Thursday, April 19, 2012

Five Easy to Grow Native Plants for the Prairie Garden

Prairie or wildflower gardens are great to have around borders of properties or even in a field that the owners would rather not mow. These five native plants are great easy growing plants that work well in any native, wildflower, prairie garden environment. Also, planting them around a pool or water structure will be nice as well. If you are looking to plant them around a pool, don't forget to look at to get pool tips and safety advice.

Waldsteinia fragarioides

Common Name: Appalachian Barren Strawberry, Barren Strawberry

Lifespan: Perennial

Description: Growing under a foot tall, the Appalachian barren strawberry has basal leaves and yellow flowers that have a bloom season of April through June. Stalks are without leaves and the leaves are evergreen.

Planting Guide: Waldsteinia fragarioides prefers sunny to partial shade conditions and moist or dry soil. It does very well in dry soil conditions.

Propagation: Appalachian barren strawberry is propagated by clump division or by seed.

History: The fruits are not edible or fleshy like a real strawberry and cannot be substituted for them.

Warnings: There are no known toxicities or problems with this plant.

Distribution: Waldsteinia fragarioides is found in AL, AR, CT, GA, IL, IN, ME, MD, KY, MN, MO, NH, NY, NJ, NC, OH, PA, TN, SC, VT, VA, WI and WV.

Sorghastrum nutans

Common Name: Yellow Indian Grass

Synonym: Sorghastrum avenaceum

Lifespan: Perennial

Description: Yellow Indian grass grows 3 to 8 feet high with blue-green foliage and a gold-brown seed head. The foliage changes to deep orange or even purple in the fall. Leaves are broad and the seed heads are on large and plume-like. Flowers are yellow and arrive August through October. Its flowering parts have a bit of metallic-gold tint.

Planting Guide: Sorghastrum nutans is hardy in USDA hardiness zones of 5 through 8. It is quite adaptable and does well in any lighting and any soil. For best growth, a moist rich well-drained soil is preferable. Tolerances include acid to alkaline soil, poorly drained to over-drained soil, and hard clay to loose sand soils.

Propagation: Yellow Indian grass is propagated by seed that is gathered in the fall. Sow 1/4 inch deep into the ground with either stratified seed in the spring or unstratified seed in the fall.

History: Yellow Indian grass is used to control wind erosion and for some roadside cover. It also makes a very good food for deer and livestock, either alone or mixed with other seed.

            It is a larval host to the Pepper-and-salt skipper (Amblyscirtes hegon) butterfly.

Warnings: There are no known pests or problems with this grass. There are also no known toxicities.

Distribution: Sorghastrum nutans is found in AL, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY and DC.

Chasmanthium latifolium

Common Name: Indian Wood Oats, River Oats, Inland Sea Oats, Flathead Oats

Synonym: Uniola latifolia

Lifespan: Perennial

Description: Indian wood oats grows 2 to 4 feet high with oat-like flower spikelets that are on the ends of arching branches. Foliage is bamboo-like and blue-green that will change into a yellow-gold in the fall. Seed heads are large and turn ivory in the summer. By fall, seed heads are brown and by February are gray.

Planting Guide: Chasmanthium latifolium is hardy in USDA hardiness zones of 4 through 9. It should be planted in partial to full shade with moist acidic soils. Desired pH ranges for the soil should be between 5 and 7, with at least 160 frost-free days. It will tolerate poor-drained soils and clay. Full sun will yellow the grass if not majorly watered.

Propagation: Indian wood oats is propagated by seed or by root division. For seed, collect in the fall. It will germinate easily.

History: Its seed stalks have been dried and used in many floral arrangements. It is also good for cover for small wildlife and a food source for some birds and mammals. Seeds and leaves both make for food sources. It can also be a source of nesting items for birds.

            Indian wood oats is a larval host for the Pepper-and-salt skipper (Amblyscirtes hegon) butterfly, the Bronzed roadside skipper (Amblyscirtes aenus) butterfly, Linda’s roadside skipper (Amblyscirtes linda) butterfly and the Bells roadside skipper (Amblyscirtes belli) butterfly.

Warnings: There are no known disease or pest problems with this plant.

Distribution: Chasmanthium latifolium is found in AL, AZ, AR, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MS, MO, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV, WI and DC.

Thalictrum pubescens

Common Name: King of the Meadow

Synonyms: Thalictrum polygamum

Lifespan: Perennial

Description: Growing 3 to 8 feet high, this plant has rounded lobed leaves and cream flowers. Flowers do not have petals but the numerous white stamens have an airy effect. Bloom season is from June through August.

Planting Guide: Thalictrum pubescens should be planted in partial shade and moist acidic soil.

Propagation: King of the meadow is propagated by seed or offsets. Seed should be sown as soon as they are ripe. Offsets should be separated either in spring or fall when the plant is dormant.

History: It attracts butterflies and bees to the landscape.

Warnings: This plant isn’t plagued with much disease or pest issues.

Distribution: Thalictrum pubescens is found in CT, AL, DE, GA, IN, IL, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, NH, NY, NJ, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, WV and DC.

Asimina triloba

Common Name: Pawpaw, Indian Banana, Common Paw Paw

Synonyms: Annona triloba

Lifespan: Perennial

Description: This small tree can also be a multi-stem shrub and grows 10 to 40 feet high. Leaves are big and have a tropical look with a rusty down cover. They are bright green and turn yellow-green in the fall. Flowers are purple and 6-petaled. Fruits are edible, large, and dark-green or yellow. Bloom season is April through May.

Planting Guide: Asimina triloba should be grown in any lighting and moist semi-acidic soil.

Propagation: Pawpaw is propagated by seed that has been scarified and had a 60 to 90 day cold stratification. Others in the horticulture field say it is possible to do root cuttings or layering for propagation as well.

History: Fruits have a banana-like taste and have been used by European settlers as food.             Pawpaw can also be a larval host plant for the Zebra swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) butterfly and the Pawpaw sphinx (Dolba hyloeus) butterfly.

            It was first recorded as a species in 1541 by the DeSoto expedition in Mississippi.

Warnings: There are no insect or disease problems.

            Fruit can cause skin irritation and stomach trouble. Fruit and leaves are poisonous if ingested.

Distribution: Asimina triloba is found in AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, IL, IA, IN, KS, KY, MD, LA, MI, MS, NE, NY, NJ, NC, OK, OH, PA, SC, TX, TN, VA, WV, WI and DC.

This list has a little bit of everything for the native gardener, from flowering plants to tress, ornamental grasses to ground covers. All are low maintenance plants that will need little attention. Some will even bring butterflies into your landscape.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Native Wildflowers With Bell-Like Flowers

There are times when a gardener likes a specific type of flowering bloom. For those that like the bell-like blooms, these native wildflowers and plants will surely aim to please. They are all native to the United States and having dainty bell-shaped flowers. When you go to gather seeds for your garden, don't forget about the drug store savings that you can find rather than traditional seed businesses.

Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link (Virginia Bluebells)

This lovely plant will get up to two feet tall and have blue bell-like flowers (pink in the bud). It will bloom March through June. Leaves are gray-green and smooth. Fruits are yellow-brown and hold the seed. It prefers moist humus rich soil and partial to full shade. You can use seed or rhizome division to propagate. Seed should be cold moist stratified before planting.

Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell. (Smooth Solomon’s Seal)

This member of the Lily Family reaches one to three feet in height. It has small white bell-like flowers from April to June and bluish black berries from August to October. Foliage is unique in that it has a fuzzy underside. Early colonists used the root tea for indigestion and coughing.

Uvularia grandiflora Sm. (Merrybells, Largeflower Bellwort)

Merrybells grow under 12 inches tall with bell-like flowers and pale green leaves. Nodding flowers bloom yellow in May. It is a clump-forming perennial that prefers shade and moist rich soil. Propagate by seed or division. If by seed, don’t let them dry out before planting. If by division, do so in fall or spring.

Uvularia sessilifolia L. (Wild Oats, Straw Lily, Spreading Bellwort)

Wild oats grow 10 to 15 inches tall with oval leaves and bell-like flowers. Perennial in growth, the flowers are cream or yellow and on short stems. It will bloom from April to May. Wild oats prefer any type of lighting and moist acidic soils. Propagate by seed or root division. Mulch Uvularia sessilifolia with leaves for compost in the winter season.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Good Starter Native Plants and Wildflowers for a Garden or Landscape

Looking to get started in native gardening but don’t know good plants to start with? These four plants are all nice selections with interesting foliage or blooms. Some are very tolerant to the extremes, and others are just pretty to look at. Also remember to think about landscaping while planning your garden, from the patio to the stepping stones to the pond. If you are looking for a condensate pump, home depot may not be your best choice. Think outside the box. I like to use battery operated floor sweepers to clean the patio or the stepping stones. Don't be afraid to mix it up and put contemporary ceramic table lamps on a patio deck to have some night time ambiance.

These native plants are all native to the United States and are great ones to incorporate into the landscape.

Chelone lyonii Pursh (Pink Turtlehead)

Pink turtlehead grows two to four feet high with one inch flowers in deep pink or rose-purple hues. It has a bearded lower lip that will present yellow hairs on the blooms. Flowers appear from summer to fall. Leaves are round at the base and pointed at the tip with an egg shape. It prefers to grow in sun or partial shade with rich moist soil. There won’t be serious pest or disease problems with this native plant.

Dyschoriste oblongifolia (Michx.) Kuntze (Twinflower, Oblongleaf Snakeherb)

An interesting flower that will get six to 18 inches tall, it needs a spacing of three to nine inches. It prefers full sun to partial shade and has average water needs. Its violet or purple flowers bloom all year and it will self-sow on its own. Twinflower is a favorite of butterflies. Its common name comes from the trait of having back to back flowers

blooming at the same time. It is not salt tolerant, so be careful around coastal gardens.

Eryngium yuccifolium Michx. (Button Eryngo, Rattlesnake Master, Button Snakeroot)

This plant grows up to four feet and has an 18 inch spread. It prefers full sun and moist soil to grow efficiently. It has pale green to light blue blooms coming mid-summer. It is ornamental and easy to grow. Button eryngo is part of the carrot family. You can divide the root ball to propagate.

Eupatorium purpureum L. (Sweetscented Joepyeweed, Eupatorium purpureum var. purpureum, Eupatoriadelphus purpureus)

This plant will get three to four feet high and have an equal spread. It prefers sun and partial shade and is very carefree. It will have pink, purple, or near white blooms from summer to fall. You can bag the seed heads to capture the seed if you are planning to propagate. You need to sow the seed as soon as possible as it is not a good candidate for storage. You can cut to the ground in the winter or leave unattended.

Native Fern Choices that Do Not Grow Too High

Many times landscapers and gardeners will want short ferns to go under trees or near a fence or other shaded location. While there are many ferns that will take the shade without a problem, some of these are too tall to go under some trees.These five native ferns all grow under two feet tall and are native to the United States.

Cheilanthes lanosa(Michx) D.C. Eaton (Hairy Lip-fern)

The hairy lip-fern grows seven to eight inches tall and six to eight inches wide with dark green evergreen fronds that curl up in dry weather and unfurl in the rain. Sterile fronds stay evergreen while fertile fronds will break off in the cold season. This type of fern is found in the granite region of the Piedmont Georgia area.

Dennstaedtia punctilobula (Michx.) T. Moore (Eastern Hayscented Fern)

This fine fern gets up to 12 to 18 inches tall and requires 12 to 24 inch spread spacing. It prefers partial to full shade and slightly acidic soil. It’s an aromatic fern, evergreen, and no discernable blooms. Its foliage has lacy leaflets and green fronds. To propagate you can divide the rhizomes.

Athyrium filix-femina(L.) Roth var. asplenoides (Michx.) Hulten (Asplenium Ladyfern, Athyrium asplenioides, Athyrium filix-femina ssp. asplenioides)

This beautiful fern grows up to three feet tall and needs spacing of up to 18 inches apart. It prefers partial to full shade for optimum growth. This fern is easy to grow, and has average water needs. There are non-noticeable flowers and is grown for its silver-gray foliage. It is a dense clump-forming fern, and you divide these clumps to propagate. A great choice for window boxes.

Botrychium virginianum(L.) Sw. (Rattlesnake Fern)

Rattlesnake fern only grows up to 12 inches high. It is a difficult slow growing fern, but is very lovely to look at if you want to put the effort into it. It prefers light shade and rich woodland soil. It will reproduce by spores and is difficult to propagate.The center clusters look like a rattlesnake rattle, hence its name.

Asplenium resiliensKunze (Black-stemmed Spleenwort)

The black-stemmed spleenwort fern has dark green leather-like fronds. Frond pinnae are blunt-tipped and oblong, with a black shiny rachis. It grows six to 12 inches tall and six inches wide. Plant it in a shaded area with moist soil. It closely resembles Asplenium trichomanes. This is a great plant for flower boxes.

Asplenium trichomanesL. (Maidenhair Spleenwort)

Growing two to 10 inches tall and three to six inches wide, the maidenhair spleenwort has narrow evergreen fronds. There is a dark red rachis and medium green pinnae. It prefers a moist shaded area. Maidenhair spleenwort grows wild in rocky crevices and is hard to cultivate. Propagate with root stock division. Another nice window box choice.