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Discover the rich biodiversity of North Carolina through its native plants. From vibrant wildflowers to resilient trees and shrubs, North Carolina’s native flora plays a vital role in its ecosystems.
Join us as we delve into the beauty, ecological significance, and cultivation of North Carolina native plants, celebrating their role in preserving the state’s natural heritage. Explore the unique characteristics and benefits of these plants in our comprehensive guide.
Why Are Native Plants Important in The Ecosystem
In North Carolina alone, you can find many native plants. Some are suited to grow in your garden, while others look great in their habitat. So why are these plants essential, and how do they help the ecosystem.
The most crucial part is that many plant species native to North Carolina provide loads of benefits for your garden and the wildlife. So instead of planting many non-native species, you can benefit from planting foliage in their native habitat instead.
Seven Excellent Reasons To Plant Native Species
- Planting native plants in your landscape helps to lessen the use of fertilizers. Feeding your foliage with excessive nitrogen and phosphorus ends up in the rivers and lakes, leading to algae growth, depleting the oxygen in the water, and harming aquatic life.
- You need not use pesticides, resulting in contaminated water as other insects take care of your infestation of pests.
- Having native shrubs and trees uses less water to grow in the right temperature and humidity to thrive.
- A significant positive is that plants not native to North Carolina cannot keep the air around you as clean as those found native to the area.
- Growing wildflowers also supports pollinators and provides food for the wild. You get butterflies in your garden, bees, and birds.
- Further, choosing plants growing in the region helps promote biodiversity relating to the US natural heritage.
- Lastly, these plants grow naturally, saving you money in vast ways from the soil, watering, feeding, and more. Neither do the plants cause damage to the ecosystem compared to non-native plants.
Top 20 Plant Species Native to North Carolina
Great now that you know the importance of having plantlings inherent to the region, do not just head out to a native plant nursery before looking at the list here:
Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata)
Nothing mystifies your garden more than blue flowers. The dwarf crested iris is one such bloom that brings life to any landscaping. In early spring, you notice the blue-violet blooms emerging from the strappy foliage.
You can grow them in full sun with well-drained soil to hold the moisture back. Surprisingly the native plant grows up to six inches tall. It can even grow in partial shade and thrives in the USDA hardy zones three to nine.
Wood-Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia )
You find the plant growing in its wildlife habitat with a lot of soil moisture but needs to be well-drained. The flower many gardeners refer to as the thimbleweed as it grows fast. The plant reaches a maximum height of a foot and has enormous white blooms.
Furthermore, it looks like exotic plants add a color break when planted with other native plants. If you live in zones three to nine, you can grow the foliage in your garden.
Northern Maidenhair Fern ( Adiantum pedatum )
Okay, looking at this fern, it looks delicate, and one would not think it is hardy and native to the North Carolina region. Still, you can plant them in shady spots with humus-rich moist soil. One thing that your neighbours are sure to find interesting is the delicate texture of the leaves.
You can expect the foliage to reach up to two feet tall, and it is a slow grower. So best give it time to show its true colors. This indoor plant is well suited for zones three to eight to plant outside.
Carolina Lupine ( Thermopsis villosa )
You find the Carolina Lupine growing in the mountains, basking in full sun with well-drained soil. When looking at the image, you must agree it is showy with its yellow spired. The blooms are like sweetpea flowers making it a formidable contender in the garden in spring. You can expect it to grow up to four feet tall in zones three right through to ten.
Swamp Milkweed ( Asclepias incarnata )
If you grew up in North Carolina as a school kid, you should know this flower. One thing it has a significant attraction for is the monarch butterfly. So it is a good enough reason to grow it in your yard. Another thing is the blooms have a pleasant scent attracting bees to birds.
You can grow them in full sun with the moist ground to reach four feet tall. The exciting thing is the plant’s name is all because it has a milky sap appearance. You can grow them in an environment living in zones three to nine.
Eastern Blue Star ( Amsonia tabernaemontana )
These plantlings bloom in spring, and once new growth emerges, it carries periwinkle flowers. Once it flowers, you can see the blue star showing off a delicate shrub during summer. But when fall arrives, it becomes a head-turner.
You will stop and stare at the yellow display in front of you and grow well in full sun with moist yet well-drained soil. The foliage reaches up to four feet tall and displays one or three-foot stems. Living in zones four to nine is suitable for growing this plant.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida )
The flowering dogwood loves medium moisture with the well-draining ground in full sun and part shade. During the summer, the plant can benefit from mulch to keep the roots moist and cool. The small deciduous tree can grow up to 30 feet tall and has low branching or a flat-topped habit.
It is also the state tree of Missouri and Virginia. You will notice blooms in springtime displaying small yellowish-green button-like clusters of flowers. In fall, the leaves turn from green to red and carry bitter, bright red fruits. You can plant the tree in zones five to nine.
Carolina silverbell ( Halesia carolina )
The fascinating thing about the Carolina silverbell is you can grow it as a multi-stemmed shrub or train it to grow as a single trunk tree. It is another deciduous tree found growing in the mountains. Growing in wildlife, it seldom goes past 35-feet in height, but some can reach up to 100 feet.
It has a drooping cluster with bell-shaped white blooms you see appearing in April. The tree also carries four-winged brown nut-like fruits in fall through to winter. In autumn, the leaves turn from green to yellow and drop off. The tree grows well in gardens in zones four to eight.
Chalk maple ( Acer leucoderme )
Compared to the other trees, this one thrives in rocky soil, standing in full sun with part shade or full shade. One thing you will love is that the tree is desirable to provide a visual splendor in the garden with its diminutive form. When mature, the chalk maple reaches 25-feet and has seed-bearing samaras leaves that ripen in fall.
The autumn colors are superb, ranging from reds, and yellows to orange. One thing about this native plant it is not fussy about water and is very drought tolerant. Another great attraction of the seeds is finches, nuthatches, and grosbeaks. You can grow the tree in the USDA hardiness zone five to eight.
River birch ( Betula nigra )
The tree is also known as the red birch or black birch you find native to the USA. You see these North Carolina native plants growing along shores, helping to hold the shorelines together. But, one thing is sure this tree is tough to thrive in zone four to nine.
It is a fast-growing tree that can reach up to 90 feet tall and has weeping branches. So it is an excellent ornamental tree to have in the garden. The foliage enjoys the sun’s full shade and grows well in sand, loam, or clay soil.
Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
These native plants, such as the red bucket, offer a spectacular show in springtime with the deep red petals. It adds color to most landscaping but what is more interesting is the name. The name comes from a white scar around the brown seed, making it look like a deer’s eye.
The fantastic thing is you can grow the tree in zones six to nine. The mature size is 20-feet and grows at a slow to medium rate. You can plant your tree in full sun to partial shade, forming an oval shape. You notice blooms in April and May as it has erect clusters.
In fall, it loses its leaves and yields fruit with a pitted shell.
Needle palm ( Rhapidophyllum hystrix )
These native shrubs are winter-hardy plants in zones 6b. You can plant them in your garden with organic-rich soil that is evenly moist but well-drained. Your tree enjoys full sun to part shade but performs better in partial shade. It is trunkless with a fan palm growing up to six feet tall and wide.
The leaves are evergreen and sharply pointed with black spines. In early summer, the palm will brighten up the garden with yellow-brown wildflowers and be hidden in the foliage while the fruit is a reddish-brown shade.
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
The deciduous shrub can quickly grow in zones five to nine up to eight feet in height with a spread of eight feet. What makes these flowering plants so unique is the white-changing purplish-pink blooms. The foliage will thrive in your yard in full sun with partial shade.
It also has low maintenance and needs medium watering, so you save on your water bill. These native plants make for beautiful accents for patios, foundations, and more. You can group them in a mass for borders or place them in open woodlands.
Trumpet honeysuckle ( Lonicera sempervirens )
The plant species makes for an excellent vine to place next to a trellis, fences, or arbors. You can use it as ground covering in the garden. It proliferates in full sun which helps with the flowering. The native plant thrives in humus-rich soil with good drainage.
Another benefit is to prune it after flowering. It is deciduous in St. Louis but retains a semi-evergreen color in your warmer climates in zone eight and above. You will notice from the image the gorgeous scarlet/orange and yellow petals sure to become a showstopper.
Trumpet creeper ( Campsis radicans )
This is the plant to have if you need a quick covering for your fence, walls, or arbors. It is a dense multi-stemmed woody clinging vine with aerial rootlets. The species grow in different varieties of ground but need regular moisture with full sun to partial shade.
In springtime, when you prune the foliage, it does not affect the blooms. Still, they can grow as high as 40 feet and have odd leaves with a shiny green above and dull green below. In fall, the leaves turn yellow, and you notice red trumpet flowers appearing in summer.
These blossoms attract hummingbirds, and when the blooms ripen, they split, releasing two-winged seeds.
Climbing aster (Aster carolinianus)
The climbing aster is a perennial-producing stem that climbs up to 10 feet high. But, you will find it prefers to crawl over fence posts or even other plants. The branches on the side grow horizontally and use a trellis for support.
As with most plants found in North Carolina, it does not enjoy standing in water, affecting its health. So provides good drainage, but it will tolerate seasonal flooding. In fall, deadhead the plant but do not do any further trimming and delay it until spring.
You may notice pink or purple blossoms with a yellow center blooming in autumn or summer.
Baptisias (Baptisia spp.)
The genus is a herbaceous perennial, and the name means to dip or immerse. The plants thrive in partial shade to full sun and are a tough long-living species. In springtime, you notice deep blue blossoms appearing.
Yet, these blooms can vary from white, yellow, to pink. The native plant also has fruit with a black color and is inflated on a stalk pod with seeds. These native plants thrive in drought-tolerant landscaping and also love a pollinator garden.
Lobelia cardinalis ( cardinal flower )
The cardinal flower is Carolina native and grows well in moist locations. While it is a short-lived perennial, it has the most beautiful red blooms. The blossoms attract hummingbirds and butterflies. You can plant the cardinal in rich soil in partial shade to full sun. But in winter, it helps to apply some root mulch to protect the delicate roots.
Threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
The threadleaf coreopsis is a rhizomatous perennial that grows into a dense bush. The daisy-like blooms are yellow and appear on loose clusters. In fall, you see red bloom for a spectacular display. In its natural habitat, it proliferates with medium moisture in full sun.
But if you provide them with sandy or rocky and well-drained ground, they thrive. The plant is heat tolerant, but deadheading the foliage helps prevent unwanted self-seeding. The only problem is you need to keep your hand on this one as this species spreads fast and is an invasive species.
Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)
The native plant you find in many gardens with its showy purple blooms. The blossoms attract bees to butterflies. Another highlight is the sturdy stalks that reach up to five feet high, and they rarely bend. Sometimes you may find a display of pink blooms depending on the species you have. The plants love a lean soil surface in full sun for at least six hours a day.
As you can see, even your native species look like exotic plants. So fill up your landscaping with native shrubs, and trees to flower. If you want to find native plants to grow, look no further than right here at Plantly.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most common plant in North Carolina varies depending on the region, but some of the most widespread include the Eastern red cedar, the flowering dogwood, and the American holly. These plants are all native to the state and can be found in various habitats, from forests to suburban landscapes. Research the specific plants that grow in your area is always a good idea to ensure you choose the right ones for your landscape.
Yes, the Black Eyed Susan is native to North Carolina and grows in meadows, fields, and along roadsides throughout the state. It’s a popular choice for gardeners due to its bright yellow blooms and ability to attract pollinators. Yet, it’s important to note that not all plants native to a region are suitable for every landscape, so it’s still a good idea to research and choose plants carefully.
You can find over 3,900 native plants in NC providing food and shelter to birds.
Many beautiful wildflowers are native to North Carolina. The most common ones include the black-eyed Susan, the purple coneflower, and the wild columbine. Other famous wildflowers in NC include the mountain laurel, the flame azalea, and the butterfly weed. With so many options, adding a splash of color and natural beauty to your garden or landscape is easy.
The best time to plant wildflower seeds in NC is in the fall or early spring. This allows the seeds to establish themselves before the heat of summer sets in. However, it’s important to check the specific planting instructions for the type of wildflower seeds you have, as some may have different optimal planting times. Additionally, it’s essential to prepare the soil properly and ensure that the seeds have access to adequate sunlight and water for optimal growth.
Several evergreen shrubs are well-suited for growing in the North Carolina mountains. Some popular options include rhododendrons, mountain laurels, and boxwoods. These shrubs provide year-round foliage and can add a beautiful touch to your landscape. Choosing the correct type of evergreen shrub for your specific location and soil conditions is essential, so research before planting.