Silphium perfoliatum

Silphium perfoliatum Cup Plant


 Confirmed Request

As the specific epithet "perfoliatum" suggests, each pair of leaves clasp the stem, making it look like the stem has pierced through them. The leaves themselves form a small basin that allows rain water to collect in tiny pools around the stem, hence the cup comparison. It has been suggested that this may be a primitive form of carnivorous behavior in the plant world. Certainly, one can see how this would set the stage for more specialization in that niche but, at least currently there has been no evidence of the plant gaining any nutritional benefit from the insects that may have drowned in there. It is more likely that this anatomical feature is a way of deterring potential flower predators from crawling up the stem in search of a meal. Indeed, for insects, these pools can form a considerable barrier against vertical movement. Either way, standing at around 8 feet in height, a patch of Cup Plant is a pleasant sight. Easy to start from seed, you will no doubt enjoy them for years to come.

Standing tall at around six feet (more in wetter soils, less in drier soils), cup flower's yellow blossoms can be seen starting in July when the butterflies visit them, and then later when the birds begin to feed on its seeds. Throughout the growing season, the water held in the leaf cups attracts birds and other critters looking for a drink.  Cup Plant is quite easy to grow in average garden soil and in diverse prairie plantings in heavier or wetter soils. It can be readily started from seed by fall planting outdoors, or, if planted in spring, a period of 60 days of moist, cold stratification is recommended prior to sowing (see Germination Code C(60)).

A vigorous plant throughout its range, this species can be invasive when planted outside of its historic regions.  Check the range map tab to see if this species is historically native to your state.  If your state shows blue-green coloring instead of lime green, this species is best not planted there.

Dormant bare root plants ship each year during optimal transplanting season: Fall (October or Spring (April/May).
Silphium perfoliatum - Cup Plant

Map Key

This map shows the native and adventive range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

4 Questions asked on Silphium perfoliatum

Q Jennie • 07/27/2018 I live in Maryland, which is brown on your range map. Should I not grow the cup plant here?
A Prairie Moon • 07/29/2018 The maps show the historical range (native and adventive) of a native species. Adventive means it was introduced by humans but is growing successfully; and in the case of Cup Plant on the East Coast, it is very aggressive. We don't experience that here in the Midwest. Because of this, I would only suggest planting it after talking to a Professional in your state. Yes, we are surprised Cup Plant was never documented in MD. Perhaps just a lack of Botanists there at the time :)
Q sue • 08/16/2018 hi, how long does a Silphium plant take to bloom from seed? 1st year or 2nd year? thx!
A Prairie Moon • 08/17/2018 Hi Sue. Most of the Silphium species, including this Cup Plant, germinate readily and grow fairly fast. But, being a long-lived perennial plant, I wouldn't expect a bloom in the 1st year. 2nd year, maybe. But more likely 3rd year or after.
Q Stephanie • 09/17/2018 Hi, I have some cup plants in my garden. I love them. Do I need to do any pruning? And if so, do I prune in the fall or the spring? I live in southeastern Wisconsin. Thank you!
A Prairie Moon • 09/19/2018 No, Cup Plant will come back from the ground up each year. We advocate leaving garden plants fall and winter for food and cover for wildlife. Cup Plant especially is full of nutritious seeds to sustain the birds that stay the winter with us. The stem is also hollow and sturdy and many beneficial insects will overwinter in the stems. When you do perform your spring clean-up, consider just piling the dead Cup Plant stalks to the side until the insects have emerged.
Q Meaghan • 05/20/2019 Hi, I planted a cup plant a couple years ago and last summer I had three new plants up. This spring looks like a lot more. I was going to divide it up and give some of the new ones to friends, is there a preferred method to do that?
A Prairie Moon • 05/20/2019 Thanks for writing, Meaghan. Cup Plant is a robust grower and prolific self-seeder. Transplanting any plant always involves some shock to the roots, so we recommend digging only when the plant is dormant, either in spring before it starts growing or in fall after the growing season has ended. Those are the two times we dig dormant plants for sale as bare roots. As you can see in the root photo reached through the following website link, this species develops deep roots, so you will need to dig deeply and carefully to preserve them.

Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, download: Seed Starting Basics.


We dig bare-root plants from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants


Trays of 38 plants and 3-packs leave our Midwest greenhouse based on species readiness (well-rooted for transit) and based on order date; shipping begins early-May and goes into June. Plant cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting instructions/care are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges:
SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
over $100.00: 5% of the total seed cost

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $7.50
over $50.00: 15% of the total plant cost

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season:

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within a day or two upon receipt.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 38 and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve).  We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May.  Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium-Wet, Medium
6 feet
Bloom Time
July, August, September
Bloom Color
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Number