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10 Beginner-Friendly Native Plants to Beautify Your GARDEN WHILE buildING habitat

Happy New Year from Blue Stem Natives! May your 2024 be full of joy, good health, and native plants. The middle of winter has us thinking about what else...plants. Many of our wonderful customers are either brand new gardeners or newer to using plants indigenous to New England. This post is for you! If you are already reading this, we assume you already know "why native", if not you can read more about that here.


How did we select these ten plants for our great-natives-for-beginners list? We know from personal experience that they are generally easy to grow, support wildlife, and are lovely to boot. But we've also gone a little "scientific" in making this list and looked at their "Coefficient of Conservatism"(CoC) rating. Wait! Don't stop reading! This is just a scientific rating of how tolerant each species is to disturbance and how fussy they are for a specific habitat. If we want to be fancy we can call that fussiness "habitat fidelity". Wait! Really...don't stop reading! Think of a lady slipper (Cypripedium spp.) as being a poster child for fussiness...or having high habitat fidelity and therefore have a CoC value of 10. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) on the other hand is not particular, has low habitat fidelity and thus has a rating of 1.


We've selected plants in the range of 2-4 on the Coefficient of Conservatism scale, which are generally tolerant of disturbance and have lower "habitat fidelity". So you won't be surprised that there are no lady slippers on this list!


Enough of that, let's get to that list:



There is so much to love about purple lovegrass. It is a tough little plant, drought hardy, and brings subtle waves of color and texture to the landscape. You'll see a sea of this along Route 3!


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun

  • Water needs: dry to average soil

  • Height: 2'

  • Bloom time: July, August

  • Good plant companions: asters, Pennsylvania sedge, spotted bee balm, little bluestem, goldenrod

  • salt tolerant.

  • deer resistant

  • Can handle roadside conditions.

  • Host plant for the at-risk Leonard's skipper butterfly





This ground-hugging perennial spreads via runners, be sure to give it plenty of room and it will fill in an area with lush dark green foliage, sweet tiny white flowers in the Spring, and even sweeter tiny berries. Great as a lawn replacement!


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade, shade

  • Water needs: Average, moist to dry soil

  • Height: 6"

  • Bloom time: April, May

  • Edible: These are smaller and tastier than domesticated strawberries but don't last long after picked. 

  • salt tolerant.

  • Great fall leaf color.

  • Can handle roadside conditions.

  • Nectar source for the at-risk Early Hairstreak




Black-eyed Susan is a native garden ornamental that is easily recognizable. You can’t help but smile when you see a batch of the bright yellow daisy-like flowers with the beautiful brown centers bobbing in the breeze. Bonus: you'll have goldfinch visit you in the winter to snack on the seeds.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: dry, average, moist

  • Height: 2'

  • Bloom time: June, July, August, September, October

  • Good plant companions: purple coneflower, New England aster, butterflyweed, bee balm

  • salt tolerant

  • deer resistant

  • Can handle roadside conditions.




Also known as Partridge Pea or Sensitive Plant, Chamaecrista fasciculata is fast growing, self-seeding annual that works to fill in large areas of an open garden, allowing other perennials time to establish, all while providing protection from weeds, fixing nitrogen in the soil, and providing excellent nutrients for pollinators and songbirds alike.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: Moist, average, or dry soil

  • Height: 2'

  • Bloom time: June, July, August

  • Can grow in a container






From a visual standpoint, this tall perennial has a sturdy structure with interesting green foliage, white hairs along the stem, and flat clusters of tiny white flowers congregating high atop the stem. This is a favorite plant for many insects.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: average, moist, to wet

  • Height: 4'

  • Bloom time: July, August, September

  • Good plant companions: New England aster, cardinal flower, bee balm, eastern star sedge, switchgrass

  • salt tolerant and deer resistant

  • Can be aggressive in the right setting.

  • Nectar source for the at-risk yellow-banded bumblebee




This one is a Blue Stem favorite.  A moderately tall growing perennial, bee balm has the most delicious scent, and provides both lovely color and texture. This plant needs good spacing and drier soil as it can be prone to powdery mildew, (more of a visual issue than a problem).


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: dry, average

  • Height: 4'

  • Bloom time: July, August, September

  • Good plant companions: black-eyed Susan, N.E. aster, butterflyweed

  • Deer resistant

  • Nectar source for at-risk: golden northern bumblebee, the yellow-banded bumblebee, and the half-black bumblebee.

  • Plant this for hummingbirds



This delightful perennial has panicles of white/pink flowers atop reddish stems. After the bloom, seed pods appear and turn a reddish-brown color. The dried brown pods provide wonderful winter interest and food source for birds. This species is unrelated to the European foxglove.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: dry, average

  • Height: 4'

  • Bloom time: June, July

  • Good plant companions: N.J. tea, bee balm, Indian grass

  • Deer resistant and salt tolerant

  • Can handle roadside conditions

  • Note: can be pushy

  • Nectar source for the at risk: golden northern bumble bee, the yellow-banded bumblebee, and the half-black bumblebee.

  • Plant this for hummingbirds



This native rose conjures thoughts of a long country road, with weathered split rail fences covered in thickets of dark green foliage and simple pink blossoms. This is a wonderful smelling rose bush to replace the non-native rosa rugosa.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: dry, average, moist

  • Height: 2'

  • Bloom time: June, July, August

  • Good plant companions: liatris, butterflyweed, Black-eyed Susan, New England aster, wood lily, bluets, bee balm

  • Salt tolerant

  • Edible portions: rose hips in the fall. The fruit can be made into syrup and jams.

  • Great fall leaf color

  • Can handle roadside conditions

  • Pollen source for the at risk: golden northern bumble bee, yellow-banded bumblebee, and half-black bumblebee.




Don’t let the alternative common name of rose milkweed, "swamp milkweed", deter you from adding this delight to your garden. Renamed recently because it does NOT have high habitat fidelity and doesn't need to grow in a swamp. Asclepias incarnata produces gorgeous purple-pink flower heads, and the scent…reminiscent of vanilla.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: Moist, average, or wet soil

  • Height: 4'

  • Bloom time: June, July, August

  • Good plant companions: Cardinal flower, New England aster

  • Deer resistant

  • Supports at-risk insects: Nectar source for Dion Skipper, Host plant for Monarch butterfly, Nectar source for yellow-banded bumblebee, half-black bumblebee

  • Can handle roadside conditions.

  • Plant this for hummingbirds.


Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium


Can handle a wide range of soils and water conditions. Ideally suited for dry, nutrient-deficient soils, little bluestem can handle sandy, loamy, clay, and everything in-between. It doesn’t love tons of water, but can handle the occasional deluge, so it can be a surprisingly good addition to a rain garden! We love this plant so much we named our business after it.


Details

  • Sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade

  • Water needs: Average to dry

  • Height: 3'

  • Bloom time: July, August, September, October

  • Good plant companions: Asters, liatris, purple lovegrass

  • deer resistant

  • Can handle roadside conditions.

  • Supports at-risk insects: Host plant for Indian skipper and Cobweb skipper



Happy planning!

See you in the spring!



 















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