grow at the end of tall, leafless stems (scapes) that can be green or red in color. 

Fruit description:

Shooting star fruits are small, thick-walled, deep reddish brown in color, and have a seam (capsules) along which the fruit opens to release tiny seeds.

Plant care:

Shooting stars are generally low maintenance, however, take care to plant in a location that has partial shade and well-drained soil for the best plant performance. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Shooting star plants are not prone to major disease but may have some issues with slugs and snails. If planted in a location that drains poorly, root rot may occur.


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