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Thursday - March 12, 2009

From: New Buffalo, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Native plants for backyard in Michigan
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe


I am an inexperienced gardener but would love to know the best plants/bushes to plant in my backyard. I would love floral and fragrant. I am in Southwest Michigan, near New Buffalo and since this is my second home I am usually only here 2 to 3 days a week. Any suggestions?


Welcome to gardening! The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center seeks to foster the use of native plants. We encourage using species that are native to your area. They are well-adapted to their local growing conditions, require less fertilizer and maintenance. A good way to start is by reading our How-To Article Native Plant Gardening.

Without knowing a little bit more about your site, our ability to suggest specific plants is limited. You can use our Native Plant Database to pinpoint species that should thrive for you. Select Michigan, the plant habit and duration, and specify the the sunlight and soil moisture levels that match your site. The tentative suggestions below are based on three searches of Michigan natives, one of shrubs, one of herbs (herbaceous, or non-woody plants), and the other of vines, and using part-sun and moist soil requirements. Since you are sited so close to the Indiana state line, you might also search the database using Indiana. I did, in fact, check the choices I made in another database - USDA Plants - which is accessible via a link in the Native Plants species pages. By clicking your state on the distribution map, you can see in which counties the plant is reported. You may wish to consult local growers and nurseries who specialize in native plants and seeds and will have detailed knowledge about the growing requirements and conditions in your area and their familiarity with local species is very useful. We list local providers on our Explore Plants page under Suppliers

Below are my suggestions. Most have flowers. Some are fragrant. Colorful fall foliage or fruits characterize a number of them. I have also given you a link to a previous question sent to us from a fellow New Buffalo resident which includes recommended plants for a dune ecosystem. 


Diervilla lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle)

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush)

Amorpha canescens (leadplant)

Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rosemallow)

Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet)

Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush)

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)


Campanulastrum americanum (American bellflower)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)


Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet)

Vitis riparia (riverbank grape) - pictures

Diervilla lonicera

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Amorpha canescens

Hibiscus moscheutos

Spiraea alba

Spiraea tomentosa

Viburnum acerifolium

Hypericum prolificum

Campanulastrum americanum

Rudbeckia hirta

Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias tuberosa

Campanula rotundifolia

Lobelia cardinalis

Monarda fistulosa

Celastrus scandens




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