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.


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