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Friday - April 25, 2008

From: Cincinnati, OH
Region: Northeast
Topic: Rain Gardens, Wildlife Gardens, Compost and Mulch
Title: Native plants beneficial to wildlife in Cincinnati, OH
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and I am looking for native plants to plant in a small area of trees behind my house. I would like the plants to be beneficial for wildlife, like maybe some wildflowers. The area tends to get very wet in the spring but then dries out in the summer. Any suggestions or what type of plants to look for would be great.


You will have to be careful how you plant in an area that is wet one season and dry the next. If you plant a "swamp" plant, or one that likes wet feet, then when the soil dries out, that plant will likely die. If you plant something that likes a drier soil, its roots will drown in the wet season. Do not despair. There is something you can do. I don't know what kind of soil you have, but any soil can benefit from working some humus, like compost, into it. You can spread it on the soil and till it in, you can work it into the planting holes, whatever works for you. It's important that the compost not totally replace the native soil. Sooner or later, those roots are going to have to deal with the native soil, and they need to be prepared. Whether your soil is sandy, in which case it drains too fast, or clay, which holds the moisture in place, the compost will improve the texture, help with drainage or hold moisture in during dry periods. Compostguide.com has an excellent How To Make Compost.

Now, having warned you about moisture, we are going to the Recommended Species of our website, and select herbs (flowering plants), shrubs, grasses and trees (all perennials) that are recommended for Ohio. You didn't mention how much sun your area received, so we will not select for sun exposure, and will select for medium moisture in the soil. We will give you a link to each type of plant recommended for your area, and you can go back in and Narrow Your Search for different sun exposures, more or less moisture, etc. And when you're ready to select the plants for your garden, go to our Native Plant Suppliers list for the Cincinnati area.

Recommended herbs (flowering perennials) for Ohio

Recommended shrubs for Ohio

Recommended trees for Ohio

Recommended grasses for Ohio

As you look at each list, you can click on the plant link, and read the description of the plant, how much sun it needs, how large it will grow, etc. Since you specifically mentioned wildlife benefits, we are going to go through and pick some of our favorites for your part of the country.


Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Rudbeckia triloba (browneyed Susan)


Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood)

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark)

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)


Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Hamamelis virginiana (American witchhazel)

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree)


Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Conoclinium coelestinum

Rudbeckia triloba

Cornus alternifolia

Physocarpus opulifolius

Viburnum acerifolium

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Aesculus glabra

Cercis canadensis

Hamamelis virginiana

Liriodendron tulipifera

Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula

Elymus canadensis

Sorghastrum nutans







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