Native Flowers

Asked March 17, 2020, 12:25 PM EDT

Hello, I would like to plant native flowers (or other plants) this year around my small rowhome in Baltimore City. What flowers would be best for the following environments: - Medium sized pots in the from of my house which only gets sun in the morning - Small pots in the back of my house which gets sun all day (vines are acceptable) Thank you!

Baltimore Maryland

1 Response

Many of our native flowering perennials would do best with more root space than can be had in a container. This not only gives them space to mature, but protection from temperature swings and more rapid soil drying. That said, with attention to watering and using larger sizes of pots (probably no smaller than 12" in diameter), some perennials can survive for years of enjoyment. We understand that you may not have many options for planting in the ground.

Vines will need support, which can be difficult in all but the largest pots since there is too little room to anchor the support to keep it from falling. If you can use a support braced in another way, some smaller-growing vines may work, though they will still outgrow even a full-sized trellis panel. An obelisk vine support could work if the support has to be in the pot itself (think the shape of the Washington monument), but the pot would still need to be wide enough to accommodate the pronged feet sunk into the soil.

For morning sun exposure, some options include:

  • Eupatorium (specifically E. rugosum and E. coelestinum, as these are more shade-tolerant) - white or blue flowers attract various pollinators, and appear late in the season
  • Fringed Bleeding-heart (Dicentra eximia) - does not go completely dormant in summer like other Dicentra and blooms from spring into summer
  • Coral-bells (Heuchera americana and H. villosa are the local natives) - grown more for foliage colors and patterns, their tiny less-conspicuous flowers are still attractive to our small solitary bees; pinker-flowered forms can be attractive to hummingbirds, though these species are native elsewhere in the U.S.
  • dwarf varieties of Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) - they will outgrow the pots faster as they are small shrubs, but their fragrant summer flowers are highly attractive to pollinators
  • Violets (Viola) - primarily spring-blooming, and a good general filler around other plants
  • Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) - spring-blooming; may attract hummingbirds
  • White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) - summer-blooming and attractive to bumble bees
  • wood Asters (White Wood, Aster divaricatus, and Blue Wood, Aster cordifolius) - late-blooming and tolerant of shade, unlike most other Asters
  • Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata) - short, and tolerant of shade, unlike other Iris
  • various Ferns and Sedges (Carex) would make good fillers and textural accents, as desired
For sun:
  • Milkweeds (Asclepias tuberosa or A. incarnata, primarily) - the other common wild milkweed can get a bit top-heavy and tap-rooted for containers; Monarchs lay eggs on them, but many pollinators visit the flowers
  • Tickseeds (several species of Coreopsis) - some are long-blooming
  • Asters (various species, sometimes with new genus names instead of Aster) - later-blooming and loved by pollinators
  • Beebalm (Monarda) - there are dwarf varieties available if some get too tall; several are resistant to powdery mildew, a common cosmetic ailment
  • Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum) - loved by pollinators
  • Blazing-star (Liatris) - another pollinator favorite
  • Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
  • Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) - useful for draping over the side of larger pots; evergreen foliage
  • Trumpet Honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) - attractive to hummingbirds and long-blooming; needs tying to support, though it can twine a bit
  • Virgin's-bower Clematis (Clematis virginiana) - late summer flowers; leaf stalks are the tendrils, so support rungs need to be slender
Even more ideas can be found in this handy publication from northern VA (it is applicable to most of MD too):