Welcome to this week’s Plant Exchange Blog. We enjoy sharing about plants of the USDA Zone 4-5a region of the Northern Plains and people who grow them.
We’re fans of colorful annuals, but the joy of seeing a treasured perennial return to grow again in spring is hard to beat. Three of many favorites are featured. South Dakota is known for variable and sometimes extreme weather. Plants that can tolerate these conditions are jewels. This spring has had more rain than usual and some perennials that survive here are thriving under extra moisture.
Ground covers for dappled shade are hard to find. A neighbor shared plugs of her bugleweed and they are especially showy this year. When an area fills in, it is easy to expand the area with plugs that include the leaves, crown and roots in spring or fall.
Bugleweed spreads by stolons and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Here it grows in road grade clay soil mixed with gravel to curb erosion. It thrives in moderate moisture but can survive dry conditions to spread when conditions improve.
Common bugleweed May and June flowers are blue or purple, but white and rose are available. Leaf color may also vary with dark green or near black as examples. Leaves grow at soil level and the flower spike is less than 9 inches tall, so bugleweed maintains a low horizontal profile as a ground cover.
Ajuga is a member of the mint family, which means that deer normally avoid this plant and rabbits appear to avoid it as well.
Another plant that grows well in partial shade is the columbine. This spring the hummingbirds are already visiting the airy yellow and purple flowers daily. Red, white and variable patterned columbines are also available.
Aquilegia is an herbaceous perennial that dies back each winter. It may be trimmed in late fall or early spring cleanup. It is known as easy-to-grow.
Columbines thrive in well-drained soil and moderate moisture. They also grow under near drought conditions. In this region columbines often re-seed, so that a few plants will grow to an area if you transplant them.
Due to their height of about 18 inches, detailed flowers and airy nature, they are attractive at edges of woods.
Perennial grasses are harder to find for the home gardener than you might think in a grassland state. Some greenhouses stock grasses from other regions that are not hardy here. Blue fescue is a native grass that has many cultivars that are attractive as a background short ornamental grasses or ground covers.
It grows in clumps to a height of about 12 inches and does not spread by vegetative growth, so as a ground cover mulch is added around the o to deter weeds.
Festuca is quite hardy and drought resistant and tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions. It grows well from seed on a windowsill, but takes about twice as long to mature as vegetable transplants. It grows best in full sun but will tolerate dappled shade.
While grasses such as blue fescue can be eaten by deer, in average years when other plants are available, it is left alone. Rabbits also prefer other grasses.
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