We Heart Native Plants

There are many reasons you should include native plants into your landscape plans. For one, most native plants require little maintenance because they have evolved to thrive in our local habitats and growing conditions.

That means after the first year of making sure they are well watered and have put out roots, very little watering and care is needed. Perhaps the most compelling reason is that not only do native plants look good, they also do good for wildlife.

Five Native Plants To Consider

So what native plants should you consider if you live in Massachusetts? Here are five of our spring and summer perennial favorites that will come back year after year.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Similar to its cousin, the dusty pink-flowered common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), butterfly weed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars. A host plant is a specific plant that a species of caterpillar will eat.  Butterfly weed requires full sun and can grow as tall as one to two feet, with orange or yellow flowers that bloom in summer.

Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
Don’t let the “weed” in joe-pye weed fool you. The term in this case refers to the fact that it’s commonly found, not that it’s unwanted.  The dusty pink late-blooming flower attracts pollinators and clouds of butterflies in the late summer. The Gateway variety will grow to six or seven feet tall, where as Little Joe reaches only three to four feet.

Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Attracting small bees and butterflies, this little bottle-brush of a white flower is held above a nicely toothed leaf. There are many new varieties of foam flower that have interesting red markings on the leaves. It can spread and become a beautiful spring flowering ground cover.

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
The native columbine has an orange-red flower with a yellow center and is attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds. After blooming, the delicate blue-green foliage continues to look beautiful all summer long. And while there are many attractive species of columbines, the only one native to Massachusetts is the Aquilegia canadensis.

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum penduatum)
This native is one of the most delicate-looking ferns. Its thin black stems and bright green foliage add a light frothy texture to a shady garden.

Many local nurseries sell native plants. Before you purchase one, make sure they were cultivated from seed. We like the wild plants to stay wild!

Do you have a favorite native plant? If so, share in the comments!

15 thoughts on “We Heart Native Plants

  1. bill contois

    Don’t forget the beautiful Jack In The Pulpit,I have many in the 3 foot tall range and hundreds of Mayapples,not colorful but interesting to have in your garden.Lambs’Ears are also very colorful and will grow anywhere.

    Reply
  2. Darwin Stapleton

    Wild violets are great border plants, both the deep blue and white/blue ones. They are early spring bloomers, then have green leaves to the first hard frost.

    Reply
  3. Gretchen Robinson

    blue eyed grass, which grows in my yard
    I just make sure not to cut it down with lawnmower

    Reply
  4. Emily Curewitz

    you left out the tulip tree (AKA yellow poplar), our only native magnolia
    how could you miss that

    Reply
  5. SueD

    I agree with Ray Theberge, pictures would have been very nice. I was surprised and disappointed that there were none. Guess I need to search the web for them.

    Reply
  6. Suzanne

    Patrick B –
    Shrubs : winterberry holly, spicebush, blueberry, highbush cranberry, bayberry, mulberry, elderberry
    Small Trees : Witch Hazel, Flowering Dogwood, Ironwood
    Regular Size Trees: Black Cherry ( great for bird and butterflies) Hackberry ( larval host for several butterflies), River Birch, Paw Paw, Tulip Tree ( host for several kinds of butterflies)
    For more info visit http://www.projectnative.org

    Reply
  7. Russ Cohen

    Thanks for this posting encouraging folks to plant native species.

    FYI, in case you don’t already know, this worthy objective is the core mission of an organization called “Grow Native Massachusetts” (http://grownativemass.org/)

    While some folks will be motivated to “go native” in their landscaping just on the pure “boosting biodiversity” argument, others might need some additional persuading.

    Perhaps finding out that many native plant species are edible (and tasty) will provide the additional motivating factor.

    Here’s a link to a good blog posting on that topic:
    http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/grow-your-own-edible-native-plants-for-new-england

    Last but not least – here is a link to info I prepared on edible plant species native to this region:
    http://www.ecolandscaping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Edible-Native-Plants-of-Mass.-Northeast-U.S.-and-E.-Canada-March-18-2013.pdf – perhaps it will be of some use to you in selecting which native plants you’d like to add to your landscape.

    Reply
  8. Suzanne

    False Blue Indigo is gorgeous, so is Gaillardia.
    And what about Wild Bleeding Heart?
    My daughter planted a Native Plants garden in our town – and you can check it out ( with photos of all the native plants listed here at : http://nativeplantgarden.shutterfly.com/
    The best part of native’s is that after they are established, they rarely require special care or even extra watering.

    Reply
  9. Kristine Atkinson

    How could you miss Solomon’s Seal! So graceful with its curving frond and suspended flowers, and the beauty lasts and lasts as the flowers turn into navy blue berries. The berries are easily planted about an inch deep in fall. It’s perfect for those of us managing shady woodlots. False Solomon’s Seal is also attractive.

    Reply
  10. Patrick B.

    Thanks for this post. These are very applicable to NJ too. I just bought a new home and have a spot set aside for a butterfly garden for next spring. I would enjoy a post your favorite native shrubs or small trees that are attractive to butterflies and birds too.

    Reply
  11. Ray Theberge

    Good topic, but it really would have helped the articles if there were photos next to each of the five plant descriptions.

    Reply

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