Yard and Garden: Add Native Plants to Iowa Landscapes

April 27, 2016, 4:53 pm | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa - Native plants can give home landscapes a unique, varied look when paired with the current flora and fauna that already dot landscapes across Iowa. How should they be handled?

Which native plants are best for specific landscapes and gardens, and how should they be treated for best results? ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help decipher these issues.

What are good native perennials for woodland gardens?

Native wildflowers that make good additions to woodland gardens include wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus), Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

Also suitable are woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans), May apple (Podophyllum peltatum), Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum), merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora), and others.  

FlowersObtaining plants is easy. Woodland wildflowers are readily available at garden centers and mail-order nurseries in spring. Do not remove plants from natural woodland areas.

Which native ferns are suitable for the home landscape?

Native ferns that are good additions to shady locations in the home landscape include the northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana). Most ferns perform best in moist soils in partial to heavy shade.

Which native shrubs can be grown in shady locations in the home landscape?

Native deciduous shrubs that can be successfully grown in partial shade include serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum).  

The only native evergreen shrub that can be successfully grown in shady areas is the Canadian yew (Taxus canadensis).  

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