Plants

Columbine ©Janet AllenNative plants such as this columbine provide the best habitat

Everyone knows that plants are what gardens are about. BUT not everyone understands how different kinds of plants affect wildlife and the health of the planet.

We think about three kinds of plants when we choose plants for our habitat garden:

I've found that knowing the botanical (i.e. scientific) names is very handy. And what about cultivars? What are they? Are they okay to have in a habitat garden?

And since people often have difficulty finding information about native plants, I've included a page of my favorite web resources and reference books.

Two underappreciated and misunderstood plants

Goldenrod

Monarchs and goldenrod(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Monarchs nectaring at goldenrods

We have many, many different kinds of goldenrods and milkweeds in our habitat garden. Not only are they important as habitat plants, but they're also beautiful additions to our garden. Unfortunately, these plants are misunderstood and underappreciated.

Goldenrods (Solidago) are an important source of nectar for migrating butterflies and for bees. Even so, people are reluctant to plant them because they MISTAKENLY believe that:

  • goldenrods are the source of seasonal allergies
  • the common Canada goldenrod (S. canadense) is the only kind of goldenrod
Ragweed with goldenrod ©Janet AllenRagweed growing near goldenrod

BUT …

Allergies: People do sneeze sometimes when they're around goldenrods, BUT that's often because other allergy-inducing plants are growing near the goldenrods. If the rather nondescript ragweed is growing next to the brilliant yellow goldenrod, which one will you notice?

Types of goldenrod: The common Canada goldenrod is an important nectar plant, but so are other goldenrods. We grow many different kinds of goldenrod.

More about goldenrods, including the science regarding allergies in the sidebar of this page.

Milkweed

Common milkweed(Enlarge)  ©Janet Allen
Common milkweed

Mention milkweed and people often picture common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), running rampant in the wild. They may or may not know that are an essential host plant for monarch butterflies, but they do know that they don't want this "weed" growing in their garden.

We happen to grow some in our yard. We keep an eye on it since it can spread by underground rhizomes, but haven't experienced any real problems We just pull the shoots that come up where we don't want them.

But what people don't know is that there are many other kinds of milkweeds, most of which are fine garden-worthy plants. Many of these are also important host plants for the monarch butterfly. See what kinds of milkweeds we grow.