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Friday - December 05, 2008

From: Bloomington, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Wildflowers for flood plain in Minnesota
Answered by: Janice Kvale


Hi- Our home sits on 2 acres with about 1 of the acres in a flood plain area. That 1 acre has water running through it when the snow melts off and it generally dries up in 2 days. It is currently planted in grass but, I would like to change it to some sort of wild flower(s) where as it no longer has to be mowed or maintained. We even thought about digging a pond but our concern is the 1-2 day run off. Looking for some advice.


Opportunity abounds for you, and Mr. Smarty Plants commends you for your commitment to native plants for beauty and ease of maintenance and for flexibility in your planning. You have so many options that you may want to have a landscape architect assess your site for the best one, including the feasibility of the pond. At this point, it sounds like you are thinking about a wild flower meadow. Check out our How-To article on Meadow Gardening.

An alternative that is quite successful on a site like yours is the "rain garden." A rain garden is a shallow depression that collects the run-off from snow and rain and is planted in native plants, such as you are planning. It can be combined with a dry creek bed if directing the run-off to one area is advisable. Read about rain gardens at Create a Garden.

And, now, some homework! Minnesota has some great resources to help you, and you may want to consider a couple of field trips to see native plants in the flesh (or leaf), so to speak. The Minnesota Arboretum in Chaska has a section planted in native species. A list of wetlands to visit may be found at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. A different section of that same site lists native plant suppliers in Central Minnesota. You can also visit our Native Plant Suppliers section to locate businesses that sell native plants or seeds or provide professional landscaping or consulting services in Minnesota. Our Organizations Directory will help you locate native plant societies, conservation groups and governmental agencies, as well as other resources. Finally, read this website Rain Gardens-Gardening with Water Quality in Mind for a list of native plants in your area suitable for a rain garden or other sometimes wet, sometimes dry sites.

To explore plants for your site in detail, go to our Native Plant Database section. Then, select  State (Minnesota), click on NARROW YOUR SEARCH, Habit (herb or herbaceous plants), and Duration (perennial). Check the requirements of your site: Light Requirements (full sun), and soil moisture (moist and/or wet). Out of 177 possible suggestions, Mr. Smarty Plants selected a few favorites you might consider. You may also want some grasses and shrubs for variety, since you have a generous lot. Most sedges are tolerant of the wet-dry cycle, Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail) for dry arrangements, horse tail Equisetum hyemale var. affine (scouringrush horsetail) for fun, and Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood) because the red, leafless branches in winter are gorgeous against the white snow. Have fun!

Lysimachia thyrsiflora (tufted loosestrife)

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Anemone virginiana (tall thimbleweed)

Achillea sibirica (Siberian yarrow)

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Eupatorium purpureum (sweetscented joepyeweed)

Helianthus giganteus (giant sunflower)

Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium)

Lilium superbum (turk's-cap lily)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Phlox paniculata (fall phlox)

Rudbeckia triloba (browneyed Susan)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail)

Dryopteris cristata (crested woodfern)

Equisetum hyemale (scouringrush horsetail)

Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood)

Lysimachia thyrsiflora

Aquilegia canadensis

Anemone virginiana

Achillea sibirica

Asclepias incarnata

Asclepias tuberosa

Callirhoe involucrata

Eupatorium purpureum

Helianthus giganteus

Geranium maculatum

Lilium superbum

Monarda didyma

Phlox paniculata

Rudbeckia triloba

Carex blanda

Typha latifolia

Dryopteris cristata

Equisetum hyemale

Cornus sericea










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