Ohio Landscape Association

Plant Recommendations for Special Conditions

Native Perennials for Northeastern Ohio Gardens

Whenever the topic of native perennial plants comes up there almost always follows a discussion on where to obtain them. Do we go a field and locate wild populations to dig? While very few of us would actually entertain such a thought on ethical grounds there are also practical reasons why this is a bad idea. First, there are more than a few native perennials that are rare in the wild precisely because over-collecting has decimated wild populations. Second, some wild plants have such strict cultural and/or habitat requirements or are so fragile that they rarely, if ever, survive either the transplant or the new environment. There is one situation and one only under which I would not merely condone but encourage collecting from the wild. If there is an area that is soon to be bulldozed due to immanent construction or other development then by all means, collect the plants before they are destroyed. Good enough, but what about gathering seeds? Is that OK? I would say yes, but with this caveat; take only a few.

What, then, are we to do? It may surprise you that a great number of native perennials are already available in area garden centers and through the mail order catalogs that arrive late in the winter to whet our gardening appetites. Failing that it is surprising how many suppliers of a species one can find by “Googling” the scientific name of a plant. Lastly, beware of native perennials offered for sale that seem sickly or that have traces of natural soil in the pots.

So, again, there are many native perennials that have been brought into cultivation, successfully propagated, and made available for sale. It may surprise you to learn that several very popular garden perennials are indeed natives, purple coneflower and false indigo to name a few. The plants I am suggesting on this site are ones that most would agree are on the “less well known” list. And here they are…

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Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants, Steven Still, 1994, Stipes Publishing was referenced for the heights listed for some of the plants.

Written By Dave Emmitt. Photos by Dave Emmitt.

Dave Emmitt is the program manager of the Plant Science & Landscape Technology program at Cuyahoga Community College, a position he has held for thirteen years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in plant taxonomy, both from Kent State University.

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