Northern Natives Blog

Welcome back to our ‘Regional Blog Series!’ We’ve highlighted the top 5 native plants for the South and then those for the West. Well North and Midwest, it is your time to shine!

Adding native plants to a landscape has been a must for a majority of gardeners. Their ability to easily adapt to the climate of an area makes them special. Listed within this blog are the top 5 native plant picks for the North and Midwest regions. You’ll want to add them to your garden!

Not sure where your garden falls in terms of regions? The orange area below is the North and Midwest area that will be the best home for these natives.

Northern Region

Bailey Red Twigged Dogwood

Bailey Red Twigged Dogwood | Cornus sericea 'Baileyi'

You may have seen the infamous red branches meandered throughout the whole North and Midwest region. Wherever there is good moisture that is! The Bailey Red Twigged Dogwood is an excellent selection of this native shrub that has too many visual interests to count.

In the spring, white flowers in clusters will engulf this dogwood and bring pollinating butterflies to your garden. Towards the end of summer you’ll start to notice small blue berries, which will more often than not be eaten up by a few song birds.

However, those features are not the star of the show when it comes to the Bailey Red Twigged Dogwood, as you can guess from the name. After it drops its leaves during fall, this native reveals fire-engine red branches! A fall color that cannot be ignored.

Once the winter frost and snow establishes itself, these red stems will look incredible. Some individuals opt for cutting them for Christmas decor, while others leave them be to make the outside weather feel less dreary.

Whatever it may be, this native dogwood is sure to knock your socks off!

Quick Care Tips:

  • To receive the best color, place it in a full sun area! However, it will still flourish in partial shade as well.
  • This shrub will tolerate a variety of soils, even wet soil. But it likes to have the acidic level between 6.0 and 6.5.

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American Sentry Linden

American Sentry Linden | Tilia americana 'McKSentry'

The American Sentry Linden is a prime selection of this native option for a wonderful shade tree. However, it also has quite a few visual interests to offer too!

Its mid-size allows for it to fit easily in large landscapes while not being too big for a small yard. Wherever established, the pyramidal shape with smooth gray bark will pop!

The clusters of spicy scented flowers in late spring on the American Sentry will begin to attract pollinators. In fact, bees use this native tree to make the incredibly flavored Basswood Honey! Then during the fall, its autumn magic starts to kick in as the leaves take on a brilliant yellow color.

Quick Care Tips:

  • This shade tree loves to be in a rural environment and will even tolerate periods of dry and wet. However, it can be sensitive to areas with high amounts of pollution.
  • Make sure that the area of establishment has good drainage soil. Even though the American Sentry will grow in wet and dry conditions, it thrives in well-drained soils.

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Black Chokeberry

Black Chokeberry | Aronia melanocarpa var.elata

Be the new home to a classic native! It has become the newest “superfruit” that is easy to grow and process. The charming berries grown on the Black Chokeberry can be used for jam, and of course fruit and even for making wine. You’ll want to harvest them before the birds do however!

The spring clusters of flowers are another favorite of this compact native shrub. The 5-petaled blossoms are an ivory white with a hint of pink highlights. Butterflies can’t get enough of them! Style this shrub as definition for the garden or line up several as a hedge.

We enjoy planting them in our butterfly gardens too!

Quick Care Tips:

  • Fruit production will do best when planted in full sun! However, the Black Chokeberry can tolerate partial shade as well.
  • Prune the oldest stems in early spring while leaving the thin, young stems to keep a natural form. This will also help bring back the fruit and flowers.

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Showy Goldenrod

Showy Goldenrod | Solidago speciosa

If you’re looking for a native ornamental grass, the Showy Goldenrod is a great option. It performs well in large low-maintenance gardens and wide open fields. However, the prairie favorite will show off on the corners of pathways, as a garden accent, or even nestled behind benches.

The brightness of the yellow blossoms can make any dull landscape come alive!

The sweet tasting nectar held within the bright yellow flowers are irresistible to butterflies floating nearby too. And the seeds make for a great food source for a variety of birds. You’ll have a pollinator party on your hands in no time!

Quick Care Tips:

  • Since this native is self-seeding, pluck off the wilting buds when possible. It will help create more bright yellow flowers.
  • Place the Showy Goldenrod in an area that receives full sun.

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Red Switch Grass

Red Switch Grass | Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'

The best part of the Red Switch Grass is its ability to grow in just about any area. Dry, moist or even sandy soil will be tolerated by this known native. It doesn’t have a preference for the sun either, whether it be full or partial. You won’t find a plant much hardier than this!

The vertical leaves will start off as a dark green shade, but by the time fall has rolled around, a burgundy red will engulf this grass fully. We wonder where it got its name!

This native is normally used as a border in garden plantings, but it will stand out in mass plantings too. Driveways, ponds and porches are all great choices for planting where it will be appreciated.

Quick Care Tips:

  • This extremely hardy grass will do well in all types of soil. However, if the soil is a little too rich, it may flop a little bit.
  • It can be planted in both full sun or areas that see shade here and there too.
  • Trim the entire plant down to just a few inches each spring as all new foliage and seed heads develop from the roots each year.

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You can’t go wrong with choosing any one of these prime native plants for the North and Midwest. But the best option yet is planting all of them! Create your very own native plant garden that is sure to thrive years upon years.

Come back next week as we wrap up our Regional Series by highlighting the best native plants for the Eastern region.

Happy gardening!