Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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. 

Shrubs

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)

Perennials

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)

Vines

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

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Poolside plants for East Texas
June 18, 2015 - What are the best plants, shrubs, ornamental trees, etc. for poolside planting in East Texas?
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for Central California from Concord CA
July 19, 2012 - I live in a part of California where the summers can be very hot and dry but quite cool and wet during the rainy seasons in the wintertime. The soil around my home is very dry, rocky and infertile. I...
view the full question and answer

Where to find Horseherb seed
August 02, 2015 - I would like to purchase some Horseherb seeds. Can you tell me where I can do that? Either locally or on line. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Effects or insecticide on Monarch butterflies
July 28, 2013 - Thank you for fielding questions about plants!! Our nursery just informed us that their milkweed grower was using imidacloprid in their milkweed production. As a follow up to the question already in...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of Mexican Petunia in Chorpus Christi, TX
March 05, 2016 - What is the best way to get rid of unwanted Mexican Petunia that keeps spreading to unwanted areas of my flower beds?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.