NPN April 2021

Want to go Native?

Are you ready to plant some native plants, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some beautiful native plant alternatives to common nursery plants. Instead of:

  • Forsythia — try Spicebush (lindera benzoin) instead! This beautiful shrub has yellow blooms in early spring before leafing out. The leaves and stems are very fragrant when crushed (hence the common name), its seeds are a favorite for songbirds, it is a host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterflies, and the leaves turn an eye-catching yellow in fall. Forsythia is beautiful, but the native spicebush sure has a lot to offer!
  • Burning Bush — give Virginia Sweetspire (itea virginica) a try! In addition to lovely red fall foliage, Virginia sweetspire also has beautiful blooms that our pollinators love. And no ecosystem will be harmed if a bird carries Virginia sweetspire seeds from your yard into a nearby woods! Another great alternative is the native Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus).
  • Butterfly Bush— plant Buttonbush (cephalanthus occidentalis) and you’ll attract so many thankful pollinators and hummingbirds! It has some of the most interesting flowers you’ll see, and unlike the exotic butterfly bush, this one is a host plant for several species of beautiful native moths who are important behind-the-scenes pollinators. 
  • Ornamental (Bradford) Pear tree — try a variety of Serviceberry/Shadbush (amelanchier). A small landscape tree, serviceberry provides beautiful spring blooms, berries for the birds (and humans!) and fall color.

If you’re not ready to make the leap into a new shrub or tree but want something different from some common nursery plants, give these natives a try! Instead of:

…Hosta — try Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
…Miscanthus — use Little Blue Stem (schizachyrium scoparium) or Indiangrass (sorghastrum nutans)
…Daylily — plant Blanket Flower (gaillardia). Like daylilies, these are easy to grow and tolerate many soil conditions.
…Shasta daisies — choose Coneflower (echinacea)Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia) or Tickseed (coreopsis).

Happy planting to you!