Native Plants for a Prairie Palette
This week, we are covering the types of native plants for a prairie palette. Hopefully, you saw our post a few weeks ago on native plants for a woodland palette. There are tons of native flowers, shrubs, and trees that add diversity to shady yards. What if you have more of an “open concept” look going on in your outdoor space? Maybe you’re just tired of mowing a bunch of grass? Or, maybe you just want to add some splashes of color to make your lawn pop. We’ve got you covered!
Today, we will be talking about how to create a miniature prairie grassland, or even a micro prairie right in your own backyard using a prairie palette. There are a plethora of native Indiana plants that love the sun and wide-open areas. Most of the beautiful blooms you see landscaping state parks are native plants. If you’ve been wanting to incorporate more of these colorful plants into your own landscape design, read on!
Why Natives for Prairies?
First of all, if you’re new around here, you may be wondering what a native plant is. They are the flowers, shrubs, and trees that have been growing in an area long before people started interfering. Native plants are the ones who haven’t been imported here by our ancestors from other countries. When you leave an area of land alone, native plants are usually the ones you’ll find growing there in abundance.
Native plants are awesome for several reasons. First of all, most of them tend to be non-invasive. In other words, they don’t grow uncontrollably and take over other plants. Second, they require little to no maintenance. Since native plants have been around for so long, they have become specially adapted to our climate and soil. This makes them resistant to drought, requiring less watering. They also need less overall care than ornamentals. This makes them a great choice for gardeners who don’t want too much work (or those of us who have a habit of not weeding as often as we should).
Native plants are also important in attracting and sustaining wildlife and pollinator populations. In other words, using these plants in your landscape design helps to create habitats for insects and animals who are losing theirs due to human development. These creatures have come to rely on these plants for food and shelter, and many may become endangered or even perish altogether without them.
Other than enjoying all of the new wildlife you’ll find in your yard, native plants provide beautiful blooms all spring and summer long. There is such a variety that when one plant’s flowers start dying, another species is beginning. Flowers come in a variety of shapes and colors too, from vibrant yellow to rich, dark purple.
Also, if you’re into keeping up with current gardening and landscaping trends, rewilding is all the rage this year. It’s just like it sounds too: Letting all or part of your yard return to its natural state by giving it a head start with strategically (or randomly) placed native plants.
Why Are Pollinators So Important?
You’ve probably noticed that we bring up pollinators a lot. So, why all of the hullabaloo? To state it bluntly, without pollinators, we would die. Without bees, butterflies, and other important “farmers of the sky,” crops would not get pollinated and food sources would die out (not just the sprawling corn and soybean fields we’re accustomed to here in Indiana either). Home gardens would be hit as well. No tomatoes, no squash, no berries… you get the idea. Sure, some things can be hand-pollinated, but even that would require a tremendous amount of manpower.
That is why more and more people are becoming concerned about the dwindling populations of bees and butterflies. Many factors play into their declining numbers, including pesticide use and habitat loss. So, being worried about them disappearing isn’t just because they’re pretty and we’d hate to see them go. Our very lives depend on them!
What do you envision when you read or hear the word “prairie?” Wide-open expanses of tall grasses swaying in the breeze for as far as the eye can see? Beautiful flowers dotting this sea with color here and there? Once upon a time, prairies covered a third of the entire United States. Nowadays, that area is down to 0.05% of that original area. Kind of eye-opening, right?
You can see why there has been such a push in recent years to restore prairie lands. There are a lot of creatures, big and small, that depend on these areas for survival. Again, the flowering plants in them are especially important food sources for pollinators.
While Indiana was mostly wooded before European settlers came to the area, many efforts have been made around the state to restore prairie areas here as well. One great example of this is Koteewi Park in Hamilton County. We highly recommend a visit when you have the chance! You may have noticed that less mowing is being done along highways in an effort to let native plants have a chance too.
You can help with this effort too in your own backyard. Read on for a list of native plants to use in your own prairie palette.
Native Prairie Plants of Indiana
- Bee balm
- Butterflyweed (technically a type of milkweed)
- Joe Pye weed
- Coneflower (yellow and purple)
- Black-eyed Susan (4 different types)
- Hairy foxglove
- Tall coreopsis
- Sunflower (western and false)
- Blazing star (dense and prairie)
- Compass plant
- New England aster
- Milkweed (common and swamp-Stay away from honeyvine milkweed. It is highly invasive!)
Look for examples at nearby parks (or check out this visual guide from the Indiana Native Plant Society). Seek information or ask the staff about the plants they have. Again, a great example of a prairie grassland close by can be found at Koteweei Park in Hamilton county.
You Don’t Need Acres and Acres of Land…
You don’t have to get in trouble with your Homeowners Association or make your neighbors think that you’ve completely lost it. Even a small area of yard planted with native prairie plants both adds some character to your lawn and helps out pollinators and other native wildlife.
Ready to Get Started?
Greenscape Geeks is happy to help you get your own prairie project started. Whether you’re just seeking some information on the best plants for your yard or are ready to get your project underway, our friendly and knowledgeable team is here to help you with your landscaping needs. Give us a call, send us an email, or schedule a consultation today!
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