Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant) - Qt Super Plugs

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A common component of moist, rich, tallgrass prairies, Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) ranges from North Dakota to Oklahoma, east to Pennsylvania and Tennessee, with outlying populations in the Virginia and North Carolina piedmont.  Cup plant grows 4 to 10 feet tall, with broad strappy leaves, and flowers that look similar to perennial sunflower (Helianthus) species.  Cup plant blooms for a little over a month at the beginning of Summer, when the tallgrass prairie is in its full vigor and glory for the season.

Cup plant is an imposing plant, growing thick colonies with immense root systems.  The leaves are unique in that they envelop the stem, catching rainwater and acting like little reservoirs for birds and small animals.  Cup plant is drought and fire resistant once established, owing to its dense, rhizomatic growing habit.


While almost too overwhelming for the perennial border, Cup Plant is an excellent plant to include in naturalistic plantings and habitat improvement projects.  The vigorous plants hold up well to other prairie plants like switchgrass and big bluestem, growing thick colonies that outcompete weeds.

Cup plant, aside from acting like a living birdbath, offers shade and shelter in the summer heat for songbirds.  The large seeds provide a good late-summer food source for birds, and the flowers provide a good source of nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies.

How to Grow Cup Plant

Cup plant is a very easy-to-grow plant - All it really requires is a moist, rich soil and full sun.  This is a tallgrass prairie plant, so it does require a moist climate such as found in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, but it is very drought tolerant once it is established.

Plant Cup Plant 3-5 feet apart - these plants need a fair bit of room - and water well.  A mulch the first season helps to maintain moisture and control weeds, but after the second year no weed is going to outcompete this stalwart grower.

We currently provide Cup Plant in our Quart SuperPlugs - These are quart-sized pots with gallon-sized root systems and will establish very quickly.  Cup plant usually blooms the year after it has been planted, though they may put out some blooms the first year if they're started early enough.

Common Name: Cup Plant
Botanical Name: Silphium perfoliatum