Top 10 Native Plants for more Traditional Urban and Suburban Landscapes
So why go native? The answer is pretty simple. While ornamental garden plants may look nice, they are really lacking when it comes to ecological benefits. Our Minnesota native plants provide high quality habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. On top of this, they also look great and are hardy; requiring no fertilizers or watering.
For decades, native plants have been overlooked when it comes to home landscaping and perennial gardens. However, there are a multitude of species that fit just fine into your more traditional landscape. For instance, there are many species that are short statured and clump forming, making them the perfect fit for garden beds or foundation plantings. Creating borders and using repetition will also lend to a more formal appearance.
Here is our top ten list of Minnesota natives for you to check out and consider for your home landscape:
1. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Little bluestem is a warm season bunchgrass that thrives in a wide variety of conditions. It was named the 2022 Perennial of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. The blue-green foliage turns maroon to copper in the fall, providing interest throughout the winter. It serves as a host plant for several species of skipper butterflies. This grass grows best in full sun and is deer resistant.
2. Blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis)
Blue wild indigo is a shrubby plant that has become increasingly popular in perennial gardens. Its showy blue flowers are a favorite of bumblebees. Since it is a legume, the plant fixes nitrogen, improving soil fertility. The foliage turns a dark grey to black in the winter. It can grow 4 feet tall with a 3-foot spread, so be sure to give it space when planting. Other Baptisia species include white wild indigo and cream wild indigo, which prefer slightly drier soils.
3. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Purple coneflower has been a landscaping favorite for decades. It boasts a long bloom time, starting in July and lasting through September. It is adaptable to most soil types and can tolerate partial shade. The flowers attract a multitude of bees and butterflies, and the dried seed heads provide a tasty snack for goldfinches and other birds. Flowers can be cut for bouquets or dead-headed for additional blooms.
4. Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Butterflyweed is a must-have on your landscape. It enjoys full sun and dry to mesic soils. Its foliage supports monarch caterpillars and the bold orange flowers are popular with many pollinators. Swamp milkweed also works well in landscaping, but be cautious with aggressive, rhizomatous milkweed species like common milkweed.
5. Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)
Of all the asters native to Minnesota, aromatic aster is one of the most well-behaved. It tends to be bushy and dense in form. Like most asters, it blooms later in the season, but the spectacular flowers are worth the wait. It provides a pop of color when the summer bloomers have faded. The leaves are quite fragrant when crushed, living up to its “aromatic” title.
6. Meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis)
If you are looking for flowers to attract monarch butterflies, meadow blazing star is an absolute monarch magnet. The brilliant purple flowers bloom at the same time as monarch migration, providing the perfect nectaring spot for the butterflies. A single plant may attract up to a dozen or more monarch butterflies at a given time. There are several other Liatris species native to Minnesota that also attract butterflies including Prairie Blazing Star, Rough Blazing Star, and Dotted Blazing Star.
7. Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Prairie dropseed is frequently used in landscaping. Its fine, feathery blades add delicate texture. Its clumping habit and short stature make it great for creating borders or planting en masse. The flowers make an appearance in late summer forming loose, airy spikes above the foliage.
8. Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Rattlesnake master is a long-lived perennial with a unique appearance. The blue-green foliage appears almost cactus-like, with needle-like teeth on the margins of the wide leaves. The spherical flower heads consist of many little white flowers that attract pollinators. It is drought and deer resistant, growing best in mesic soils and full sun.
9. Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
Foxglove beardtongue has tubular white flowers that are visited by hummingbirds, sphinx moths, butterflies, and bees. It grows well in most soils and tolerates partial shade. The common name of “beardtongue” is from the sterile stamen having tufts of hairs at one end. Its seed heads and foliage turn burgundy to brown, providing interest after blooming.
10. Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
The Virginia bluebell is a spring ephemeral, providing early season color in April and May. The foliage is light green and very smooth in texture. The light blue flowers offer valuable pollen and nectar to early emerging insects. It is typically found in woodlands with rich, moist soil and prefers partial sun to full shade.
Stop by our retail nursery at 1480 County Road 90 in Independence to find these species as well as countless others that you can incorporate into your home landscape.
If you’d like help in choosing the perfect species for your property, our friendly staff would be happy to assist you in the design and even the installation of your next native planting.
Look us up, you will not be disappointed!