Meet the Plants

Here are some highlights about the plants  you'll find on May 18th courtesy of the Native Plant sale Project Manager/Master Gardener!

For details on the plant sale and a downloadable list, click  here.

Keep in mind that not all plants on the list may be available the day of the sale.  Some plants are difficult to grow and may not have done well enough to include in our order.

Red Baneberry, Actea Rubra

A bushy plant with large, highly divided leaves and a short, thick, rounded cluster of small white flowers in leaf axils or at stem ends. The branched, 1-3 ft. stems of this perennial bear two or three large compound leaves, each thrice divided. Leaflets are deeply saw-toothed. Above the foliage are dense, globular clusters of small white flowers. The fruit is an attractive, but poisonous, red berry. 

Columbine, Aquiligia canadensis

The intricate red and yellow bell-like flowers of Wild Columbine attract a variety of pollinators. The deep nectaries are perfectly shaped for hummingbirds and long-tongued insects.

Easily grown in average well-drained soil in full sun to shade, Columbine tolerates a wide range of soils, as long as drainage is good. Soil that is too rich encourages weaker stems and possibly shorter lifespans, while thin, sandy soils will produce a tight, compact plant that can live for many years. In optimum growing conditions it will self-seed freely. It's easy to collect the seeds from the plant and replant them in the location of your choice.

Columbine is popular in shade gardens, rock gardens, cottage gardens or naturalized areas. The light, airy texture of the stems and flowers combines well with a variety of early bloomers such as Wild Geranium, Foamflower, and Wild Ginger.

Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense

Best known for its use as an attractive, low-growing ground cover in a shaded, or dappled light setting, Wild Ginger is also deer-resistant. Simply having a shade site is not enough; consider this plant only if you have a moist, yet well-drained site, typical of a rich, humus woodland. Soils that do not drain well or have a heavy clay component are not ideal and the Ginger will likely not thrive.

It will max out at about  6" in height and the large heart-shaped leaves can be 6" in diameter. The leaves are shiny when fully opened and the stems are hairy.  Unlike many early spring woodland plants,  Wild Ginger will keep its foliage throughout the season; it will not go dormant so it is a good species to plant among the spring ephemerals that do go dormant.  An attractive dark red flower will appear under the plant early spring but will fade fairly quickly.

Poke Milkweed, Asclepius exaltata

Unique among milkweeds, Poke Milkweed grows in the shade. Aromatic in bloom, the spreading umbels with white to pink flowers weep downward on individual stems, reminiscent of fireworks. The elegant flowers give way to beautiful elongated seed pods. Native to the woodlands of the Midwest and Eastern U.S., Poke Milkweed is taller than its prairie and savanna cousins, reaching five feet or more, and the leaves can be quite large as well. Moderate moisture with good organic content in partial shade is optimal. Once established, the deep taproot will make it very difficult to transplant successfully, so it's best planted where it will be happy, and left undisturbed. Poke Milkweed is rare in parts of it's range and has been known to hybridize with Common Milkweed when the plants occur in close proximity.

Host plant for the Monarch butterfly.

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepius incarnata

Red Milkweed, also called Swamp Milkweed, is an exceptional plant for pollinators. Hawk moths, Swallowtails, Fritillaries, Monarchs, skippers, bumble bees and numerous other nectar seekers will visit - even an occasional hummingbird. Easily grown in moist to wet soils in full sun, this milkweed will thrive in average garden soil, as well. The 3-5 foot plant forms a stately clump with upright stems, long narrow leaves and clusters of fragrant pink flowers - followed by attractive seed pods for late season interest. The pods split open when ripe releasing their silky-haired seeds to the wind. A beautiful addition to a sunny border garden, water feature, or butterfly garden, Red Milkweed is also excellent for naturalizing low, moist areas in the landscape such as ponds or drainage areas.

Red Milkweed is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly, Queen butterfly, Dogbane Tiger moth, and the Milkweed Tussock moth. All plants in the Asclepias genus, otherwise known as milkweeds, are host plants for the Monarch butterfly.

Butterfly Weed, Asclepius tuberosa

Long-lasting, bright orange flowers and a low mounded profile make Butterfly Weed one of the most popular milkweeds. True to its name, Butterfly Weed attracts legions of butterflies and is an important host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies. Unusual among milkweeds, its leaves are alternate and it lacks the typical milky sap.

In an ideal location, a mature Butterflyweed can become a very showy specimen, with multiple flowering stems spreading across a two foot high plant. Mature plants have a deep tap root that extends down a foot or more. They can be transplanted if dug carefully, during dormancy. This rugged species thrives in sunny locations, in dry sandy soil or well-drained loam.

Other common names include Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Milkweed and Orange Milkweed.

Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia

Harebell blooms in early summer and often continues to bloom through August. Blue-violet bell-shaped flowers nod on slender, wispy stems up to 12 inches high. While delicate in appearance, Harebell is a tough little plant. Extremely drought tolerant, it loves dry sandy and gravelly soils.  The common name of harebell comes from folk tales that it either grew in places frequented by hares or that witches used juices from the flowers to transform themselves into hares. The Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest called them "blue rain flowers" and it was thought that picking them would cause it to rain.   It prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade.  A native to Iosco County, Harebell is both pest/disease resistant and deer resistant.  The plants are easily out-competed by more aggressive plants so you may have to thin out more competitive plants.

Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea

Purple Coneflower is an easily grown plant- with showy daisy like flowers with spiny center cones.  They grow best in average, dry to medium soil in full sun to part shade.  They rebloom without deadheading and reseed if seed-heads are left in place.  Echinacea are a favorite nectar source of pollinators including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.   The large seed heads, if left, attract Goldfinches.  They have a deep taproot and once established they are long lived, highly adaptable, and low maintenance.

Native Americans valued Echinacea for its medicinal value.  Echinacea are still recognized for numerous health benefits and widely used in supplements and herbal teas.

Wild Geranium (Cranesbill), Geranium maculatum 

Wild Geranium is a stunning shade loving plant with bright lavender flowers and attractive dark green foliage.  It prefers shade but will grow in full sun.  It is a long lived plant that spreads forming stunning clumps that work well as a groundcover.  It is low maintenance and not invasive.  Bees and butterflies find it irresistible.  After blooming, distinctive fruit capsules resembling a cranes head form.  As the bill dries, it catapults the seeds away from the parent plant driving the seed into the soil where it can germinate.  The plants were used by Native Americans to treat diarrhea and open sores or wounds.  Wild Geranium is native to Michigan including Iosco and surrounding counties.

Prairie Smoke, Geum triflorum

Prairie Smoke is a distinctive prairie wildflower with irresistible pink feathery seed heads. Each flowering stem holds three nodding pink bell-shaped flowers. Once the flowers are fertilized, the real show begins as the nodding blooms transform into upright clusters of wispy pink plumes. A massed planting creates a pinkish haze that can last for a month. The basal leaves are fern-like and deeply serrated with hairy margins. While not truly evergreen, the leaves can persist through winter, turning attractive shades of red and crimson. Plants spread slowly by rhizome to form a groundcover and are perfectly suited for dry rock gardens. Prairie Smoke is also effective planted in groups in a perennial bed, but it does not like to be overcrowded by taller perennials. Excellent for hot dry spots, it thrives in any well-drained soil. Wet and soggy winter conditions may cause the plants to die back. Other common names include Old Mans Whiskers and Purple Avens. 

False Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Ox Eye Sunflower produces a profusion of bright yellow flowers in early to mid-summer. Excellent for clay soils, it grows in any reasonably fertile soil and thrives in moist, heavy soils. A relative of the sunflowers, Heliopsis helianthoides does not spread by rhizomes, but it will self-sow readily, on open soil. Other common names include Smooth Oxeye, Smooth Sunflower and False Sunflower. 

Rough Blazing Star, Liatris aspera

Covered with lavender blooms in late summer, Rough Blazing Star is shorter than other Liatris species and perfect for medium or dry well-drained soils. Butterflies are likely visitors, along with hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Ideal for dry perennial borders, rock gardens or low-growing dry meadows, it combines beautifully with Butterflyweed, Dotted Mint, Showy Goldenrod, Sky Blue Aster and Little Bluestem. This drought tolerant Liatris likes well-drained dry to medium soils, or sandy and rocky situations. Avoid planting it in moist areas, or locations where the soil remains consistently wet during winter.

The species name "aspera" is Latin for "rough," which refers to the short stiff hairs on the central stem and the narrow basal leaves, which are very rough. Another distinguishing feature of Rough Blazing Star is the slightly zigzag stem. Other common names include Button Snakeroot and Rough Gayfeather.

Butterflies and bees seeking nectar are frequent visitors of Rough Blazingstar, and hummingbirds are occasional visitors, too.

Northern Blazing Star, Liatris scariosa

Northern Blazing Star is a native perennial with rosy purple spikey flowers on 3’ – 4’ unbranched stems with narrow, long leaves.  These plants are drought, heat, and humidity tolerant growing best in sunny sites with average, dry and sandy or rocky soils.  They will flop if the soil is too rich or moist.   Blooming from late summer through fall makes them a great late season nectar source for bees and butterflies.  It is not unusual to see them covered with Monarch butterflies.  Liatris scariosa has widely spaced and larger flowerheads than most Blazing Stars.

Marsh Blazing Star, Liatris spicata

Marsh Blazing Star is a must have in any pollinator garden or perennial border.  It is especially stunning in masses.  The rose/purple, closely set flower heads are arranged in long, dense spikes blooming from the top down with grass-like foliage.  A summer blooming plant that is 3’ – 4’ tall it prefers moist fertile soil.  A nectar source for bees and butterflies this plant is also deer resistant with seeds that attract Goldfinches.

Lupine, lupinus perennis

The blue spires of Lupine are a welcome sight in late spring and early summer. Lupine is an excellent plant for dry sandy soils where so many other plants struggle, but it will not do well in clay soils. Low-growing, with beautiful palmate foliage, plant it with Lanceleaf Coreopsis and Prairie Smoke for a colorful early-season combination.

Lupine is a host plant for the rare Karner Blue butterfly (Plebejus melissa), but habitat loss has led to a decline of Lupine plants in the wild, and put the Karner Blue on the endangered species list. Leaves that have been fed upon by Karner blues have distinctive transparent areas where the caterpillars have selectively eaten the green fleshy parts.

Bee Balm, Mondara fistulosa

Bergamot is a well known and highly adaptable native plant that thrives in all but the wettest soils. The fragrant lavender flowers are a popular nectar source for pollinators and attract a wide variety of bees and butterflies. Hummingbirds may also visit. A member of the mint family, Bergamot has long been used by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal applications. The distinctly aromatic leaves are commonly used to make tea, and the button seed heads are popular in dried floral arrangements. 

Beardtongue, Penstamon digitalis

Penstemon digitalis is one of the few penstemons that thrives in clay. The white flowers bloom for a month or longer, and look great with the blue flowers of Ohio Spiderwort and Blue Eyed Grass. Only three feet high, this clump-forming perennial does well in full sun to light shade, and tolerates seasonally damp conditions. The tubular flowers attract long-tongued bees such as bumblebees and mason bees, as well as hummingbirds. Other common names include Foxglove Beardtongue and Mississippi Beardtongue. 

Penstemon, Penstemon hirsutus

A versatile native for garden and landscape, this diminutive penstemon is very tough and adaptable to a range of well-drained soils, in full sun and partial shade. Typically found in rocky fields, bluffs, or open woods and drier sites, it does well in average clay or any medium garden soil, as well.

Hairy Beardtongue is low growing, only 1 – 2 feet tall, with woolly stems that are sometimes reddish in color. In early summer, airy clusters of delicate tubular flowers appear on the top half of the plant in various shades of lavender. The leaves turn a beautiful red in the fall.

The blooms attract a range of pollinators as well as hummingbirds. 

Woodland Phlox, Phlox divericata

The perfect phlox for shady areas, Wild Blue Phlox blooms for nearly a month in late spring and early summer. The fragrant flowers come in shades of pale lavender to blue, and occasionally pastel pink or white. The five-petalled tubular flowers are attractive to butterflies, clearwing moths, and hummingbirds. 

The blooms are followed by rounded green fruits that eventually dry to seed capsules which split open to release the small black seeds. Blue Phlox does self-sow, but not aggressively, and the seedlings are easily transplanted. The flowering stems will die-back after the plant has produced seed, leaving a mound foliage to produce and store energy for the following year. The expired foliage tends to blend into its surroundings, and special care may be needed to learn to recognize and avoid pulling them. 

Phlox divaricata grows best in light to medium shade and rich, moist, well-drained soils, but it is adaptable and tolerates both dry and clay soils. Once established, it is drought tolerant. Include it in native woodland gardens, naturalized areas, shaded rock gardens or an informal low border. Other common names include Woodland Phlox, Sweet William.

Prairie Phlox, Phlox pilosa

Prairie Phlox is an incredibly fragrant perennial with bright to pale pink flowers blooming from May through July.  It prefers full to part sun growing to a height of 1’ – 2’  It is easy care, drought and pest tolerant.  Deer and rabbits usually avoid Prairie Phlox but butterflies and hummingbirds love it.  If it is happy it will spread nicely and fill in around other plants.

Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

A hallmark of prairies and meadows, Black Eyed Susan is a biennial that blooms and completes its life cycle in its second year with an extravagant floral display. Transplants will bloom the year they are planted, and will easily self-sow onto open soil, creating a more or less consistent stand over time. Exceptionally showy and easy to grow, Black Eyed Susan has a prolonged bloom time that attracts butterflies and other pollinators. The late season seed heads attract finches and other birds. Easy to grow and very drought tolerant, this Rudbeckia tolerates heat, drought and a wide range of soils, but does not like poorly-drained, wet soils. Seeds may be sown directly in the soil at the last frost date. 

Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis

Wild Petunia is a hummingbird favorite with trumpet-shaped lavender blooms that attract long-tongued bees and butterflies, as well. Seldom reaching more than one foot in height, it is an excellent companion to other low-growing plants. Native to much of the eastern U.S., Wild Petunia prefers dry sandy locations such as rock gardens, but it will thrive in well-drained loam. It self-seeds readily and is able to hold its own when combined with larger aggressive plants. Ruellia humilis is a host plant for caterpillars of the Common Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia), and the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterfly. 

New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Magnificent in bloom, New England Aster lights up the late season landscape with bunches of purple flowers. The bloom color can be violet, purple, lavender, or shades of pink. Large and showy, this aster can grow up to six feet high. The flowers are an important source of nectar for late season pollinators, especially Monarchs as they stock up for their fall migration to Mexico.

This deer resistant native prefers moist, rich soils, but is easily grown in a broad range of conditions, thriving in full sun or light shade in all but the driest soils. When New England Aster blooms the lower leaves usually dry up, and this is normal. If height becomes an issue, the main stem can be cut-back by half in midsummer to encourage a bushier growth. This can help control the need for staking.

Goat's Rue, Tephrosia virginiana

Goat's Rue is an eye-catching plant of dry upland, often sandy or acidic prairies and gravel deposits near several of the major US rivers.  The late-spring to early-summer blooms are like no other prairie plant; the dense clusters of flowers are at the top of the stems with a pale yellow upper petal and two smaller fuschia lower petals.

This legume's seeds form among attractive feather-like, greenish-gray leaves in late summer. Distinctive hairy, flat 2"-long pods cover the plant, making identification easy. Choose a dry, moderately sunny spot wisely because, once established, Goat's Rue does not divide and does not like to be moved. This perennial has a deep taproot that eventually branches into fibrous roots.

Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia

Foamflower, a showy spring wildflower derives its common name from the appearance of its starry pink tinged white flowers.   The botanical name, tiarella refers to “little turban” the shape of the seed capsule and Cordifolia  to its heart-shaped leaves.

If you are looking for a native plant to use as a groundcover in shade to dappled shade, you cannot do better than Foamflower.  Beautiful lobed green leaves that turn bronze-red in fall are covered with 8” – 10” tall spikes of tiny white flowers from April to June.  It is not aggressive but over time spreads by underground stems forming coloniesTiarella cordifolia requires average or moist well drained soil.  It is an important early season pollen source and an undemanding reliable plant in the shade garden.

Ironweed, Vernonia missurica

Common Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata) is usually referred to simply as "Ironweed". This stately plant offers a large cluster of unusually brilliant purple flowers on top of 6' tall, unbranched stems; a sight to see late summer and into fall. Dark green, coarsly-toothed leaves add to the overallI interest.  It works well as a tall backdrop plant. The seeds are fluffy and brown and disperse nicely in the wind. Ironweed can be started outdoors with fall planting or after two months of moist-cold stratification. It will thrive in moister soils with full to partial sun. Ironweed is a host plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly and is listed by the Xerces Society as having special value to native bees. 

Golden Alexanders, Zizia aurea

Golden Alexanders is covered with brilliant golden, three to four inch-wide umbels that bloom for several weeks in late spring. This is an excellent low-growing perennial for heavy clay soils in semi-shade to full sun. Moist, well-drained soil is best, but this very adaptable plant will tolerated both wet conditions and dry conditions, as long as there is plenty of moisture early in the growing season.

Very low-maintenance, Zizia aurea blooms along with Blue False Indigo, Canada anemone and Columbine, and combines well with Fox Sedge in the sun.

Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium

Little Bluestem is a highly ornamental native grass prized for its blue-green leaf color and upright form. The foliage provides excellent color all season-long and creates the perfect backgrop for prairie flowers. Densely mounded, Little Bluestem reaches a height of 3 feet by autumn, when it turn a striking reddish-bronze, bearing illuminated tufted seeds. The rigid clumps can withstand snow and rain, allowing the reddish grass stems to remain upright for most of the winter.

This prairie grass excels in dry sandy soils and combines well with all prairie flowers. It is fairly adaptable, but not recommended for damp sites or heavy clay soils. 

Prairie Dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis

Prairie Dropseed adds a touch of elegance to any planting. A burst of flowering panicles in tints of pink and brown float above the tufted base on slender stems in late summer. The bloom has a unique fragrance with hints of coriander. In fall the foliage color turns to hues of gold. Considered by many to be the most handsome of all prairie grasses, Prairie Dropseed is a desirable native grass for any garden. Create a well-defined and distinctive border with Prairie Dropseed by placing new transplants 18 to 24 inches apart. 

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum

A familiar sight in the woodlands of eastern North America, Jack in the Pulpit arrives on the scene in May, in Wisconsin. The intriguing bloom consists of a green and brown striped hood that conceals a spadix - or jack - covered in numerous tiny green to purple flowers. The unusual flower gives way to a cluster of bright red berries in late summer, which may be eaten by birds and mammals.

Unique and easy to grow, Jack in the Pulpit can be grown in any rich soil in the shade and requires very little care, other than keeping the plants covered with a thick layer of leaves over the winter.

Arisaema triphyllum plants can be either male or female and they can change sex from year to year, depending upon the success of reproduction the previous year. Males plants - usually smaller than female plants - have a small hole at the bottom of the spathe which allows pollinators to escape more easily. Female plants lack the hole and pollinators are more likely to become trapped, leading to more successful pollination.

Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum

The fine textured foliage of Maidenhair Fern provides a perfect foil for other plants in the shade garden. Unique among ferns, the gently arching fronds seem to float suspended above the ground in a graceful fan-like shape. The floating illusion is maintained by a structure of very fine black stems that all but disappear against the background. Highly recommended for home landscaping Maidenhair fern is easy to grow, low maintenance, and highly resistant to damage from deer.

Native to the rich wooded slopes and damp shady woodlands East of the Mississippi, Adiantum pedatum thrives in well-drained to slightly damp soil in full shade. Plants will tolerate mild drought as long as they are not exposed to direct sun – in which case morning sun is better than the hot afternoon sun. If conditions are too hot and the soil is dry for too long the plants may die-back, but will return when conditions become favorable again. Over time, this clump-forming fern spreads slowly by branching rhizomes to form large colonies. It needs shelter from the wind to look its best and is excellent for naturalizing on shaded hillsides, or in any protected shady area.

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina

Lady Fern is a widely adaptable fern with an extensive native range. Best grown in rich, medium moisture, it tolerates dry soils better than many other ferns. It also tolerates some direct sunlight if the soil is moist. The large, finely textured fronds can reach 3’ in height and retain good color throughout the summer. This fern combines well with Wild Ginger, Solomon’s Seal, and sedges in the shade garden. A setting that is sheltered from wind will help to protect fronds from breaking. Lady Fern spreads by rhizome and forms small colonies, but it is not aggressive and somewhat slow to naturalize. Divide clumps in spring every few years to encourage quicker spread. A good candidate for wooded slopes to help control erosion. 

Spicebush, Lindera benzoin                                         

Northern Spicebush is a single- or few-stemmed, deciduous shrub, usually 6-15 ft. tall, with glossy leaves and graceful, slender, light green branches. Leaves alternate on the branchlets, up to 6 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide, upper surface dark green, lower surface lighter in color, obovate, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, tip somewhat extended margins without teeth or lobes. Dense clusters of tiny, pale yellow flowers bloom before the leaves from globose buds along the twigs. Flowers occur in umbel-like clusters and are followed by glossy red fruit. Both the fruit and foliage are aromatic. Leaves turn a colorful golden-yellow in fall.

In the North this plant is thought of as the “forsythia of the wilds” because its early spring flowering gives a subtle yellow tinge to many lowland woods where it is common. A tea can be made from the aromatic leaves and twigs.