Canadian gardeners are fortunate to have access to a wide variety of native plant species that produce beautiful, long-lasting blooms, and the ability to withstand our unique winter weather. Gardening with native plants is not a new trend, though, the popularity of native plants continues to grow each season. There are many reasons why choosing native species makes sense such as:
a. Native species attract numerous pollinators.
b. They are generally more disease and insect resistant than non-native plants. Native species react better to the unique climate that we experience here with the length of our winter, rapid dips and spikes in temperature and available moisture during the spring and summer.
c. When planted in their native growing zone native plants are reliably winter hardy
My Top 10 Native Garden Plants
I plant and grow dozens of native species on my property. They look great, attract pollinators, don’t become weedy pests, can withstand some neglect, and promote a healthy diversity in my garden. Here are ten native species that I recommend:
1. Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)
Light purple to red flowers [the native] from June to September. Very attractive to honey bees, native bees and hummingbirds and they bloom for up to 6 weeks. Hardy to Zones 3-9. [hardy to Edmonton]
2. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Bright yellow flowers with black button centres from July to October. Perhaps the longest blooming perennial with up to 8 weeks. I recommend Rudbeckia for mid to late season colour. Hardy to Zones 4-10. [Ottawa/Montreal]
3. False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
A great, tall-growing garden performer that provides drama in the perennial garden, complete with deep yellow flowers with variegated leaves. Flowers from June to September; 90cm in height, 60cm in width. Zones 3-9. [Calgary]
4. Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Purple-blue flowers with green foliage. Great cut flower and aggressive pollinator-attractor, blooming up to 6 weeks. Deer and rabbit resistant, very winter hardy, flowers from July to September. Zones 2-9. [Winnipeg]
5. Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
A great woodland plant that thrives in the shade, with drooping white bell flowers in June and July. Hardy to Zones 2-9.
6. Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Produces red-brown flowers in May and July and working well in almost any soil type. A wonderful woodland groundcover. Hardy to Zones 3-9.
7. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
A tall, slow-growing tree that is fairly narrow with green foliage turning yellow in the fall; hardy to Zones 2-9.
8. Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
Finely textured leaves on a relatively short tree with green foliage turning yellow in the fall. Also available in the thorn-less, non-native variety. Hardy to Zones 4-9.
9. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
A globe-shaped tree with a brilliant array of foliage colour [the maple that made fall colours in eastern Canada famous]: green in the spring and summer turning various shades of red and orange into the fall. Zones 3-9.
10. White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Ontario’s official tree. A fast-growing conifer with light green needles. Perfect for sandy soils in Zones 3-9.
Native species do quite well in their native habitat and as such, it is always best to match the plant to its surrounding growing conditions. If the plant needs sun, plant it in the sun; if it needs shade, plant it there. Be sure to look carefully at the information on the plant-hang tag and have an accurate understanding of where each plant will go.
Keep these plant suggestions in mind as you visit the garden centre. Not everything in your garden has to be a native species but in my opinion, the more of them that you plant the better your garden will perform and look. Native seeds, including milkweed seeds, can be purchased at your local Home store in locations across Canada.
For more information on this topic, look for Mark Cullen’s new best seller, The New Canadian Garden in stores now.