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Maryland Native Plants: 12 Great Choices for the Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Native Plants: 12 Great Choices for the Chesapeake Bay

Written by

Wyatt Shell

Date

August 18, 2023

Sunny day in the Chesapeake Bay

Maryland boasts an incredible array of native plants that are uniquely adapted to the state's diverse landscapes. As you'll discover in the following sections, cultivating native plants in your Maryland yard offers a host of benefits. Whether your garden enjoys full sun, dappled shade, or the shelter of dense woodland, these 12 native plants of Maryland will provide an excellent starting point for creating a thriving and ecologically beneficial garden. But before we delve into the specifics, let's explore why native plants are so essential for your landscape.

 

What are Native Plants?

American Lady butterfly on yellow flowers

In Maryland, native plants are those that have flourished in the region we now call the Chesapeake Bay (and across much of the Mid-Atlantic region) for countless centuries. The native species we encounter today - like those showcased at local native plant events - are the descendants of ancestral plants that thrived in Maryland's ecosystems long before European settlers arrived. Over time, these plants have developed remarkable adaptations to thrive in Maryland's unique environment, all while providing essential wildlife habitats.

Not only do Maryland native plants directly support local wildlife and ecosystems, but they are also fantastic additions to gardens and landscapes. Maryland native plants often grow quickly, possess natural resistance to drought, require minimal fertilization, and demand relatively little upkeep. Identifying the appropriate native plants for your specific region in Maryland can enhance the beauty and ecological significance of any landscaping endeavor.

 

Why are Native Plant Species Important?

large area of felled trees

There has been an ongoing and incredible loss of animal life worldwide over the past 150 years. This is a tragedy that has affected almost every major group of wildlife, including the many bees, butterflies, birds, and other beneficial pollinators that allow our natural world to function. A leading driver of this crash is land mismanagement: as humans, we've spent far too long removing the native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants our local wildlife needs and replacing them with non native species that do little or nothing to help.

Hummingbird visiting a red flower on a Coralbean plant

By contrast, growing native plants allows each of us to directly repair and reverse this course. Not only are native plants especially well-adapted to provide food and shelter for many beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife; these plants also tend to cycle nutrients into the soil more efficiently, and retain more storm water, than any kind of turf grass. Further, many species of native plants can survive in poor soils and are drought tolerant and deer resistant once established. For all these reasons and more, it's important to choose native plants when planning your garden beds, pollinator gardens, or other landscaping efforts. By doing so, you will help to reduce atmospheric CO2, create fertile soil, and reestablish a healthy ecosystem and natural habitat for your part of the planet.

monarch butterfly on purple flowers

 

Native Plants of Maryland for the Yard

Below, I share just a handful of the native grasses and perennial wildflowers that call Maryland home. I split this list into separate plants for three major groups of sun exposure: Full Sun, Partial Shade, and Full Shade. Each one of the plants listed will support many beneficial insects and some can be found, along with some of our other favorite Maryland native plants, in My Home Park's pre-designed gardens for Maryland and DC. Between this list and our catalog, you should be able to find plants that are native to Maryland and your yard.

 

Native Plants for Full Sun

Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta

yellow flowers black-eyed susans

Black-Eyed Susan is not only native to Maryland, it's Maryland's state flower! You are probably already somewhat familiar with this vibrant and iconic native wildflower, commonly found across much of eastern in North America. Blooming from early summer to late fall, this perennial brightens up gardens with its long-lasting and abundant yellow blossoms. Black-Eyed Susan boasts a clumping growth habit, reaching a height of around 2 to 3 feet. Its sturdy stems and bright blooms attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, making it a valuable addition to any pollinator-friendly garden. A great plant for cut flower arrangements!

 

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa

orange butterfly weed

Butterfly Weed is unique as one of our only brilliant orange flowers. This plant typically blooms from early summer to fall, and grows up to 2 to 3 feet tall. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, Butterfly Weed offers practical benefits for your yard. It is deer resistant and its deep taproot makes it a highly drought tolerant plant once established, making it an excellent choice for water-wise landscaping. By planting Butterfly Weed, you're not only adding beauty to your outdoor space but also contributing to the conservation of vital pollinators and creating a haven for wildlife.

monarch butterfly caterpillar on butterfly weed

As one of a suite of native milkweed species (plants in the genus Asclepias), Butterfly Weed is also a critical host plant for endangered Monarch Butterflies. Monarch Butterfly caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweeds, so by cultivating Butterfly Weed in your butterfly garden, you'll be creating a stunning landscape while also contributing to the conservation of this fragile and beautiful species.

 

Wool Grass

Scirpus cyperinus

light green fronds of wool grass

This is a captivating native grass with a unique appearance and remarkable contributions to wetland ecosystems. Its distinctive clusters of brown flower terminal spikes resemble woolly tufts, giving it a charming and distinctive look. These flower clusters emerge in summer and persist through early fall, adding intriguing texture to wetland areas and rain gardens. Reaching heights of 2 to 4 feet, Wool Grass showcases a clumping growth habit with graceful arching stems. Its ability to thrive in wet, even acidic earth, makes it a natural choice for stabilizing soils, improving water quality by filtering runoff, and providing habitat for diverse aquatic wildlife.

 

Wild Bergamot

Monarda fistulosa

wild bergamot maryland native plant

A native plant species to most eastern states, Wild Bergamot (also called Bee Balm) adds a burst of color and vitality to any pollinator gardens. It blooms with vibrant lavender to purple or even pale pink flowers from mid-summer to early fall, attracting pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbird moths. Its distinct tubular flowers are clustered in spherical heads, creating a visually captivating display. Growing to a height of 2 to 4 feet, Wild Bergamot boasts a bushy growth habit and aromatic foliage. This plant is highly adaptable and can tolerate clay soil; however, it will thrive in sunny locations with well drained soil. Its nectar-rich flowers are a favorite among pollinators, and its aromatic leaves can be used to make herbal teas. By incorporating Wild Bergamot into your garden, you're creating a haven for both wildlife and human well-being.

 

Native Plants for Partial Sun

Eastern Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis

eastern columbine maryland native plant

Among Maryland native plants Eastern Columbine brings a special touch of elegance to any garden. Its unique red and yellow flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. Growing to a height of 1 to 3 feet, it boasts a graceful growth habit that is just as home in a pollinator garden as in a naturalized area. This plant thrives in partial sun from shade to full sun and is well-suited for woodland gardens, shady borders, and other native landscapes with well drained soils. Besides its visual appeal, Eastern Columbine plays a vital role in supporting pollinators, as its intricate flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds and bees.

 

Woodland Sunflower

Helianthus divaricatus

yellow woodland sunflower blooms

Woodland Sunflower adds a splash of sunshine to partially shaded areas. Its cheerful yellow blooms emerge in late summer to early fall, brightening up woodland edges, garden borders, and natural landscapes. This plant typically reaches a height of 2 to 5 feet and is well-suited for areas with dappled sunlight or partial shade and rich soil. With its adaptable growth and ability to thrive in various conditions, Woodland Sunflower is a versatile and captivating addition to any outdoor space. Whether you're aiming to create a shaded oasis or add interest to a native plant garden, this sunflower brings both beauty and ecological value.

 

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis

bright red cardinal flower blooms

Cardinal Flower is a striking perennial known for its vibrant scarlet blooms which erupt from vertical stems girded with lance shaped green leaves. This stately accent plant stands out in areas with moist or wet soil, particularly along the edges of sunny ponds, streams, and wet meadows. Its eye-catching spikes of tubular flowers appear in mid to late summer, creating a mesmerizing display that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. With its bold color and impressive height, the Cardinal Flower brings both visual drama and ecological significance to gardens, providing a valuable nectar source for pollinators and adding a touch of elegance to waterside landscapes.

 

Golden Ragwort

Packera aurea

bright yellow flowers of golden ragwort

With a height ranging from 1 to 2 feet, Golden Ragwort is a clump forming perennial that grows in compact mounds of foliage that serve as excellent and dense ground cover once established, especially in shaded or partially shaded areas. This perennial plant features clusters of golden-yellow flowers that bloom in early spring, creating a vibrant display that attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies. Its adaptability to different soil types, including moist soils and well-draining soils, makes it a versatile choice for various gardening conditions.

 

Native Plants for Shade

Christmas Fern

Polystichum acrostichoides

glossy green fronds of christmas fern

Named for its festive appearance and evergreen foliage, Christmas Fern features deep green foliage that remains lush throughout the year, providing a touch of elegance even in the coldest months. Its leathery, arching fronds unfurl in a unique "tassel-like" pattern, making it a distinctive addition to shade gardens and natural landscapes. As a hardy native plant, Christmas Fern requires little maintenance while offering year-round visual appeal, making it a a great choice as a foundation plant for more complex woodland garden designs.

 

Wild Ginger

Asarum canadense

dark green leaves of wild ginger

Wild Ginger is a charming native woodland perennial with unique heart-shaped leaves that lend an air of enchantment to shaded gardens. This low-growing plant spreads by rhizomes to form lush, dense carpets of green foliage, making it an excellent ground cover choice for moist, shaded areas with well drained soil. While the inconspicuous flowers are tucked beneath the leaves and often hidden from view, they emit a delightful spicy fragrance that attracts early spring pollinators like bees and flies. The velvety leaves provide cover for small creatures and a rhizomatous growth habit helps control soil erosion.

 

White Wood Aster

Eurybia divaricata

white flowers of white wood aster

White Wood Aster is a delicate yet resilient native wildflower that graces woodlands, gardens, and natural habitats with its understated beauty. This perennial plant features dainty, daisy-like white flowers that bloom in late summer to early fall, providing a late-season burst of color when many other plants have finished flowering. Reaching a height of about 1 to 3 feet, White Wood Aster is known for its slender stems and broad dark green leaves, which create an attractive backdrop for its starry blooms.

 

Wild Geranium

Geranium maculatum

light purple flowers of wild geranium

Wild Geranium features deeply lobed, palmate leaves and dainty pink to lavender-hued flowers, adding a charming aesthetic to woodland gardens and shaded borders. This plant blooms in late spring to early summer, and its rhizomatous growth habit creates spreading clumps that help stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, Wild Geranium supports local wildlife and enhances the overall health of garden ecosystems, embodying the beauty and benefits of native plants in shaded landscapes.

gardening tools

 

What You Can Do Today

If you live in Maryland or Washington D.C., My Home Park has 12 pre-designed gardens that bring together several species of Maryland native plants produced by expert, organic growers who draw on diversified east coast gene lines. These diverse gardens are designed to help you find native plants that will bloom from early spring to fall, beautifying your landscape while supporting wildlife. Check out our catalog for Maryland or in any of the other states we serve in the Midatlantic, New England, and beyond to get started today!

bee on purple coneflower