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Garden Obstacles: Native Plants for the School Year Garden

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Many schools come to me for advice on what to plant in their courtyard or other area designated for a native plant garden. More importantly, it needs to look good from September through June. This is possible as our native plants look great in the fall, provide winter interest, and bloom in spring or summer.

This list is for a sunny location. You will have to do your homework to find pictures of the plants. I cannot do all the work for you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kimberly.


Natives for April - June and August - November (with some exceptions):


Edibles:


Fragaria virginiana - Wild Strawberry (Perennial): White flowers in May followed by berries in June, usually semi-evergreen foliage, great meandering ground cover, native to LI


Monarda fistulosa - Wild Bergamot (Perennial): not blooming during the school year but it is great for pollinators, lavender flowers in July-August, 24-60" tall, fantastic fall color, the whole plant is edible, native to LI


Vaccinium angustifolium - Lowbush Blueberry (Shrub): White flowers in May followed by berries in summer, 12-24" tall, beautiful fall color, native to LI


Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush Blueberry (Shrub): White flowers in May followed by berries in summer, 6-10' tall, stunning fall color, native to LI


Perennials:


Achillea millefolium - Common Yarrow: White flowers in June-August, 12-24" tall, great fresh cut and dried flower, native to LI


Aquilegia canadensis - Wild Columbine: Bicolor red/yellow flowers in April-June, 12-36" tall, attracts hummingbirds, native to LI


Amsonia tabernaemontana - Bluestar: Blue flowers in May-June, 36" tall, fantastic fall color, native to LI


Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed: Orange flowers in June-July, not really during the school year but it is such a great plant, very ornamental seed pods, host plant for monarch caterpillars


Aster oblongifolius - Aromatic Aster and nativars: Violet flowers in September-November, 12-36" tall, nice fall color, native to Northeastern and Central United States


Baptisia australis - Wild Indigo: Purple flowers in May-June, blue-gray foliage is striking in the garden, 36-48" tall, black seed pods are very ornamental, host plant to the Eastern Tailed Blue, Clouded Sulphur, and many more moths and skippers, native to Central and Eastern North America


Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower: Pale purple flowers in July-September, 36" tall, not during the school year but this will bring goldfinches in the fall to eat the seeds, seed heads look great in the winter, native to Eastern North America


Oenothera fruticosa - Evening Primrose: Yellow flowers in May-June, 24-36", lovely fall color, birds eat seeds, native to LI


Pycnanthemum muticum - Mountain Mint: not usually flowering during the school year but this will bring many pollinators around during the summer, white flowers with purple spots in July-September, 24-48" tall, lovely silver foliage while in bloom, seed heads look great in the winter, native to LI


Solidago odora - Sweet Goldenrod: Yellow flowers in August - October, 36-48" tall, birds eat the seeds, native to LI


Zizia aptera - Heartleaf Alexanders: Yellow flowers in May-July, 18-36" tall, host plant for the black swallowtail caterpillars, native to LI


Zizia aurea - Golden Alexanders: Yellow flowers in May-July, 18-36" tall, host plant for the black swallowtail caterpillars, native to LI


Vines (may be grown on an obelisk, trellis, or fence):


Lonicera sempervirens - Coral Honeysuckle: main bloom in May-June and sporadically afterward through December! 10-20' tall, may be pruned at any time because it blooms on old and new wood, attracts hummingbirds, and berries in fall, native to LI


Shrubs:


Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi - Bearberry: blooms April-May followed by red berries, 6-12" tall, lovely fall color, native to LI


Ceanothus americanus - New Jersey Tea: White flowers in May-June, 36-48" tall, host plant to summer and spring azures, native to LI


Myrica pensylvanica - Bayberry: Yellow-green flowers in May, if you are lucky to have male and female plants you will get berries in the fall, 36-60" tall, fragrant green foliage, great cover for birds, can be sheared, native to LI


Rosa virginiana - Virginia Rose: Pink flowers in May, 36-60" tall, lovely fall color, red rosehips in fall, native to LI


Viburnum dentatum - Arrowwood: White flowers May-June, dark blue berries in August, 6-10' tall, birds eat the fruit, great fall color, host plant to the spring azure, native to LI


Grasses:


Andropogon virginicus - Broomsedge: ‘Blooms’ in September, 48" tall, great fall color, looks great through winter, native to LI


Eragrostis spectabilis - Purple Love Grass: 'Blooms' in August-September, great ground cover, 12-24" tall, nice fall color, birds eat the seeds, native to LI


Panicum virgatum - Switchgrass and nativars: ‘Blooms’ in July, 36-60" tall, great fall color, birds eat the seeds, looks great through winter, native to LI (not including nativars)


Sorghastrum nutans - Indian Grass: ‘Blooms’ in August, 4-8' tall, great fall color, birds eat the seeds, looks great through winter, native to LI


Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem and nativars: ‘Blooms’ in August, 24-48" tall, great fall color, looks great through winter, native to LI (not including nativars)


Andropogon gerardii - Big Bluestem: ‘Blooms’ in September, 48-60" tall great fall color, looks great through winter, native to LI


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