shooting star flower

Top 10 Native Plants

Easy to care for and beautiful too

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Sedum in a container

Containers

Native plant can thrive in containers, perfect for decks or small spaces

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Swallowtail Butterfly

Butterfly Gardening

Attract butterflies by planting native species

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Oak Leaves

Oak Leaves

Use your oak leaves to create wildflower spaces

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Container Gardening with Native Plants

by Jennifer Eliason, HAT's Vice President

Many native plants are suitable for container plantings, giving you opportunity to highlight the beauty of your favourite natives, or to create a small wildlife-friendly oasis on a balcony. Bringing plants into the “living rooms” of our yards – the balconies, patios, doorways – provides for up close and personal interaction with the textures, scents and other subtleties that may be lost in the larger palette of a garden bed. While there is nothing really natural about potted plants, you will be creating habitat for these plants. As you begin this gardening adventure, consider the natural habitat of the plant or plants you want to feature in your container garden. Consider where the pot will be placed. If you have a full exposure balcony or a deeply shaded front porch, this will limit the choice of plants. If you have particular plants in mind, think about where they grow. Deep, moist soil sites? Dry rocky pockets? You will need to do your best to mimic these conditions for your potted plants.

sedum - photo by J. Eliason

 

The Pot: Choose a container that is large enough to support the growth of your native plant selection for several years and consider the home turf of your selected plants. A grouping of plants generally found growing in small pockets of gravelly soil will not need a big deep pot. Make sure the container has a hole (or several) in the bottom (unless you are creating a bog garden!). Gravel or a few shards of broken pot at the bottom will ensure the water can flow through the drainage holes with ease.

 

The Dirt: The soil mix is important. While “potting mix” is readily available at garden centres, it is often a lightweight peat-based mix that is great for one season use whilst growing petunias and supplementing with fertilizers. For long-term container planting projects, you need a richer mix, with some real soil or perhaps a healthy dose of compost. Drainage is key, so include perlite, sand, etc. Forest dwellers, like ferns, prefer soils with ample organic material (compost, leaves). A couple of handfuls of organic fertilizer won’t hurt, either.

Remember plants in pots will tend to dry out faster than their counterparts in the ground. Keeping plants in saucers in the dry season, utilizing drip irrigation, mulching and having the appropriate soil mix will all help minimize water needs. Use only mild natural fertilizers, such as compost tea, fish fertilizer or liquid kelp. Add leaf mulch and/or compost annually. I generally top dress my containers each spring with a mix of leaf mulch and compost or Sea Soil, and the occasional dose of coffee grounds for plants that like acidic soil (which I have several of near my back door, a handy alternative to the compost bin).

The easy-going nature of many of BC’s native plants shines though even in container gardening. They really don’t demand much, and will grow and bloom happily for years in their pots. Larger plants may need to be re-potted or planted out into the garden after several years.

Plant Selection: Many bulbs, ferns, perennials and small shrubs will adapt to life in a pot. Vigourous shrubs, such as elderberries (Sambucus spp.), willows (Salix spp.), Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) and Nootka Rose (Rosa nootkana) will quickly fill a pot with their root systems and do not perform well in containers. As with all gardening, there is a bit of trial an error involved, so be willing to experiment.

Great Plants for the Coastal Container Gardener

Full Sun

tiger lily maple5

Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium, S. oreganum, S. divergens
Nodding onion, Allium cernuum
Camas, Camassia quamash
Tiger lily , Lillium columbianum (pictured above)
Pearly everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
Sea thrift , Armeria maritima

Shade to Part Shade

oregon grape tall flowering

Deer fern, Blechnum spicant
Maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum
Dull Oregon grape, Mahonia nervosa (pictured above)
False Solomon’s seal Smilacina racemosa
Alumroot, Heuchera glabra, H. micrantha
Fringecup, Tellima grandiflora
Piggy-back plant, Tolmiea menziesii
Pacific bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa
Wintergreen, Gaultheria ovatifolia
Hooker’s fairybells , Disporum hookeri
Maidenhair spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes

Sun to Part Shade

columbine sun2

Sword fern, Polystichum munitum
Evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum
Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Western red columbine, Aquilegia formosa (pictured above)
Wild strawberry, Fragaria chiloensis, F. vesca
Piggy-back plant, Tolmiea menziesii
Pacific bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa
Wintergreen, Gaultheria ovatifolia
Hooker’s fairybells , Disporum hookeri
Maidenhair spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes

Sun to Part Shade

Sword fern false lilyofthevalleyNaturescaping 026

Sword fern, Polystichum munitum (pictured above)
Evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum
Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Western red columbine, Aquilegia formosa
Wild strawberry, Fragaria chiloensis, F. vesca
Sweet gale, Myrica gale
Red flowering currant, Ribies sanguineum
Vine maple, Acer circinatum

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