Many people think that the phrase “native plant” is synonymous with “drought tolerant plant” or “dry prairie species”. But not so! Kansas is a place full of sunny skies as well as quiet, shady streams; prairies as well as ponds. I noticed at our FloraKansas event last week just how many wetland and pond species we offer. For those with small backyard ponds or even large country creek banks to restore, the following species might be perfect for you (and we still have them in stock! Find our updated inventory here.)
Caltha palustris – Marsh Marigold
Caltha is an upper midwest native, not usually found in Kansas, but can grow here under the right conditions. We don’t get enough ran to sustain swampy areas where it can run wild, but its petite yellow flowers are happy blooming along pond edges with their feet in the water. We are hoping to get them established along the Arboretum pond edges this year.
Teucrium canadense – American Germander
A colony-forming mint family plant, it can go wild in moist to wet part sun conditions! The blooms are attractive to long-tongued pollinators, and they make great additions to wildflower bouquets.
Nyssa sylvatica – Black Tupelo
A truly beautiful tree, unmatched for its red fall color. But in our region it simply cannot survive without moist soil. Planted on the edge of a stream or in a frequently flooded drainage area, it would be stunning every October.
Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush
The height of this fascinating shrub depends on the moisture it receives: growing near standing water it can be 10 feet tall or more, but in average garden soil it may only reach 6 feet. Very adaptable and easy to care for, its spherical flowers are long blooming. In June they are covered in bees, beetles, butterflies, spiders, wasps, and every other flying thing!
Lythrum alatum – Winged Loosestrife
Not to be confused with the terribly invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), this petite plant sports purple flowers and wiry stems. Very adaptable, it is used in rain gardens, but thrives in garden settings given a bit of shade and semi-regular watering. The Lurie Garden of Chicago has a nice profile on this species found here.
Lobelia siphilitica – Blue Cardinal Flower
The tall blue spikes of lobelia attract hummingbirds and butterflies, but they can be finicky to grow. Clay soils that hold moisture are best, and while they don’t have to be situated in water at all times they do best in ditches and frequently wet seasonal streambeds.
While we know not many people are lucky enough to have a pond or creek on their property, for those that do, we want to continue suppling a small number of wetland plants to help you restore and improve those places.
Other water loving species to look for next spring: Acorus calamus, Lobelia cardinalis, Physostegia virigniana, and Sauurus cernuus. For more info on wetland plants, check out a previous blog post all about them!