There is nothing quite like having a garden planted in native plants. The spring itch may have gotten you in the mood for scratching in the flower garden. If you have not already started landscaping, there is still time to complete some projects on your list.
Before you put one plant in the ground though, you may want to consider plants that come from the local region.
Since native plants have grown in these parts for a long time, they are used to this climate and sudden changes in the weather. Some people plant a native as long as it is a variety that is found in Missouri, while others will only plant natives that have a Missouri genotype. This means the seeds actually came from Missouri. You could purchase a purple coneflower or coreopsis from a garden catalog. Both of these plants are native to Missouri, but if they’re coming from Minnesota it defeats the purpose.
A Missouri genotype was born and raised in these parts and can stand up to our cold winters and survive our hot summers. Let’s face it: Missouri is known to have pretty strange weather. The temperature can rise or fall 20 degrees in 30 minutes. You need sturdy plants to be able to tolerate these extreme weather conditions.
One of the best reasons to use natives is that they are very low maintenance. They grow in poor soils and actually don’t do as well in soils that have been fertilized. They also require less water, saving you dollars. Native plants also attract wonderful wildlife. Since they are grown in the area, they don’t require long-distance transportation thus saving on your carbon footprint.
Your landscaping plan can include plants to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and an array of songbirds. To attract butterflies or hummingbirds, try planting butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa (different than butterfly bush, which is not native). Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, garden or summer phlox, Phlox paniculata, and buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, are just a few choices to beautify your yard.
Wild plum trees and blackberries will not only sweeten your summer palette but also attract several songbirds to feast on these berries. The berries of the elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, are eaten by more than 45 bird species and can be used to make pies, wines and jellies.
So, if you’d like to cut your water bill down in size, spend less time weeding and manicuring your landscape, and if you’d like to relax in the shade and watch all of the colorful butterflies and songbirds visiting your yard, then check out some native plant websites and books. Then go ahead, exercise your green thumb and scratch that spring itch with some natives!
• Grow Native – www.grownative.org
• The Missouri Wildflowers Nursery – www.mowildflowers.net
• Heartland Nursery – www.heartlandnursery.com
• Family Tree Nursery – www.familytreenursery.com
• Rozell’s For-Evergreen Gardens – 816-697-8800
• Soil Service Nursery 816-333-3232
Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.