25 Native Plants You Can Find at Your Garden Center

Native plants are getting more and more attention lately, and that's a great thing. Native plants improve our lives and the environment in ways that non-native plants can't do quite as well (or at all, in some cases). Despite the fact that more people are interested, I still hear fairly often that it's not getting much easier to find native plants at local garden centers. They may be there, but they may not be clearly labelled, or there may not be many options. Here I'm going to share 25 native plants that are usually pretty easy to find along with the conditions where they grow best and a few notes.
 

Perennials

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) - full to part shade, moderate moisture. The yellow and red native species is the best for fitting into our ecosystem, but hybrids and other varieties like McKana Giant series are still valuable sources for pollen and nectar.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) - full sun, moderate to low moisture. The Asclepias genus is the only larval food source for monarch butterflies. If you have a wet yard, look for swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) instead.

Aster (Aster novae-angliae and oblongifolium) - full sun, moderate to low moisture. Great for late season color! Flowers are typical purple with some bluish and pinkish varieties. Popular varieties include 'Purple Dome' and 'October Skies'

False Indigo (Baptisia australis and alba) - full sun, moderate to low moisture. False indigo is a large, sturdy perennial that is almost more like a shrub. The white and blue species are native to Indiana. ‘Purple Smoke’ is a popular variety.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis species and hybrids) - full sun, moderate to low moisture. The species native to Indiana include C. lanceolataC. palmata, and C. tripteris, but it can be hard to find the straight species in retail stores. Hybrids and cultivars are still better than non-native plants. ‘Zagreb’ and ‘Route 66’ are popular.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) -  full sun, moderate to low moisture. The straight species is usually pretty easy to find, and there are a lot of great varieties as well. 'Magnum' is one popular option. The doubled varieties with pompom shapes provide less pollen, nectar, and seeds for wildlife.

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium species) - full sun to part shade, moderate to high moisture. Straight species options are often too tall for the home landscape. Look for 'Little Joe' or 'Baby Joe' varieties for a more manageable size.

Dense Blazingstar (Liatris spicata) - full sun, moderate moisture. There are many native blazingstar species (sometimes called gayfeather), but dense blazingstar is the easiest to find. One common variety is 'Kobold'.

Bee Balm (Monarda species and hybrids) - full sun, moderate moisture. This one attracts hummingbirds! You often can't find straight species in stores, but the species used to make hybrids are usually native. Look for one with powdery mildew resistance. ‘Petite Delight’ and ‘Raspberry Wine’ are good ones

Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) - full sun, high to low moisture. Great alternative to non-native grasses like maiden grass (Miscanthus). Some varieties bring out stronger color like 'Heavy Metal' and 'Shenandoah'.

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) - full sun to part shade, medium moisture. The straight species is highly susceptible to powdery mildew, so pick a resistant variety like 'Orange Perfection' or 'David'.

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) - full sun, medium to low moisture. Great native alternative to Karl Foerster Grass! The copper-gold winter color is amazing. Lots of great varieties like 'The Blues' and 'Standing Ovation' bring out stronger color.

Butterfly Weed Photo by Maria Gulley

Butterfly Weed
Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

Photo by Maria Gulley

Coreopsis Photo by Maria Gulley

Coreopsis
Photo by Maria Gulley

Dense Blazingstar Photo by Maria Gulley

Dense Blazingstar
Photo by Maria Gulley

Little Bluestem starting to get fall color Photo by Maria Gulley

Little Bluestem starting to get fall color
Photo by Maria Gulley

 

Shrubs

Fragrant Sumac Photo by Maria Gulley

Fragrant Sumac
Photo by Maria Gulley

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) - full sun to part shade, high to medium moisture. Nice showy red or yellow twigs in winter, some options have variegated leaves. Good options include 'Cardinal' and 'Arctic Fire'.

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) - full sun to part shade, high to medium moisture. Our native holly isn't evergreen, but it still looks gorgeous in the winter with bright red berries. Some varieties have orange berries.

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) - full sun to part shade, medium to low moisture. A striking shrub for difficult spots. Powdery mildew can be a problem, so opt for varieties like 'Diabolo' or 'Summer Wine' to avoid it.

Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica) - full sun to part shade, medium to low moisture. The full size native species is usually too big for home gardens, but the dwarf variety 'Gro-Low' is a great pick and usually easy to find. A very sturdy and easy-to-grow pick.

 

Trees

Maples (Acer species) - full sun, high to medium moisture depending on species. Maples are among the best known and best loved native tree species. Some options for Indiana include red maple (Acer ruburm) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Do not plant Norway maple! It is actually invasive.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis and laevis) - full sun to light shade, medium moisture. A beautiful four-season ornamental tree perfect for small yards. It even has tasty fruit! Multi-stemmed options are easier to maintain than single-stem.

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) - full sun to light shade, medium moisture. Slow-growing medium sized tree with columnar varieties available for tight spaces. Hornbeam keeps a very tight form that fits well in formal landscapes and makes it a good substitute for Callery pear.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) - full sun to part shade, medium moisture. A spring-time favorite throughout the region. Redbuds only live about 20 years, but they provide a lot of joy and ecological benefit in that time.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) - full sun to light shade, medium moisture Another springtime favorite around here. Flowering dogwood also often has decent fall color. Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is another native dogwood species - its name refers to its shape, not its origin.

Hawthorn (Crataegus species) - full sun to light shade, medium to low moisture. Hawthorn species are underrated small trees with nice white flowers in the spring. They are a great replacement for callery pear. Look for thornless varieties for easier maintenance.

Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) - full sun, medium moisture. A shade tree with great fall color. The spiky seed balls can be a nuisance, but there are varieties without them. There is also a narrow cultivar called 'Slender Silhouette' for tight spots.

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) - full sun, medium moisture. Indiana's state tree is an excellent choice if you want some shade. With interesting leaves, almost hidden spring flowers, and nice fall color, it has something for all seasons.

Oaks (Quercus species) - full sun, medium to low moisture depending on species. There are over a dozen oak species native to Indiana. Oaks are superstars of the native tree world, with some species able to provide for over 200 species of native insects.

Maples often have great fall color Photo by Maria Gulley

Maples often have great fall color
Photo by Maria Gulley

Serviceberry fruit are delicious. Photo by Maria Gulley

Serviceberry fruit are delicious.
Photo by Maria Gulley

Flowering Dogwood Photo by Maria Gulley

Flowering Dogwood
Photo by Maria Gulley

Tulip Tree Image in the Public Domain, CC0

Tulip Tree
Image in the Public Domain, CC0

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