Why “grow native?” Native plants have evolved with a region’s climate and unique features for thousands of years. This makes them especially well-suited to growing and thriving within their respective climates. Many times they are better able to withstand local pests, diseases, and weather patterns, and they will perform better in local soil conditions than their cultivated counterparts. For gardeners, growing native plants can cut back on the amount of effort it takes to cultivate a beautiful garden.
Wildlife also benefits from native plant species. As Maryland’s plants, insects, birds, and mammals evolved together, they came to rely on each other. By planting native species, you’re making these important plants more available to wildlife that needs them for food, water, and shelter.
Here are some of our favorite Maryland native plants for the garden.
Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
This cheerful red flower is a favorite of the ruby-throated hummingbird. It’s easy to grow, perennial, and can be divided once established to add plants to your garden. Plant cardinal flower in moist areas with full to partial sun. It is a great marginal plant for ponds and bog gardens.
Christmas Fern – Polystichum acrostichoides
Easy to grow, the Christmas fern is a great choice for those looking for a low maintenance fern. It tolerates shady spots as well as acidic soils. It’s evergreen, deer resistant, and ideal for use in cut flower arrangements.
Monarda is a must for pollinator gardens. The brightly-colored flowers are favorites of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies alike. It’s a very easy-to-grow perennial for sunny garden spots. The flowers and leaves can also be used to create a delicious herbal tea.
Red Maple – Acer rubrum
The red maple is a handsome, long-lived shade tree that can grow 60-90 feet tall. In autumn, its leaves turn brilliant yellow, orange, and red hues. It also has beautiful reddish flowers and seeds early in the spring. Its early spring pollen benefits native pollinators. The red maple tolerates wet soil well and is often chosen for areas with less than perfect drainage.
Black-eyed Susans – Rudbeckia hirta
This North American native is Maryland’s state flower! It’s super easy to grow and will self-seed and spread a bit when given the space. It’s a favorite flower of many pollinator species, which flock to its yellow flowers with black centers. Black-eyed Susan plants are very drought-tolerant and a wonderful plant for gardens with poor soil.
Arrowwood – Viburnum dentatum
This small shrub has it all! Arrow-straight stems (where the plant gets its name) add interest to the garden in the winter, while clusters of tiny white flowers cover the shrub in spring, blue in late summer, and shiny foliage that turns green to yellow to red in the fall. This rounds out the four-season interest. Several species of moth rely on the leaves as a larval food source and arrowwood’s fruits are an important food source for songbirds. Why wouldn’t you grow this gorgeous shrub?
Pawpaw – Asimina triloba
Even though pawpaw is native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, you may never have heard of it. Pawpaw can be found growing in rich moist woodlands and is the largest edible fruit native to North America.
This tree is also the sole food of zebra swallowtail butterfly larvae, making it key to their survival. Small mammals, such as squirrels, raccoons, and opossums, also enjoy the fruit. Aside from providing these delicious, custard-like fruits, pawpaw trees also bloom with beautiful maroon flowers in the spring and are covered in yellow foliage in autumn.
When you’re adding to your garden this spring, be sure to include a few native species. Plants like these can help your garden thrive and help support local wildlife. Come in and chat with one of our Homestead Garden experts for more native plant options.