Summer rainfall in the Cumberland River basin can be unpredictable from year to year. Unless you are able to irrigate or provide water to all the plants in your yard (a more expensive and less water-friendly option) you’re going to want some plants that can withstand a Tennessee summer.
When choosing plants for your yard some important questions to ask are:
- What plants are native to my area?
- How much rainfall does my area get annually?
- Are these plants going in a shady or sunny part of the yard?
- Do I want annuals or perennials – or a mix?
Basically — how much work do you want to put into your landscape? If your answer is minimal work, you’re in luck! This answer just so happens to be the best answer for pollinators and local waterways.
Nativizing your landscape has so many benefits. Native plants are naturally adapted to a certain area and are therefore more resilient, better water users, and often lower maintenance. They also provide natural food and shelter to native wildlife in the area.
Using natives in landscaping helps sustain native butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects; native birds, reptiles, mammals, and other fauna. Fall migrating birds depend on high-energy fruits from flowering dogwood and spicebush. Spring migrants feed on insects that occur on oak trees. Beech and other native trees provide nesting habitat, while Eastern red cedar, Virginia pine, and American holly provide winter cover and food. – Landscaping with Native Plants – Middle Tennessee
When the Cumberland River Compact builds rain gardens, we make sure to plant them with natives so they can capture and sink stormwater and do their job year after year.
Our top 5 native plant picks for the landscape:
Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Milkweed
This striking perennial plant is highly drought-tolerant and is easily propagated by both seed and rhizome cuttings. But more importantly, Butterfly Milkweed is a favorite of the Monarch butterfly, a species that has been in decline for some time and needs our help! Plant natives and they will come!
Coreopsis verticillata – Thread-leaf Coreopsis
This plant is perfect for poor, rocky soils and can be used as a border or in a native landscape. It’s also another butterfly attracter and is drought-tolerant.
Penstemon Digitalis ‘Blackbeard’ – Beardtongue
You’ll usually see this plant in a Cumberland River Compact rain garden! The purple/green leaves are beautiful on their own and are a true gem in the garden. The upright purple late-spring blooms attract the eye and pollinators. Another drought-tolerant choice, this plant will spread in your garden and can be divided over the years.
Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower
Talk about LOW MAINTENANCE this plant is a must-have. Easy to grow and can handle just about anything, the Pale Purple Coneflower is a great plant to nativize a large area. This self-seeder comes back year after year and also has medicinal uses!
Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem
Need to fill some space in the garden? This ornamental grass is native to eastern North America and can take the heat. Cut it back to the ground in late winter-early spring and it will do just fine.
Where can I get native plants?
Ready to get planting? If you live in Middle Tennessee we have two recommendations for places to buy native plants:
Check out their online shop: Plants for Pollinators
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7190 Hill Hughes Road, Fairview, TN 37062
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