No matter where you live, native plants are the backbone of the ecosystem. They have adapted to the climate and soil conditions of the area, allowing them to thrive with minimal care. That’s what makes native plants so appealing for many gardeners—you get to have an immaculate garden without spending too much time and effort. And let’s be real—many of us just don’t have the time to deal with high-maintenance garden plants.
Not only are native plants easy additions to your garden, but they also encompass such a large range of plants—from flowers to shrubs to trees—so the size of your landscape (or lack thereof) really doesn’t matter! Whether you’re looking to fill a few pots on the patio or completely redesign your landscape, here are some fantastic native plants for every yard in Virginia, Maryland, and the rest of the mid-Atlantic:
Native Plants for Pots or Flower Beds
In Mother Nature’s house, wildflowers truly are her natural decor. Their vibrant petals and sweet fragrances are like colorful accents and potpourri in your favorite living space. Not only are they perfect for planting in masses and decorating your yard, but their confined beauty is small enough for container gardening, too! Those of us without big backyards can still enjoy the ease and beauty of native plants on our patios and doorsteps with these container-friendly wildflowers that grow wild in Virginia:
- Coneflowers: Known for their large centers and down-ward facing petals, Echinacea are popular for far more than their unique shape. They’re incredibly heat and drought resistant, they’re available in a wide range of colors, and they bloom for months on end, sometimes right into mid-fall.
- Cardinal flower: The bright, cardinal red color of these majestic, spikes of flowers isn’t just one of our favorites—hummingbirds can’t get enough of them either! Though they double as perfect plants for wet soils, they’re also quite content in containers, given enough water.
- Black-Eyed Susan: It’s hard to talk about wildflowers without mentioning the classic Black-Eyed Susan. Rudbeckia will brighten your patio each summer with their golden-yellow, daisy-like petals, while also harmonizing with the autumn color scheme as the seasons change.
- Phlox: Bearing delightful clusters of white, blue, pink, or red flowers, phlox can steal the show. Short, creeping phlox form carpets and waterfalls of sold color early in spring. In summer the taller garden phlox is topped with showy plumes advertising another favorite treat for hummingbirds and butterflies. With so many color options there’s plenty to choose from to match any pallet.
Native Plants for Landscaping
Chances are unless you live in an apartment building, you should have something to work with landscape-wise. Even if you have a townhouse and the square footage isn’t generous, there are still plenty of native plants available to beautify the space, without taking up too much of it. These shrubs and small trees are perfect choices to avoid overcrowding in smaller landscapes, or for leaving enough room for the patio, the pool, or the kid’s playset!
- Clethra: Standing at a modest 5-8’ tall, this upright flowering shrub produces masses of small, white racemes in late summer, filling your garden with their pleasantly sweet fragrance. After the flowers fade, we get to enjoy their golden yellow fall foliage.
- Winterberry: While this shrub’s flowers might not be considered showy, its bright red berries that appear in fall and remain intact through winter (as long as the birds don’t eat them all), sure are! Just remember that berries only set on female plants, and they do need a male pollinator close by.
- Fringetree: Aptly named for its white, wispy, fringe-like flowers, this incredibly elegant tree looks like it took some fashion inspiration from the flapper girls of the 1920’s! Growing from 12-20’ tall, this native species can accent your garden as either a large shrub or a small tree.
- Inkberry: Don’t worry about the name of this handsome evergreen shrub, its berries are barely noticeable and won’t cause stains. Instead these soft and round boxwood-alternatives are one of the most clean and tidy plants around.
These plants are just a few of the fabulous native options we can grow in our region. For even more ideas, read our article on bird-friendly native plants with edible berries!
Native Trees for Landscaping
If you’re one of the lucky ones with a spacious landscape to work with, you have nearly endless options when it comes to plant choice. Not only can you play with a variety of wildflowers and shrubby plants in Virginia, but you can easily include larger tree species without crowding your outdoor space. They’re great for providing shade in the summer, and many remain interesting throughout the fall and winter, too.
- Flowering Dogwood: It’s hard to choose what we love most about flowering dogwoods—their brilliant, white, spring bracts, their clusters of bright, red fall berries, or their long-lasting, red to purple, fall foliage!
- Eastern Redbud: With small, rosy pink flowers enveloping this tree’s branches as well as the trunks each spring before the leaves come out, redbuds are pretty hard to miss. While green leaves are the most common, trees with purple and other colored-leaves can add a dramatic flair to a patio or yard that lasts all summer. Standing at 20-30’ tall, this tree is the perfect size to make a statement without taking up too much space in the average-sized yard.
- Black Gum Tree: Standing at 40-60’ tall, save this big guy for larger landscapes that won’t be overwhelmed by its gentle-giant presence. If you’ve got the space, you’re in for a stunning autumn show featuring a range of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples. This native tree is a perfect low-mess alternative to oaks and sweet-gums, and they often out-perform other popular choices like maples.
Sometimes we like the thrill of an exotic species and, let’s be honest, the satisfaction of watching foreign plants flourish is pretty undeniable. However, as much as we like to encourage adventurous gardening, native plants can be an easy and ecologically friendly backbone of your garden. Not only do they provide food and shelter for wildlife and help offset the loss of their habitat, but they simply make gardening easy (and hey, we won’t judge if it’s that last point that convinces you the most)! If you’re looking to fit some lovely, local species into your landscape, stop by one of our Greenstreet Gardens locations and we’ll be delighted to help you pick some out!