Wild Ideas:  Newsletter for the Flint Chapter of Wild Ones Natural Landscapers, Limited.

ASK VICKI

Summer 2000

by Vicki Gagne

Question: I have a shady area in my yard that I would like to turn into a shade garden, using native Michigan plants. Got any suggestions?

Answer: I certainly can get you started in the right direction. There are many native Michigan plants to choose from. Here are a few to try.

Celastrus scandens:
American Bittersweet vine has spectacular red-orange fruits in the fall, and is often used in fall floral arrangements. Sun or part shade, height: 20’.
Dicentra candensis:
Squirrel corn is a charming 6-12” spring ephemeral woodland plant with clusters of tiny, white heart-shaped flowers (related to bleeding heart). It dislikes acidic soil and will not thrive near pine trees.
Geranium maculatum:
Wild geranium is a 12-18” spring blooming woodland plant with dainty, long-lasting pink to lavender flowers. It is easy to grow and spreads slowly by tubers.
Hystrix patula:
Bottlebrush grass is an airy 1-2’ woodland grass with interesting bottlebrush shaped flower heads.
Lillium superbum:
Michigan Lily has one to many nodding, orange, showy flowers up to 3 inches across. This 3-6’ plant thrives in moist conditions and blooms in mid-summer.
Phlox divaricata:
Wild blue phlox is similar to garden phlox but much more delicate and blooms in the spring. This fragrant, 8-12” shade plant will often go dormant during hot, dry summers.
Sanguinaria canadensis:
Blood root is an elegant 6-9” early spring woodland plant with glistening white flowers and large, handsome leaves.
Thalictrum dioicum:
Early meadow rue is a May-blooming plant with delicate rounded leaves and tiny clusters of lavender flowers. Growing 12-28” it is mostly found in rich woods.
Tradescantia ohiensis:
Spiderwort grows 2-3’ with leaves similar to day lilies and small blue, rose or white flowers. It spreads moderately well and blooms late spring into early summer.

Books to read for more information on these and other native Michigan plants are:

Growing Woodland Plants by Clarence and Eleanor Birdseye.
Michigan Wildflowers by Helen V. Smith
Peterson's Field Guide to Wildflowers by Roger Peterson and Margaret McKinny.
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