Natives with Year-Round Interest

Rattlesnake Master
Cultivate plantings that look lovely through every season. Incorporate ultrahardy natives that keep interest running high from spring through winter to fashion perennially pleasing landscapes. Here is a look at 15 noteworthy natives worth considering for your yard and gardens.

Chokeberry

The deciduous shrub bears pinkish-white flowers in early spring and glossy green leaves, which turn bright red in autumn. Dense clusters of glossy vivid red fruits ripen in late summer and persist well into winter. 'Brilliantissima' is a more-compact variety that produces lots of big, shiny fruit and high-gloss foliage that flames to flamboyant red in autumn.

Name: Aronia arbutifolia

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; average well-drained soil

Size: 6-10 feet high; 3-6 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Native Range: Eastern North America

River Birch

It's the peeling bark that makes this a standout tree for winter. Still, the river birch is a tree for all seasons and a variety of moist planting sites; the medium-size tree sports a rounded canopy of long diamond-shape leaves (which turn yellow in fall) and catkinlike flowers. The trunks, which boast exfoliating reddish-brown bark atop lighter inner bark, supply tantalizing texture every month of the year. If you're short on growing space, try the cultivar 'Little King' (Fox Valley), a dwarf form that grows between 15 and 20 feet tall. 'Heritage' varieties sport cinnamon, salmon, brown bark that peels off in expansive sheets.

Name: Betula nigra

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist acidic soil, but tolerates other soils

Size: 40-70 feet tall; 40-60 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Native Range: Eastern United States

Eastern Redbud

Redbud tree branches produce bright pinkish-purple flowers in early spring, weeks before leaves appear. Reddish-purple seedpods follow, as do pretty heart-shape leaves that shift to yellow in autumn; horizontal branches create a striking silhouette that pops against snowy vistas. Try 'White Water' if you like trees with variegated green-and-white leaves. 'Covey' sports a weeping form that supplies an surprising silhouette that takes center stage in winter months.

Name: Cercis canadensis

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; medium moist well-drained soil

Size: 20-30 feet tall; 25-35 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

Native Range: North and Central America

Washington Hawthorn

The rapidly growing shade tree produces white flowers in spring and forms a compact rounded crown of dark green leaves that shade to scarlet in autumn. Red berries persist through winter to feed overwintering birds and provide punches of color up high in the landscape. Suitable for use as an ornamental tree in yards and curbsides, the Washington hawthorn also can be pruned as a hedge.

Name: Crataegus phaenopyrum

Growing Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Size: 25-30 feet high and wide

Zones: 3-8

Native Range: Southeastern United States

Pussy Willow

This multistem shrub makes its big (and trademark) statement in late winter when it produces silky catkins. Male pussy willow shrubs generate showier silvery gray catkins; female shrubs bear smaller underwhelming greenish catkins. Blue-green leaves follow in spring and turn yellowish greenish-yellow in the fall. Plant pussy willows in moist sites where other plants might not grow.

Name: Salix discolor

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; average to wet soil

Size: 6-15 feet tall; 4-12 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

Native Range: North America

Natives are a key element to any garden. Learn how to incorporate native plants and flowers for a tough yet gorgeous landscape.

Easy Ways to Add Natives to Your Landscape

Learn how to incorporate natives into your existing landscape plans.

American Elderberry

This good-looking deciduous shrub bears flat butterfly-attracting 4-inch clusters of fragrant white flowers for a month in early summer; large clusters of edible dark purple to black berries add appeal in fall and winter. Want to harvest the berries for pie- or jam-making? Plant 'Adams' and a pollinator variety, such as 'John's', for a bounteously fruitful crop.

Name: Sambucus canadensis

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; medium to wet well-drained soil

Zones: 3-9

Size: 5-12 feet high and wide

Native Range: Eastern North America

Beautyberry

Long weeping arched branches with coarse light-green leaves bear dense clusters of lavender flowers from June through August. Ornamental clusters of purple berries that circle the branches follow in fall and persist into winter. Consider massing the tall shrubs; it is thought plants produce more berries when grown in groups.

Name: Callicarpa americana

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; moist clay or sandy soil amended with organic matter

Size: 3-6 feet high and wide

Zones: 6-10

Native Range: Southeastern United States.

Ninebark

This distinctive upright shrub has it all: lushly colored leaves darken from bright chartreuse to burgundy; pinkish-white, nectar-rich flowers in late spring feed insects; late-season seed heads draw in birds; and noteworthy exfoliating bark easily seen on winter-bare branches and trunks. 'Center Glow' is valued for its varying colored leaves that shift in hue during the growing season.

Name: Physocarpus opulifolius

Growing Conditions: Full sun to light shade; moist to well-drained soil; tolerates sandy or clay soils

Size: 5-8 feet tall; 4-8 wide

Zones: 2-7

Native Range: Central and Eastern North America

Fragrant Sumac

A drought-tolerant shrub that bears small yellow flowers in spring followed by shiny leaves that turn fiery in late fall. Vibrant orange and red fruits persist into winter to bring color to wintry scenes. Use the 'Gro-low' cultivar as a groundcover; it maxes out at 3 feet in height but stretches to 8 feet wide.

Name: Rhus aromatica

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; dry to medium moist well-drained soil

Size: 2-6 feet tall; 6-10 feet wide

Zones: 3-9

Native Range: Southeastern Canada to Southern and Eastern United States

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Like its name implies, this easy-going shrub sports large leaves that resemble those of an oak tree. Bushy plants produces very showy white panicle flowers that shade to pink as summer ends. Leaves shift to bronze, crimson, and purple in autumn. Browning flower heads and cinnamon-hue exfoliating bark draw attention in winter. Try 'Pee Wee', which grows only to 3-4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, in small planting sites. Fond of fetching flowers? Opt for 'Alice' or 'Snow Queen' that bear blooms up to 14 inches long.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; average to medium moist well-drained, organically rich soil

Size: 4-6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9

Native Range: Southeastern United States

Little Bluestem

This finely textured drought-tolerant grass has big ornamental appeal. It forms dense clumps of blue-green leaves that flame to reddish-orange in autumn and colorfully energize winter's dreariest days. Feathery silver seed heads, which appear in late summer and early fall, double the plant's wintertime appeal. 'Blaze' makes a pyrotechnic statement as it turns blazing red in autumn. 'The Blues' cultivar boasts especially deep-blue foliage.

Name: Schizachyrium scoparium

Growing Conditions: Full sun; average, dry to medium moist well-drained soil

Size: 2-4 feet tall; 1-2 feet high

Zones: 3-9

Native Range: Eastern North America

Indian Grass

This upright clumping blue-green grass is remarkable for its 6-foot stems crowned with feathery brown seed heads that persist through winter. The grass shade changes to orange-yellow in fall. 'Sioux Blue' cultivars sport metallic-blue foliage that shines in natural gardens and prairie plantings.

Name: Sorghastrum nutans

Growing Conditions: Full sun; average, dry to medium moist well-drained soil

Size: 3-5 feet tall; 1-2 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Native Range: Eastern and Central United States

Christmas Fern

Silvery fiddleheads rising from woodland floors in spring unfurl into leathery evergreen fronds that form fountainlike clumps. The plant, which remains green through winter in most areas, was named "Christmas Fern" because early settlers brought the fronds inside as holiday decorations. Plant in woodlands, along shady foundations, or atop steep slopes to control erosion.

Name: Polystichum acrostichoides

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade; organically rich dry to medium moist well-drained soils

Size: 1-2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

Native Range: Eastern North America

Eastern Purple Coneflower

This herbaceous drought-tolerant perennial bears rosy-pink flowers with spiky orange centers in July and August. The plant's sturdy stems with drying seed heads can be left standing to feed overwintering birds and add structure and texture to winter gardens. 'Magnus' produces blooms with petals that are held flat (rather than drooping like the species), which makes this a fine variety for bouquets. If you like your purple coneflowers white, plant white-flowering 'Cygnet White' or 'PowWow White' varieties.

Name: Echinacea purpurea

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; average, dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: 2-5 feet tall; 18-24 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

Native Range: Eastern North America

Rattlesnake Master

This architectural plant has a rosette of spiky leaves that resembles a yucca plant and produces bristly silvery blue thistle-type flowers on tall stems. The flower heads turn bronze in fall and can be left standing for winter interest and as a food source for birds. Use this cool-looking plant to add vertical structure and coarse textures to both riotous cottage gardens and formal perennial borders.

Name: Eryngium yuccifolium

Growing Conditions: Full sun; average, dry to medium well-drained soil

Size: 4-5 feet tall; 2-3 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

Native Range: United States

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