When planting your garden, the options for trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers are just about limitless, with an endless variety of plants from all over the world. But have you considered all the benefits of sticking close to home and planting native species in your yard or garden? Today we’ll be taking a closer look at just what makes native plants such a great option, as well as checking out just a few of the Michigan native species that we carry here at Farmer John’s Greenhouse!
One of the most compelling reasons to plant native is that these species are often much more low maintenance, and thus more cost-effective! They often do not require fertilizer and very little pesticide compared to non-native species, they often require less watering, and they prevent soil erosion keeping your space much healthier while saving you time and money! They also attract native pollinators, and some truly beautiful ones like butterflies and hummingbirds, which in turn will keep the whole garden healthy and thriving! Not to mention, native plants can be just as unique and gorgeous as any imported plants!
The first native plant we’ll be talking about that we carry here at Farmer John’s is the Eastern Redbud tree. Eastern Redbuds are probably the most recognizable in early spring for their beautiful small pinkish-purple blossoms. They’re usually some of the first things to bloom in spring, providing a much-needed early pop of color, in March, April, and even into early May. Here in southeastern Michigan, we sit close to, but still within the northernmost extent of their native range.
Our next native plant is the Elderberry. This shrub produces bunches of white flowers, usually by June, and over the course of the summer, the flowers will give way to clusters of elderberries, which are dark in color, usually a dark blue, almost black looking for most varieties. The Elderberry’s native range extends over most of eastern North America, including here in Michigan!
Up next is Swamp Milkweed, this tall flowering plant has narrower leaves than the Common Milkweed, and in late summer to early fall produces clusters of tiny pink flowers. The milky sap from which they get their name makes them resistant to deer and rabbits, but attracts countless butterflies, including the ever-recognizable monarch butterflies! The native range of the Swamp Milkweed includes almost the entire United States and eastern Canada, including Michigan of course!
Bluestar or Amsonia
We also carry and recommend Bluestars, sometimes known as Amsonia. From late spring to early summer this flowering plant produces clusters of pale blue star-shaped blooms, rightfully earning it the name Bluestar! It is also quite well known for its vibrant fall foliage making it a beautiful choice for all seasons. Similar to the Swamp Milkweed, this plant contains a milky sap that tends to discourage grazing from deer and rabbits. This plant is native to the eastern and southeastern regions of the US, once again putting Michigan on the northernmost part of their native range.
Dwarf Blazing Star
Next up on our list is the Dwarf Blazing Star. From the late summer to fall this flowering plant blooms in upright plumes of bright pink or magenta and almost fluffy-looking flowers. The Dwarf Blazing Star is very attractive to bees and other pollinators, and their native range covers most of eastern North America and their populations are concentrated in the Midwest!
Black Eyed Susan
One very well-known native plant is the Black Eyed Susan. This distinctive flower has vibrant golden yellow petals and a contrasting black center, the black eye for which the flower gets its name! They are known for their reliably long blooming period, usually from mid-summer through well into the fall. They are native and widespread as both garden and wildflowers in most of eastern North America!
Our final native plant for today is a grass, called Little Bluestem. It provides tall upright foliage beginning in mid to late spring, with a pastel blue and green color, then transitioning to a more coppery color in the fall. Its beauty, as well as low maintenance and high ecological value, earned it the Perennial Plant Association’s title of 2022 Perennial Plant of the Year! The native range of Little Bluestem covers most of the continental US and Canada.