Creating Curb Appeal with NOVA Native Plants

Updated: Apr 24, 2018

Plants that are native to this region are especially valuable in landscaping projects, because they are adapted to the soil and climate. They need no chemicals and minimal care or water once established. Like any perennial, though, watering is necessary for the first year (or up to three years for trees during periods of drought).

Choose your plants

Pay attention to sun, soil, and moisture requirements.Northern Virginia contains many different environments, so pick the right plant for your site. When you do that, there is no need to “improve” the soil.

Think ahead to the ultimate size. To avoid the need for future pruning, choose a plant whose size matches the space. It is unwise to plant a 50 foot tree underneath a 20 foot utility line! And many vines that start out small may end up enormous.

Vary the leaf texture and color in garden borders. Until they bloom, most perennial plants are just green. Add interest by interspersing grasses and ferns or plants with maroon leaves, such as American alumroot and ninebark. Green-and-gold brightens any spot with its near-chartreuse color.

Vary the height. Shrubs and trees come in all sizes and provide a more natural habitat than flowers alone. Shorter plants usually look best in front of taller ones, but mixing it up a little can add charm.

Use flowers with long bloom times. Some plants will flower for many weeks. Examples include asters, butterfly weed, cardinal flower, coral honeysuckle, garden phlox, and sundrop.

Garden for four seasons. Pick flowers to provide color (and food for the bees and butterflies) from early spring to late fall. Grasses, bright fall foliage, and shrubs with colorful berries can extend the season well into winter, and trees with interesting bark can carry you over into spring. An easy and showy sequence if you have a mixture of sun and part shade might include Virginia bluebells and redbuds for early spring color, then progress to dogwood, moss phlox, eastern red columbine, green-and-gold, goatsbeard, butterfly weed, sundrop, bee balm, garden phlox, Turk’s cap lily, black-eyed Susan, Joe-pye weed, cardinal flower, bottle gentian, aster, switch grass, Virginia sweetspire (for fall foliage), winterberry (bright red berries), witch hazel (blooms after the leaves fall off in November), and ninebark (peeling bark).

Don’t forget the trees. If you were to do nothing else than to simply plant a shade tree in the middle of your lawn, you will have provided a tremendous amount of habitat for our non-human neighbors.