Starting native flowers from seeds -> what you need to know


Who are native plants?

Native plants are the ones that were already on the North American continent before European settlers arrived.

At that time, prairies covered almost 40% of the US.

Now less than 1% of that native prairies remain. It is due to human settlement and farming.

Prairies are now one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

Where they still exist, they provide habitat and food for many pollinators, bees and butterflies.


That is why planting natives is:

  • a very good way to restore biodiversity

  • The promise of a colorful landscape

  • The promise of a low maintenance landscape: less watering and mowing.

  • The restoration of monarchs habitat and other insects species

Plant selection 2022

I chose 6 plants that are all perennial, which means that their life cycle lasts 3 years or more. They are recommended for home landscaping because they won’t spread widely.

They produce beautiful flowers and provide habitat for various insects, especially Asclepias tuberosa will host monarchs caterpillars and some others can be used for medicinal purposes such as Monarda: leaves can be used to make a flu-fighter tea according to native Americans.

They are all deer-resistant, and do well in full/partial sun.


Top left to right plants:

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) - Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis) - Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Bottom left to right plants

Early Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) - Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) - Foxglove Birdtongue (Penstemon digitalis)


FAQ

Where should be the pots once planting is done?

Once the planting is done, just let the pots outside in a protected area where they can receive rainwater.


What is stratification and which seeds do need it?

Some seeds need 30 days of stratification = nice resting outside in the cold weather to stimulate germination. If you delay planting it will be too late.

The seeds that need stratification are: butterfly weed, blue wild indigo, early sunflower & foxglove beardtongue.

Wild bergamot and purple coneflower do not need stratification but they can also be planted now. You may want to plant them later as well.


Do I need to water the pots?

No extra water is needed until germination starts. In spring, when germination starts we don't want to let the pots dry out. But before that, no extra care required, just let them outside.


which plant will do well in container?

The wild bergamot, the purple coneflower and the foxglove beardtongue should be ok being in a pot. But take a big pot :) It all depends on the roots length. The longer the roots are, the less likely "happy-in-a-pot" the plant will be.


Why do plants have 2 names?

They do have one unique latin name according to the plant classification of Carl Linnaeus. It is like the name that is written on your ID papers.

They also have one and sometimes several common names. It’s like your nickname. We must be careful with those common names because two different plant may have the same common name. It is the case with « Bergamot ».


Is Wild Bergamot related to my Earl Grey Tee?

No: the one you have in your tee comes from Bergamot Orange, which is a citrus fruit native to Italy.

However you can also make tee with Wild Bergamot. The plant is rich in thymol and Native Indians use to make tee with the plant to fight the flu.


Why start natives from seeds?

Starting natives from seeds makes them your babies. It may sound like more work but it’s not. Once the seeds are planted, they will start their life outside without any help. In the spring you'll have to transplant them in the garden, as you would do with plants purchased from a local nursery.

Because you give them a start with fun and love, it creates a sort of bond. You give them this wonderful role: bringing life and colors into your garden and they give you purpose: you are the one growing them, and you will check once in a while if everything goes well, you will transplant them, and watch them grow… you will tame each other and you will become friends :) and this all is very rewarding.

Note: some plants may start blooming on year 2.

So let say that:

  • You’ll get to know how to start them

  • They won’t be transported from one place to another place which is better as transportation can weaken the plants.

  • It is less expensive than buying already grown plants

Resources

Book: Phyllis Root, Betsy Bowen (2014). Plant a Pocket of Prairie. The University of Minnesota Press

Nursery: Prairie Moon Nursery

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