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Landscaping with native plants is beneficial to your local environment as well as your wallet. Since these plants have evolved to grow naturally in your area, they are able to withstand weather and thrive in your soil. If you’re doing a complete landscaping refresh, it’s important to be aware of the best plants to grow in Michigan.
Why should you choose native plants to grow in Michigan over non-native?
Plants that are native to Michigan thrive in their natural habitat. They are highly adaptable to local weather conditions and retain water longer.
Choosing native plants to grow in Michigan will help restore natural habitats for animals and insects. Equally important, they provide a natural food source for a number of wildlife with their fruit, nectar, nuts, pollen and seeds.
Growing native plants is preserving biodiversity.
Above all, native plants are rarely invasive and co-exist well with other plants in your lawn and garden.
Native Flowers to Grow in Michigan
Yarrow is commonly found in grasslands and open forests. It’s a white plant composed of tightly-packed flowers. This plant requires full sun and blooms in the spring. Yarrow spreads by self-sowing and underground stems. It’s easy to control by snipping spent flowers.
Finally, yarrow is found at local plant nurseries for under $10 for a 1 gallon pot.
2. Giant Hyssop
Giant hyssop is a part of the mint family and when the leaves are crushed, they leave a minty aroma. This plant grows best in full sun to light shade, and can grow up to 6 feet tall. Giant hyssop blooms in the summer and should be planted in mid-May after residual frost has melted. Additionally, this flower is perfect for attracting bees and butterflies to your garden.
Giant hyssop can be found for a little over $12 a pot at your local nursery.
3. Smooth Aster
Smooth aster is one of many varieties of aster native to Michigan. Other types include smooth swamp aster, New England aster, and sky blue aster. This flower prefers full sun and blooms in the fall.
Further, aster of all varieties are hardy plants that resist frost and continue to bloom into November. Smooth aster will grow year after year if not overcrowded by aggressive plants.
Smooth aster is a relatively inexpensive flower found for less than $10 for 1-4 plants.
4. Woodland Sunflower
Woodland sunflowers are some of the most popular plants to grow in Michigan. They are typically yellow and bloom from mid-summer through fall. This flower is tolerant of most soil conditions but prefers dry soil. The woodland sunflower is perfect for your flower beds because it spreads and forms colonies. Besides being a bright, pretty flower; they are low maintenance.
All in all, woodland sunflowers can be found as seeds or grown plants between $5-10.
5. Cardinal Flower
Cardinal flowers grow tall dark green stems with bright blooming flowers. This flower blooms from July into early fall and attracts hummingbirds because it is full of nectar. Undoubtedly, cardinal flowers are bright red and make a statement piece for your garden.
Cardinal flowers are easy to grow in areas with moist soil or with plenty of watering. Although the flower is short-lived, cardinal flowers reseed themselves and will come back each year.
Cardinal flower can be found at your local nursery for under $10 for about 10 buds.
Native Trees and Shrubs to Grow in Michigan
If you’re looking for shrubs to add to your landscaping, these are some of the best native shrubs and plants to grow in Michigan. Planting native shrubs will decrease fertilizer, pesticide, and water costs. Native shrubs are resistant to local weather, control erosion, and preserve biodiversity.
1. Dogwood Shrub
Dogwoods have brightly colored stems and are small in size. This shrub comes in a few different varieties including silky, red-osier, gray, and yellow twig. Dogwoods are also natural understory trees, meaning they grow well under larger trees and their roots grow overtop larger roots.
They can have up to a 30-year life span in the right conditions. These shrubs grow best in moist soil.
Once established, they should be trimmed in late fall after the leaves have dropped. The stems will need to be cut down to about 6 inches above the ground, just above where the plants begins to branch out at the base.
Lastly, depending on the color of Dogwood desired, they can be found ranging from $30-$45.
Ninebark is an exceptionally tough shrub. It’s perfect for Michigan because of its resilience to cold climates. Ninebark flowers in early summer sprouting white or pinkish blooms that last into fall. These shrubs are heavily branched and excellent for year-round growth.
Ninebark should be planted from spring to early fall in a well-drained area with fertile soil. This shrub will grow best when watered occasionally and planted in a spot with part to full sunlight.
This native shrub can be found for $30 each.
3. Common Elderberry
Common elderberry grows best when planted in early spring after the final frost. It thrives in various growing conditions including wet soil, rocky terrain, and bright sun or shade; making it one of the easiest plants to grow in Michigan.
Common elderberry produces purple or black drupes that serve as food for wildlife. It’s best to plant in an area where you don’t mind berry droppings. Once this shrub is established, the berries are edible and can be harvested for jam or pie. Though the berries are pretty sour, this can be remedied by using lots of sugar.
Elderberry can be found for just under $30 for a 2-3 foot tall plant.
4. Michigan Holly
Michigan holly can withstand cold winters and dry summers. Its white flowers bloom in early summer with glossy, dark green leaves. In late summer, red berries emerge and continue to grow throughout winter. Next, when choosing this shrub, it’s important to have at least one male close to a female, otherwise, pollination will not occur. When holly is not pollinated, the red berries will not grow. Holly is toxic to dogs so it’s important to plant in an area where your pets won’t wander.
Lastly, you can find a variety of holly ranging from $30 a shrub to almost $90
Buttonbush thrives in your garden any time of the year. It will tolerate a variety of soil conditions, from wet to dry. Its foliage is fragrant and grows in shades of red and green, but changes to dark green in the summer and yellow-green in autumn. Buttonbush often outgrows small spaces, therefore it’s important to plant where there is plenty of room to grow. You can limit its height by cutting the shrub every 2-3 years.
Buttonbush will attract small butterflies to your garden and other pollinators. Furthermore, the shrub is virtually pest free and won’t attract deer to your property.
A single buttonbush will run you $30 but is worth it considering how well this plant attracts butterflies.
The Impact of Non-Native Plants on the Environment
Non-native species spread quickly and disrupt the natural ecosystem. They can dominate your garden and control the growth of other plants. Non-native plants disrupt soil causing erosion, and habitat loss.
Invasive plants spread quickly preventing native plants from growing strong.
Areas largely dominated by invasive plants are more likely to erode during floods because invasive plants have short roots that do not bind to the soil, unlike native plant roots which extend deep.
Insects are essential to our ecosystem. With non-native plants, insects face threats of habitat destruction and loss of food sources. Given the decrease in native plants, insects diets are restricted. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds all feed or pollinate on native flowers from their habitat.
Choosing which flowers or shrubs is hard enough without choosing between native and non-native plants, but with a little extra searching you can find plants that are beneficial to your lawn, garden, soil, and the environment. Finally, native flowers and shrubs will enrich your soil, protect it from erosion after rain, and invite pollinators back into your garden. If you’re torn between which are the best plants to grow in Michigan, use this guide to help! We’ve also put together a list of the best gardens in the world to inspire you!