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Grow native: Hardy prairie plants can withstand Iowa's cold and heat and provide food for pollinators

From the Ground Up with the Linn County Master Gardener

Goldenrod and blue mistflowers partner well in the butterfly garden. (Handout/TNS)
Goldenrod and blue mistflowers partner well in the butterfly garden. (Handout/TNS)
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Native plants are those plants growing naturally in an area before human settlement. Although many native plants are prairie plants, most can be successfully grown in a regular home garden. Native plants help create a natural-looking garden that serves the same functions as a prairie.

The reasons for growing native plants are numerous.

• They are vigorous and hardy so can survive winter cold and summer heat, drought and wind.

• Once established, they require little or no irrigation or fertilization.

• They are resistant to many insects, pests and diseases, reducing the need for pesticide/herbicide use.

• When blended together, they provide season long color and interest.

• They provide food and habitat for birds, bees, caterpillars and butterflies.

• Many native plants are deer resistant.

When planning a garden of native plants, it is helpful to visit other gardens containing native plants to learn about the size, form, spread of the plants, soil requirements and to help you choose which ones you would like to see growing in your personal garden.

What are some good native plants to grow right here in Linn County, Iowa?

• Purple Coneflower

• Prairie or Meadow Blazing Star

• Gray-headed Coneflower (Yellow Coneflower)

• Wild Bergamot (Monarda)

• Swamp Milkweed

• Butterfly Milkweed

• Goldenrod

• Compass Plant

• Brown Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

• Stiff Coreopsis

• Hoary Vervain (Verbena)

• Joe Pye Weed

• Big or Little Bluestem Grass

• Prairie Dropseed Grass

Many of our native plants have been bred or hybridized, so be sure to find a seed or plant source that specializes in native plants. Iowa State University Extension has a publication “Introduction to Iowa Native Prairie Plants” in their online store that will provide additional help in establishing a “native plant” garden.

l For gardening questions call the Linn County Extension Hortline at (319) 447-0647 from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays.

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