Explore Plants

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
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - August 01, 2012

From: Olga, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Meadow Gardens, Septic Systems, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Wildflower field for sewage leach field from Olga Washington
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am interested in planting a large native wildflower field at a resort in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. It would be over a sewage leach field for many cabins and bathrooms. Are there any plants I should avoid for fear of hurting pipes? Any idea about when I should be planting? Any help would be much appreciated.

ANSWER:

This really is two questions: 1. How do I plant a meadow garden? and 2. What do I plant over a sewage leach field? Fortunately, on No. 2, we have links to several previously answered questions concerning plants that are appropriate for planting above septic lines. On. Question No. 1, we have two How-To Articles that should help you with the procedure.

Previous Answer

Large Scale Wildflower Planting

Meadow Gardening

From these links, we hope that you have gotten the message that, in your case, wildflowers and native grasses, with long fibrous roots are good and woody plants, trees and shrubs, not good.

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. We will start with our Native Plant Database. Using the Combination Search, we will select on Washington and first herbs/forbs (herbaceous blooming plants, i.e., wildflowers) and  second on grasses. You should probably make a rough map of the property determining where there is sun (6 hours or more of sun a day), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun) or shade (less than 2 hours). Since we do not know these characteristics, you can run your own search later. You can also, as you get comfortable with the database, specify heights, annual/perennial, even bloom time and color, if you wish. Of course, the more specifications you put in, the fewer (or none) choices you will get. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant, check the Growing Conditions, Soil Moisture, Light Requirements, etc. This can take time: there are 1057 herbs or forbs in our database native to Washington State and 253 grasses. We checked on each one that we chose to make sure it grew natively in your area.

Wildflowers for San Juan Islands, Washington:

Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow)

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly-everlasting)

Aquilegia formosa (Western columbine)

Bidens cernua (Nodding beggartick)

Castilleja miniata ssp. miniata (Giant red indian paintbrush)

Campanula rotundifolia (Bluebell bellflower)

Grasses for San Juan Island, Washington:

Carex stipata (Owlfruit sedge)

Eriophorum angustifolium (Tall cottongrass)

Hordeum jubatum (Foxtail barley)

Juncus tenuis (Poverty rush)

Phalaris arundinacea (Reed canarygrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Finally, we searched on "native plants of San Juan Islands, WA" and got a whole slew of good sites. We want to urge you to use bedding plants or seeds ONLY from plants native to, and gathered from, your own area. These sites should have some information on that.

San Juan Islands Conservation District

San Juan Island National Historical Park

San Juan Island National Historical Park - Plants

Washington Native Plant Society

 

From the Image Gallery


Western pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea

Western columbine
Aquilegia formosa

Nodding beggartick
Bidens cernua

Giant red indian paintbrush
Castilleja miniata ssp. miniata

Bluebell bellflower
Campanula rotundifolia

Awlfruit sedge
Carex stipata

Tall cottongrass
Eriophorum angustifolium

Foxtail barley
Hordeum jubatum

Poverty rush
Juncus tenuis

Reed canarygrass
Phalaris arundinacea

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Habiturf for East Texas
May 14, 2012 - We live in east Texas, right on the beginning of the piney words, the soil is a little sandy. We have taken up a wooden walkway but can't get anything to grow there. Could the soil be dead from year ...
view the full question and answer

Year-round flowering in Laredo TX
May 18, 2011 - I'm trying to plant a variety of native plants in my mom's garden in Laredo, TX. The thing that I find a challenge is that she wants year round flowers. Can you suggest a few native flowering plan...
view the full question and answer

Low cost, low maintenance, water tolerants native plants for New Jersey
February 25, 2006 - I am planning a bed around my deck which will include shrubs and flowers. I am looking for plants that require a lot of water due to the wet soil conditions and poor drainage in my yard. Do you have...
view the full question and answer

Failure of tall garden phlox buds to open in St. Louis MO
July 30, 2009 - Why won't the buds of my tall garden phlox open? Plants are apparently healthy, no powdery mildew or visible insects, foliage looks great and buds are profuse but they don't open. I have two clumps ...
view the full question and answer

Is Lycopodium digitatum native to South Carolina?
December 27, 2012 - Is Lycopodium digitatum native to SC; do you know if it's available in SC nurseries?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.