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Let Your Container Gardens Go Native

Choose plants that reflect the woodlands, meadows, and prairies of the American countryside for a rustic effect.

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Planting natives in containers
Growing ornamental plants in containers expands planting areas, adds color, and raises gardening levels. Growing in large pots also allows many condominium and apartment dwellers to grow natives.

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Container gardening provides imaginative and effective ways to create small native gardens with esthetic charm and plant appeal – gardens that echo the woodlands, meadows, and prairies of the American countryside.

Choose containers to reflect the themes of native plants, pioneer times, or the past cultural history of a particular region. Washtubs, half barrels, window boxes, and boxes made of rough lumber are just a few of the choices. (Be sure they include drainage holes.)

As in all gardening, one of the keys to success in growing natives is matching plants with your environment. (Place plants that can’t take the sun in a shady area and plants that prefer moist soil where you can keep them well-watered.)

For planters in full sun, choose natives of prairies, glades, and open fields. For shadier sites, choose woodland natives, plants that naturally grow in dappled shade. Plan to group plants that have the same cultural requirements together in the same planter.


Sunny sites

False or wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis). Bushy perennial grows to three feet and bears blue flower spikes in late spring to early summer.

Golden coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria). Summer-blooming, reseeding annual, about three feet tall and has daisylike golden flowers.

Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). Perennial prairie grass growing to 15 inches high and crowned by 30-inch summer flower stalks.

Purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata). A perennial about three feet tall that bears deep reddish flowers in late spring to early summer.

Rose verbena (Glandularia canadensis). Low-growing, reseeding annual bears clumps of lilac-pink flowers during summer months.

Showy evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa). Low-growing 1- to 1-1/2-foot perennial that bears pink, sometimes white flowers in late spring to early summer.

Tall phlox (Phlox paniculata). Perennial, two- to four-foot summer-blooming plant with purple to rose to pink to (occasionally) white flowers.

Shady Sites
Alumroot (Heuchera villosa). Perennial, up to two feet tall, with stalks of small white or pink flowers on tall stems.

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). Low-growing, nearly evergreen, perennial fern with handsome fronds and a tidy habit.

Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica). Perennial, up to 2 feet tall, with late-spring clumps of tubular flowers that are red outside and yellow inside.

Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans). Low-growing perennial bears clumps of spring flowers in shades of pale blue to blue-lavender.

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Perennial deciduous fern, up to three feet tall, with long feathery fronds.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum). Perennial, about two feet tall, with late spring to early summer pink flowers.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense). Low-growing perennial known for its handsome foliage. Brownish spring flowers hidden in leaves.