by Kristen Foringer
May 10, 2011
If you’ve been looking for a way to help the Chesapeake Bay, planting native plants in your yard is a great way to make a difference. Native plants are adapted to our region's environment, so they need less watering and no fertilizer–which saves you money. Less work, less cost and helpful to the Bay? Sounds great to us!
Here are ten native plants we recommend you plant in your yard this year.
1. Eastern Purple Coneflower
The eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a popular, long-lasting perennial that grows two- to five-feet tall. Its bright lavender flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial wildlife. Coneflower is also known for its herbal remedies as an immune system booster.
2. Sweetbay Magnolia
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is a slender tree or shrub with pale gray bark. It is native to all the Chesapeake Bay states, except West Virginia. It usually grows to be 12 to 20 feet tall, but occasionally reaches 50 feet in the southern part of its range. When in bloom, the plant’s fragrant magnolia flowers open in the morning and close in the evening.
3. Scarlet Beebalm
Scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) is a popular perennial with tufts of scarlet-red flowers. The three-foot stems are lined with large, oval, dark green leaves that have a minty aroma. Scarlet beebalm will attract hummingbirds to your garden.
4. Red Maple
This popular, beautiful shade tree tree grows 40 to 60 feet in cultivation, occasionally reaching 100 to 120 feet in the wild. Red maple (Acer rubrum) is named for its brilliant red autumn leaves. It has the greatest north-south distribution of any East Coast tree species.
5. Flowering Dogwood
Considered one of the most spectacular native, flowering trees, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a 20- to 40-foot, single- or multi-trunked tree with white or pink spring blooms. Its fruit is known to attract birds and deer.
6. Eastern Redbud
The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a 15- to 30-foot tree with a purplish or maroon trunk and a wide, umbrella-like crown. Its tight, pink flower clusters bloom before its leaves grow, offering a showy spring display.
7. Dense Blazing Star
Blazing star (Liatris spicata) has long spikes of dense, feathery white or purple flowers that bloom from the top down. Birds, bees and butterflies will be frequent visitors to your garden if you plant these beautiful native flowers.
8. Common Boneset
The tiny, white flowers of the boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) are arranged in fuzzy clusters atop three- to six-foot stems. Early herb doctors thought this plant helped set broken bones. Its leaves were wrapped with bandages around splints.
9. New York Ironweed
New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is a tall perennial, growing five to eight feet in height. Its clumps of striking, deep reddish-purple flowers attract butterflies.
10. Cardinal Flower
This perennial grows to be two to four feet tall and has showy, red flowers. Although relatively common, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is scarce in some areas due to over-picking. Because most insects have difficulty navigating the plant’s long, tubular flowers, cardinal flower depends on hummingbirds for pollination.
For more information about native plants in our area, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s special Plants of Chesapeake Bay collection. This database contains hundreds of native plants and a link to a BayScaping guide that will help you use native plants in a Bay-friendly garden.