Did you know that native plants are great assets to our watershed? They have the ability to reduce stormwater flow by allowing rain to soak into the ground through their deep root systems, sometimes reaching over twelve feet! Plant roots have an established relationship with beneficial microorganisms in the soil that work together to filter and “scrub” pollutants from stormwater as well. We know that plants are heroes for reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution, but when it comes to surface pollutants that accumulate in stormwater, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, heavy metals, and zinc, plants are quickly becoming one of the solutions to mitigate and uptake such pollutants. One example is the Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor, which is shown to be excellent at removing up to 97% of pesticides that come in contact with their large root biomass system (Smith).

 

Native plants are not only good for our watershed, but also are an attractive addition to any landscape. I am always amazed of the vibrancy of native plant gardens in the Ozarks this time of year. Plants which started creeping from the ground in spring are now in full bloom and almost at mature height. The color palette can be quite exquisite too, despite the dog days of summer’s end, and although the plants are soon to be transforming to dormancy for the upcoming winter, they have but one more show to put on before the temperatures drop.

 

The fall garden can be surprisingly beautiful with the many varieties of native plants that are abundant to us here in the Ozarks. Many of our natives are unique in that they provide year-round interest in color, texture and sometimes, form. Don’t be surprised to see our local wildlife finding a new favorite hang-out spot too, should you plant one (or many!) of the following in your yard. I’ve seen everything from bumble bees, birds, dragonflies and butterflies to deer, lizards and an occasional rabbit seeking refuge in the native garden. Fall is also an ideal time to plant, as new transplants require less watering and are not battling the extreme heat of post-spring weather here in Northwest Arkansas.

 

Rain Gardens are an excellent way to harvest stormwater and feature beautiful native plants! These special landscape features are meant to capture, not hold, stormwater for 1-2 days while letting it slowly soak in to the ground, where it is needed most! To learn more about rain gardens, visit:  http://www.irwp.org/conservation-and-restoration/rain-gardens/

 

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Native Plants to plant this fall

Arkansas Blue Star

Arkansas Blue Star, Amsonia hubrichtii
Photo: Perennial Resource

Arkansas Blue Star is a fall favorite perennial with soft, needle-like leaves that line the stems like bottlebrushes. The deer resistant foliage forms a perfect mound and turns bright gold in the fall. Hundreds of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers adorn the plants in late spring through early summer.  Bees and butterflies love this plant!

Height: Up to 3 feet
Spread: Up to 3 feet
Sun: Full Sun to Light Shade
Soils: Moist

 

Joe Pye Weed

 

Joe Pye Weed ‘Little Joe,’ Eupatorium dubium

Eupatoriums are spectacular garden plants, but they are often too tall for many gardens. ‘Little Joe’ offers the same great attributes as its taller cousins, but in a smaller garden-friendly package! In mid-late Summer, the sturdy purplish stems give rise to large mauve-purple flowers heads which can be over 12 inches across! Butterflies love the intense fragrance. An all around excellent perennial that is drought tolerant and easy to grow.

Height: 3-4’
Spread: 2-3’
Sun: Partial Shade to Full Sun
Soils: Moist

 

Aster

 

Stokes Aster, Stokesia laevis ‘Honeysong
Purple’

Stokes Aster is a large and showy perennial, growing to 6 or more feet in height! Blooms range from lavender to pinkish- white. Bees and butterflies frequent this wildflower and the nectar is a source for Monarch butterflies.

Height: 3-6’
Spread: 3′
Sun: Partial Shade
Soils: Moist

 

Stiff Goldenrod

Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida

Photo: Kathy Purdy

Fall wouldn’t be fall without the cheery yellows of Goldenrod, a sun-loving perennial. It features tiny, bright yellow, daisy-like flowers that provide blooms in August and September months. Tolerates clay soils and is known to be deer resistant.

Height: 3-5’
Spread: 2’
Sun: Full
Soils: Moisture and Drought tolerant

 

Ozark Witchhazel

Ozark Witch-hazel, Hammamelis vernalis

Photo: Missouri Botanical Gardens

This deciduous shrub is a native to the Ozarks, hence the name. Witchhazels usually occur in the wild in gravel or rocky stream beds or at the base of rocky slopes along streams. Noted for its extremely early (January to February-March) bloom period, this plant is a great native alternative to the Forsythia. The fall colors of this plant are striking golden yellows, and a favorite variety of mine is ‘Diane’ which features more reds and oranges in the fall. Extract obtained from the leaves, bark and stems was formerly used medicinally by native Americans for, inter alia, external treatment of sprains, bruises and inflammations.

Height: 6-10’
Spread: 8-15’
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soils: Moisture and Drought tolerant

 

Red Twig Dogwood

Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’

Photo: Leif Knecht

The Red twig Dogwood is a rapid-growing, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub which grows to a maximum size of 6-9′ tall with a loose, rounded, spreading habit. The outstanding ornamental feature of this plant is its bright red winter stems which are particularly showy against a snowy backdrop. Dark green leaves turn an attractive reddish purple in autumn. Combine these with the Yellow twig dogwoods for a bi-color winter stem display!

Height: 6-9’
Spread: 8-12’
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soils: Wet soils and Drought tolerant

 

Inkberry Holly

Inkberry Holly, Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’
Photo: HGTV.com

This evergreen shrub is a great native alternative for the common boxwood. Female flowers give way to jet black inkberries which mature in early fall and persist through the winter to early spring unless consumed by local bird populations. This cultivar is a female plant and needs a male pollinator in order to produce the jet black berries characteristic of the cultivar. Excellent low-maintenance shrub!

Height: 3-4’
Spread: 4-6’
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soils: Medium to Wet

 

Indian Grass
Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans

Indian Grass is a fall favorite in the Ozark landscape. A native prairie plant, Indian Grass prefers soils slightly on the dryish side, but is fairly tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. Throughout spring is a nice clumping perennial grass, which turns golden in the fall and provides winter interest with its tall, feathery seed heads. Cut back hard in early spring just before the new growth appears.

Height: 3-5’
Spread: 2-3’
Sun: Full sun
Soils: Dry to Medium moisture

 

Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium

Little bluestem is one of the dominant grasses which grow in the rich and fertile soils of the tallgrass prairie. Purplish-bronze flowers appear in 3″ long racemes on branched stems rising above the foliage in August. Resulting clusters of fluffy, silvery-white seed heads are attractive and may persist into winter. The most outstanding feature of this grass may be the bronze-orange fall foliage color. Formerly known as Andropogon scoparius. Cut back in late spring to encourage new growth throughout the seasons.

Height: 2-4’
Spread: 1-2’
Sun: Full sun
Soils: Dry to Medium moisture

 

Tussock Sedge

Tussock Sedge, Carex stricta

Photo: PlantPlaces.com

The Tussock Sedge is an evergreen sedge that grows in dense “tussocks.” It is an emergent aquatic that is native primarily to wet swales, marshes, bogs, wet meadows and creek margins in eastern North America. This is a great plant to have in the native garden as it tolerates wet soils and holds up well to drought. The evergreen foliage of this sedge are a great asset and contrast to the dreary winter months.

Height: 1-3’
Spread: 1-2’
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soils: Medium to wet

 

Watershed Moments:

 

Eggs NWACC Rain Garden

 

Four speckled eggs sit quielty in the Rain Garden at Northwest Arkansas Community College, Rogers, Ark.

 

Pin it!  Pin your favorites from our Top 10 Native Plants for Fall on Pinterest

 

Trusted Sources for Native Plants:

U.S. National Plant Database: www.plants.usda.gov
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: www.wildflower.org
Missouri Botanical Gardens: www.missouribotanicalgarden.org
IRWP Native Plants for a Rain Garden: www.irwp.org

 

Sources:

Smith, Katy E., USDA-ARS; Putnam, Raymond A.: Phaneuf, Clifford; Lanza, Guy R.; Dhankher, Om P.; John M. Clark* University of Massachusetts-Amherst.  Selection of Plants for Optimization of Vegetative Filter Strips Treating Runoff from Turfgrass