Going Native: Highlighting Spring Natives For Your Garden

By: Gabrielle Phillips

One of the loveliest seasonal changes the mid-Atlantic region experiences is the transition from winter to spring. The deep freeze and blanket of snow began to melt away, the sun starts to beam its rays for a longer period and the beautiful, soft, and delicate blossoms of springtime start to emerge from the thawing earth. These little signs of spring bring a symbolism of renewal and lots of joy to many as the green foliage blasts out of the ground and bright colors began to grace our landscapes again. As this transition occurs, I love to keep in mind the native plants of spring. Not only do they provide many benefits to you and your garden they also support the wildlife of our area. Let us look at a couple springtime natives you may already have in your garden or you may want to consider adding to your green space.

‘Purple Beauty’ Moss Phlox (Phlox subulate) is a fabulous native perennial you may want to pop in your garden. There are several cultivated varieties, varying in color and height but this native variety is a ground cover which can grow to about 6 inches tall and can spread to a foot or more wide. This plant thrives in full sun with a well-drained garden bed that has loam or sandy soil in it. However, it can grow on rocky features and looks stunning as it drapes a carpet of flowers over a sloped area, imagine a waterfall of color! Almost every square inch of the plant has a flower in it, what a gorgeous and vibrant image for your garden in spring. Because of its growing pattern and behavior, it makes for a great ground cover which assist in retaining soil and prevent erosion. Phlox is attractive to butterflies and pollinators; many early pollinators will be looking for nectar as soon as temperatures begin to rise in early spring.  Phlox is also resistant to rabbits and deer, so you do not have to worry about them nibbling on these beauties.

Another springtime native that may bring some ‘Wild Stonecrop’ Mountain Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum). This is another low growing perennial that will reach six to ten inches tall and about 12 inches wide. Sedum will do best in part to full shade and prefers a moist clay, loam, or sandy soil. In the wild it is often found in the woods, on rock banks and cliffs. There are many cultivated varieties of this plant as well that you may already have in your yard or are familiar with. This variety has small white, star-shaped flowers that bloom from April to June. As mentioned earlier with ground covers, they help mitigate erosion and can also slow the rain and runoff water so that it may get absorbed properly by the soil. These plants attract beneficial insects such as pollinators and butterflies and songbirds love them too.

Phlox and sedum are two wonderful native plant options to add to your garden to enhance the springtime color and beauty of your outdoor space. As we welcome spring these plants attract vital pollinators to your yard and improve the quality of your garden beds just by being there!

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