University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article
line
NATIVE PERENNIALS FOR SUNNY LANDSCAPES

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
Perennials that are native to our region—that were growing here when the first settlers arrived—are increasingly becoming favored by gardeners.  This is because they are often better adapted to our region than introduced plants, making them more resistant to pests and diseases.  They often require less care and maintenance.  And, they often are quite attractive to native bees and other pollinators.
   
The following baker’s dozen native plants can be combined in a beautiful perennial garden, or meadow planting, for a full-sun location in northern gardens.  In addition to providing flower interest through the summer and into fall, several of the taller plants add textural interest to the winter landscape if not cut back until early spring.
•    Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is a 3-foot plant whose mauve flowers are attractive to butterflies, particularly the orange Monarch.   Once established it is quite drought resistant.  It develops a long deep taproot, so doesn’t like to be moved.
•    New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), often seen now by a new name (Symphyotrichum), grows 36 inches tall or more, produces deep pink or purple daisy-like flowers in fall. ‘Alma Potschke’ is a good selection of the native species with bright, magenta-pink flowers. ‘Purple Dome’ is only 18 inches tall, covered with purple flowers.
•    New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii) can reach 2 to 4-feet tall, the species having blue to purple flowers in early fall.  It grows best in moist soils.
•   Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) is a magnificent 4 to 7-foot plant for the background of the perennial border. Its large lavender flowers in late summer attract butterflies.  Cut back by 6 inches in early June for a shorter, more bushy plant.
•    Blue flag (Iris versicolor) produces blue-purple flowers on 2-foot stems. Often overlooked in favor of other irises, this plant is good in moist to wet soils.
•    Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) can’t be missed with its fire engine red flower spikes in late summer.  It may reseed in some areas.  Tolerating part shade, it likes moist soil.
•    Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is unusual with its blue flower spikes in late summer.  It is short-lived, but reseeds.  The best show is in masses, and moist soils.
•    Beebalm (Monarda didyma) is often called Oswego Tea, from its use in New York state by native peoples for this purpose.  There are many selections, from 2 to 4-feet tall, with their spidery flowers on ends of branches.  Choose ones resistant to mildew disease, such as the bright red ‘Jacob Cline’ which attracts pollinators and hummingbirds.
•    Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) is an upright clumping grass, 4 to 5-feet tall.  There are several good selections such as the reddish ‘Prairie Fire’ and the metallic blue ‘Heavy Metal’.
•    Tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) can reach 3 to 5 feet, depending on selection.  Choices with large, dense flower clusters atop stems come in pinks, purples, and whites.  Choose ones such as the pink ‘Shortwood’ or the white ‘David’ which are resistant to the white powdery mildew disease. Best in full sun, garden phlox will tolerate part shade.
•    Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) is a rambunctious mint. Its 2-foot stems hold white or pink flowers in mid- to late summer, and are good cut flowers.  It is obedient in that its flowers remain in place when manually moved sideways, not obedient in its growth.  Look for the white-flowered cultivar ‘Miss Manners’ if you don’t want it to spread vigorously.
•    Fireworks goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) is a selection of a native species that makes a nice clump, only 2-feet tall, with arching stems of yellow flowers in late summer and early fall.  It doesn’t reseed everywhere like many goldenrods, and like the others doesn’t cause hay fever (blame that on the ragweed which blooms at the same time).
•    Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) produces elegant white flower spires in mid-summer, 4 to 6 feet tall.  This plant is a favorite of bees and other pollinators.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles uvmext logo