Native Plants for a Woodland Palette

Have you been looking into a “makeover” for your shady yard? Perhaps you’d like to attract more local wildlife, be it birds or small mammals. Or, maybe you’ve recently discovered the benefits of native plants and would like to incorporate more into your own little patch of land. Whatever the reason for wanting to transform your outdoor space, you’ll be happy to learn there are plenty of ways to do so with a woodland palette!wood palette, native wood plants

Today we’ll be discussing how to make your property look more natural with a woodland palette of woodland native plants. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to go planting a bunch of trees that will eventually become towering behemoths, such as quick-growing sycamores and tulip trees (although you can certainly do that too!). There are plenty of native understory plants that love the shade. And, if you would like to create more shady areas in your landscape, there are many trees you can incorporate that won’t take over your entire yard (several of which produce delicious fruits you and your new wildlife friends can enjoy!).

Letting Your Yard Go “Au Naturale”

The more you research native plants, the more you’ll realize two things. One of these is just how many beautiful native species there are in the Hoosier state and in the Midwest. The second being that natives are just as beautiful as non-native species. They come in just as many colors and a variety of shapes and patterns. You’ve probably seen a lot of them if you’ve visited any natural areas in the state, such as undisturbed areas of city parks and along trails in state parks. Spring and summer are especially good times to visit these places to get ideas for your own native landscaping.

You may be surprised by the number of flowering plants that can grow, and prefer, shaded woodland areas. You’ll be pleased to know that you’re not just restricted to using always green native plants, such as ferns, in shady areas of your yard either. Just like a lawn landscaped with non-native species, if you do some research and choose a variety of plants, you’re sure to experience blooms throughout spring and summer. Just because you have a shady property doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some beautifully colored blossoms too!

woodland palette, native woodland plantsStrategically placing native plants is also one of the main principles of rewilding. You can get some other great ideas on making your yard look more natural from the linked article, like including a rain garden or other water feature (surrounded by native plants) as a drinking source for local critters. You don’t have to have an overgrown, unkempt, jungle-looking yard for it to be a nature lover and critter haven.

Speaking of wildlife, even just planting a small area with native woodland plants can be a big help to local wildlfe. After all, we’ve all seen animals running around urban areas too, including rabbits, raccoons, and even the occasional fox! Even though they may seem out of their element, it’s us that are taking over their habitat. We can lend a helping hand to these creatures by replacing some of their habitats through the use of native planting. By providing natural habitat, we can offer local animals shelter and food sources.

Native Plants That Love the Shade

Now that we’ve talked some about the benefits of including native plants in your landscaping, let’s take a look at some of them that are perfect for shady areas or to create a woodland look from scratch. This woodland palette list includes native shade plant species of both woodland areas and woodland edge areas. You’ll find more of a variety this way, both for the very shaded parts of your yard and those that receive only partial shade. Plus, just having a variety of plants makes your yard look more natural!

Small Native Plants

  • Solomon’s Seal
  • Dutchman’s Pipe
  • Christmas Fern
  • Jewelweed
  • Bloodroot
  • Wood Sorrel
  • Yarrow
  • Spiderwort
  • Evening Primrose
  • Wild Ginger
  • Wild Sweet William
  • Woodland Larkspur
  • Trillium
  • Wood Mint
  • Trout Lilly
  • Garden Phlox
  • Dutchman’s Breeches (Wild Bleeding Hearts)

Native Shrubs

  • Spicebush
  • American Plum
  • Smooth Hydrangea
  • Grape Honeysuckle (This plant is actually a vine and is not invasive like many of the other honeysuckle species found throughout Indiana.)

Native Trees

  • Sassafras
  • Dogwood
  • Redbud
  • Pawpaw
  • Persimmon
  • Elderberry
  • Serviceberry

It’s worth noting that some of the plants above can be shrubs or trees, depending on growing conditions, pruning, etc. For example, American plums can start on the small side, being more bush-like, but can grow up to 24 feet tall, making them more like a small tree.

More Tips on Transforming Your Yard Into a Natural One

Now that you have a list of plants to research, let’s look at some other ways you can make your backyard look and feel like a natural one.

  • Limit man-made structures. For example, replace a birdbath with a rain garden or small pond, as mentioned above.
  • Design your hardscapes in such a way that they flow well with the surrounding landscape.
  • Create meandering paths as opposed to hard and straight ones. Gravel and mulch lend themselves well to this.
  • Forego edging and don’t arrange your plants in neat rows. Let them grow at their whim. You can always trim or transplant ones that get too out of hand for your liking.
  • Do plant in clusters and/or sporadically. You don’t have to have all of your phlox in one cluster. Plant some near a tree, another cluster mixed in with a group of sweet william, and so forth. Don’t forget the native grasses too for true diversification.

Ready to get your yard transformation underway with a woodland palette full of woodland native plants? Greenscape Geeks is here to help! From questions about the best mix of native plants for your yard to designing and implementing an entire woodland landscape for you, we’re just a phone call or email away. Or, schedule a consultation online at your convenience.

Greenscape Geeks is a central Indiana landscape architecture and landscape design, construction, and lawn maintenance company, serving Indianapolis (including Meridian Kessler, Herron Morton, Williams Creek, and Irvington), Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, and Zionsville.

This blog post is by Alicia Owen