I think we have all heard the trend pushing to plant native gardens. They are plants that are indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area.
Native plants benefit the environment in many ways and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. When some think of native plants though, they think a field of spreading wildflowers or brush shrubs on the side of the road. While this may be true, it might also come as a surprise that some of your most beloved garden plants have native roots too.
Smooth hydrangeas, Hydrangea arborescens are native to North America. Grow in full sun to partial shade in rich, moist soil for best results. Some varieties may tolerate a deeper shaded area. Lace cap or ball-like flowers bloom on new growth so they can be cut back to the ground in early spring to control size. In order to keep them from spreading too much, remove suckers by digging the roots out. You can either discard of the suckers, transplant them or pot them to give to a friend.
Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea is native to northern regions of America. Grows in full sun to part shade and tolerates many soil types. It is known for its red stems that stand out in the white snow for winter interest.
Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius is native to the Midwest and over to the north east. Grows in full sun to part shade in dry to moist soil types. White flowers in the spring and summer foliage can range from green to a deep purple. It exhibits red fall color and its bark adds great winter interest.
Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa are native from the Midwest to the north east. Grows in full sun to part shade in rich moist soil or dry soil that exhibits flooding from time to time. White flowers in the spring followed by black or red berries and red to orange fall color.
Witchhazel, Hamamelis virginiana is native to the eastern half of America. Grows in full sun to to part shade in a variety for soil types. Blooms yellow to red flowers in the fall and has a yellow fall leaf color. Reaches up to 10 – 15 feet tall and wide but can be maintained at a desired size.
Anemone, Anemone canadensis is native to Canada as its name suggests but also spanning down to Colorado and even found in some parts of New Mexico. Blooms in the spring and may spread by seed.
Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa is native to regions spanning all across America. Grows in full sun and dry to moderately moist soil types. Flowers in the summer and is home to monarch caterpillars. Hummingbirds and other pollinators love it too.
White False Indigo, Baptisia alba is native to the Midwest and spans down to regions of Texas. Grows in full sun to part shade in medium to wet soil types such as clay. Blooms white spike flowers in early summer and has an adorable trifoliate leaf that creates a shrubby perennial form.
Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis
Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum
Wild Iris, Iris shrevei
Meadow Blazingstar, Liatris ligulistylis
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Lupine, Lupinus perennis
The list goes on…
Benefits of Native Plantings
- Add to biodiversity in our landscapes
- Feed and provide shelter for pollinators, birds, animals
- Deep root systems stabilize soil and protect from soil erosion
- Reduce the impact of flooding by soaking up excess water
- Rain gardens capture excess runoff from houses and driveways and remove pollutants
Common misunderstandings about Natives
“You don’t need to water them.” While they do tend to establish quickly, that’s not to say they don’t need help in their first year or two to generate a healthy root system. Once established, they will be more drought tolerant than nonnatives, however, all plants need water to survive so give them a drink during drought conditions, especially in sandier soil types.
“They are low maintenance.” Low maintenance means different things to different people; however, low maintenance never means no maintenance. Natives thrive in the proper conditions, with that said, they can spread. If you don’t want them to spread, certain varieties may not be a good fit. Once established they may not require much fertilization yet proper pruning will still be necessary to keep them looking great.
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