Amy-Lynn Albertson column: Native plants for your landscape

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2022

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

Native plants provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife while adding to soil and water health. Native plants offer birds the food they need. Over the past century, urbanization has transformed productive land into lawns and ornamental plants. By restoring native plant habitats and planting a native plant garden, you are preserving biodiversity and helping to sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.

The Rowan County Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Sale is next Saturday, May 7, from 8:30 a.m.-noon at the Rowan Agricultural Center at 2727 Old Concord Road in Salisbury. There will be plenty of excellent native plants for sale.

One of my favorite shrubs Calycanthus floridus or ‘Sweet Bubby’ bush, is a great native plant to use in your landscape.

The Sweet Bubby Bush has deep marron red flowers that open in the spring. Some gardeners swear they are one of the most pleasing fragrances on the planet. This bush gets between 5 and 9 feet tall and produces many blooms. In the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant shade of yellow.

Virginia Sweetspire is another native shrub for sale. This shrub has three seasons of interest. It has a plethora of sweet-smelling catkin spire-like white flowers in the spring. The flowers last for several weeks and attract bees and butterflies. Virginia Sweetspire has graceful arching branches and grows to be about eight feet tall. The leaves will change from rich green to stunning, long-lasting shades of deep red, purple, orange and yellow in the fall. The fall colors vary depending on sun exposure. Full sun exposure produces the most vibrant fall color. While it would be nice to say that Virginia Sweetspire is the “perfect” shrub for the landscape, it does have one downside — a tendency to sucker. The mother plant produces shoots from the root system that may develop into a colony of slender stems over time. The better the growing conditions, the more it suckers. If grown in drier sites with heavy clay soil, it suckers less vigorously than it does in rich, loamy soil with plenty of moisture. Depending on how you use it in the landscape, the suckering nature of this plant can be viewed as either a positive or a negative attribute.

A third plant the Master Gardeners have in their plant sale is one of my favorites is the red buckeye. The red buckeye is a small deciduous tree or shrub that can get 15-25 feet tall. It’s native to the coastal and Piedmont areas of North Carolina. It has red tubular flowers in 6-8 inch clusters that last for about a month in the spring. These flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies galore. Plus, buckeye seeds bring good luck. The Red Buckeye prefers partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.

It will tolerate full sun and a variety of soil types.

The Rowan County Master Gardener Plant Sale is May 7, 8:30-noon at the Agricultural Center. Look for these native plants and many more. I hope to see you there. For more information, contact the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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