Colorful Lawn Natives

Monday, October 7, 2019

Choosing attractive plants for landscaping used to be easy. The selection of shrubs and other ornamentals was plentiful and accessible through a variety of stores. This was before we understood what an invasive species was, or how many of them we unintentionally introduced into our state. We are only just now beginning to fully grasp how much of an impact invasive plants have on our environment and economy. Plants like English ivy and burning bush have been decorating our yards for years, but they also been spreading into nearby woods, damaging homes, and out-competing native species for space to grow. Recently, the state of Indiana has taken steps to alleviate this problem.

The Indiana Terrestrial Plant Rule is a two-stage rule that will impact what plants can be sold in our state. To start, as of April 18, 2019, it became illegal to introduce certain species of plant that were not already in Indiana. After April 18, 2020, plant species already in trade will be prohibited from being sold any longer. Ultimately, this means plants such as tree-of-heaven, Japanese barberry, crown vetch, and several others will no longer be on the market. However, the terrestrial plant rule does not prevent the sale or trade of many other invasive plants. If you are curious as to what plants are legal for trade or not, feel free to contact your local extension office to get more information.

With all of the information out there and the introduction of the terrestrial plant rule, choosing the right species for ornamentals can be confusing at best. However, there are several organizations, including Purdue Extension, that can help you find native alternatives that are not only good for our environment, but also capable of being just as aesthetically pleasing as more traditional, non-native ornamental shrubs and trees.

For example, if you are looking for a shrub to add color, have you considered a bottlebrush buckeye? This plant can grow between 8 and 12 feet high and 15 feet wide. It blooms in midsummer with white blooms, and when fall arrives, the leaves turn to a soft yellow. It has few problems with pest insects and diseases doesnít require much in the way of pruning. It works best around shade gardens, woodland areas as it requires partial to full shade. An added benefit of this species is that it will attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Another species to consider planting is the oakleaf hydrangea. Another plant that blooms with white flowers, youíll also see the bark peel back to reveal a brilliant orange color. As the season pushes into fall, the leaves will turn bright red. This plant, however, does have some insect issues, particularly with aphids. The aphid activity can produce powdery mildew, and deer can also be attracted to it.

One last native plant that Iíll mention is the staghorn sumac. This is a plant that grows by suckers to form colonies. It produces green leaves that turn to orange, reds, and yellow in the fall with white blooms in the spring and summer seasons. Itís drought-resistant and can be easily recovered from a dieback by cutting it to the ground. It also acts as an excellent source of nectar for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. If you choose this plant, youíll want to pay a little extra attention; it can have a weedy growth pattern that will need cut back if it develops aggressively.

If you have any questions in invasive or native plants, please feel free to contact Purdue Extension at 812-829-5020 (Owen), 812-448-9041 (Clay), or email us at rfbruner@purdue.edu. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

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