Silphium laciniatum

Compass Plant

$3.00 - $120.00

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.
1/2 oz.
1 oz.
1 lb.

Bare Root Plants

3 Pack
Out of Stock
Tray of 50
Out of Stock
Tray of 38
Out of Stock

No those aren't sunflowers, those are Compass Plants!   A true icon of the prairies, these lovely plants are an incredible addition to your landscape. Given moist, rich soils, mature compass plants can reach upwards of 8 feet in height.  It is quite a sight to see pollinators flit from flower to flower while birds, like Goldfinches, will perch upon the strong stems pecking for insects or seeds.

The name Compass Plant comes from the observation that the leaves have a tendency to orient themselves on a north-south axis.  While this certainly helped disoriented early Settlers find their way, the real reason behind this intriguing physiology is to maximize water use in the leaves as well as to increase CO2 gain for the plant. Another interesting aspect of Compass Plant biology is their life expectancy.  Given the right conditions, individual plants have been known to live upwards of 100 years! Gardening with Compass Plant is gardening for the future.  Sadly, like all other species that live on the prairies, Compass Plants have taken a real hit from habitat destruction.  Prairies are some of the most endangered habitats on the planet. Where there was once seemingly endless prairie, there are now only echoes of a lost world. As the great Aldo Leopold once said, "What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked."

Live Plant Shipping Table

Spring Fall Age/Size
Dormant Bare Roots April/May October
Potted 3-Packs May/June N/A 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep pots
Potted Trays of 38* May/June N/A 2" wide x 5" deep plugs
Potted Trays of 50 April-JuneN/A 2" wide x 5" deep plugs
*This species is a choice in the Mix & Match - Create Your Own Tray!

Silphium laciniatum - Compass Plant

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

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

4 Questions asked on Silphium laciniatum

Are 1st season compass plants fire resilient? Or is something else going on? I have sown seed in winter, watched the leaves grow over the summer, then burned the area in autumn. The next summer- nothing. I will try and not let the fire get to them this autumn.
It's surprising that you haven't been able to get them to come back. We aren't aware of issues with fire resiliency in Compass Plants. If they were burned too early in the fall before they went dormant, that could have been enough to kill them. You may consider a spring burn in lieu of a fall one for the first year.

On rare occasions, we have seen compass plants look healthy in the fall only to discover the roots have rotted the next spring. However, I wouldn't expect this to be a persistent problem.
I definitely planted my compass plants in the wrong spot. They are growing so tall searching for sun and they do not have any companion plants to bolster them so they tend to fall over. Trying supports has not worked for me because they are heavy and unwieldy. Have you heard of anyone who has pruned them to make them smaller? I hate to remove them so I'm looking for alternatives. Thanks.
HI Peggy. Many mature native perennials will recover and bloom at a shorter stature if hit by a mower or something early in the growing season, so you can definitely try this, but probably not as a long-term solution. Compass Plant has a tap root and we have seen species like this successfully re-establish even if you can’t dig out the entire deep tap root and it breaks off – maybe try to move them now?
I started compass plants from seed. How long should it take before the plants flower?
In ideal conditions you should have blooms in the 2nd or 3rd growing year. So, possibly next year since your plants are juveniles this year.
I live on Ling Island (NY). Should I cut back my Compass Plant in the fall after beautiful flowers die back? Or in early spring? Or not at all?
Hi Bobbie. We would suggest you cut them next spring. Those huge and hollow stems can become the home for overwintering insects this fall! And even after you cut them in the spring, if you have the room to just lay the cut stems in a brush pile for insects to safely emerge, that would be ideal!


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, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. 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

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions 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.

US Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

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 1-3 business days.

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 32/38/50 plugs 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
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium-Wet, Medium, Medium-Dry, Dry
8 feet
Bloom Time
June, July, August, September
Bloom Color
Pollinator Favorite: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, beetles
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
Deer Resistant
Highly recommended for home landscaping
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code