Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Great plant recommendations

I have a huge pile of plant recommendations today.  (Do links come in piles?  Since these are all open in consecutive tabs in my browser, maybe it's more of a train.  Anyway...)  All these are Virginia natives except where noted.  Some are unusual and interesting looking.  Other than the partridge pea, they're all perennials, which can be handy for low maintenance landscaping.

  • Rattlesnake master - Despite having leaves like a yucca, rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is actually in the carrot family.  It has spherical flowers that turn into long lasting seed heads, so it provides visual interest for months.  I've found this at plant sales a couple times.  It will show up in the faux desert garden that I'm putting together.
  • Mountain mint - I knew mountain mints (genus Pycanthemum) were good plants, but here you can read about how attractive they are to pollinators.  To humans, they smell nice and minty, and they have long lasting silvery bracts--a color reminiscent of sage or lavender leaves.  Since half the plants I tried in the rose bed have died, I'm going to try mountain mint there as a ground cover.  They're supposed to spread readily (some say too readily).  I don't really believe the lore about strongly scented herbs repelling pests from roses, but we'll give it a try anyway.
  • Partridge pea - I don't know if anyone deliberately plants partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculate, also called sensitive plant), but it's a fun native weed.  This is another plant that turns out to be more attractive to pollinators than I realized.  It grows well in abominable clay soil, such as the unamended soil in my yard.  If you run across it, try petting the leaves and watch them close up.
  • Rose mallow - This is our native hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos.  It has huge, showy flowers.  I've successfully grown it in a rain garden and in a standard flower bed that was well mulched to keep it moist.  In ideal conditions it can grow so tall that it falls over, so it might benefit from being staked or grown next to a fence.
  • St. John's wort - There are many species of St. John's wort (Hypericum genus), with over a dozen of them occurring in Virginia.  They have vivid yellow flowers.  The species discussed here, shrubby St. John's wort, is a small bush that grows well in rain gardens but can handle other conditions.  While we're talking about this genus, I'll mention St. Andrew's cross (Hypericum hypericoides), another nice weed that grows well in my abominable clay soil.
  • Finally, this post on Clay and Limestone lists several wildflowers that spread readily.  It's a Tennessee blog, but all except the Helianthus are also Virginia natives.  The Verbesina is biennial, but I think the others are perennial.


  1. Hi Leah, it's fun to see what plants are native in other places as well as ours. Now, I'm not remembering if rattlesnake master is native here in SE Nebraska, but it is one of the plants I like to grow. I also grow several kinds of mountain mints. I'm not sure about the others in your list. I think St. John's wort is, but I don't have any here.

    Thanks for visiting my recent blog post. I wonder why perennial geraniums don't do well where you are. I have mine in the curb area, where they have to be pretty tough to stay alive. They are all cultivars, but this spring, I found a native kind, and planted it in partial shade, where the tag said it should go. I think it went dormant this summer. I hope that's the case, and it didn't die.

  2. I think my geraniums were all cultivars--maybe all cranesbills? I'm not sure what their main problem was. It could be some combination of poor clay soil, direct morning sun in the hot Virginia summers, too little water (or too much water when my husband had the automatic sprinkler on a really frequent schedule), and low quality plants from the cheapest online seller. Looking at your geranium pictures, I'm feeling a bit inspired to try again next year. Maybe it's not quite a lost cause yet.