Plant Exchange Shares Favorites

Welcome to our weekly Plant Exchange. Here on the Northern Plains in South Dakota, USDA Zone 4-5a, our region is known for its cold winters and hot summers. It’s a fine place to live and a natural plant bio-stress test area, you might say.

A recent post you may find on the right column of this page shows a list of South Dakota Master Gardeners’ favorite 2016 flowers and vegetables. That came from a lot of skilled gardeners around the state.

Below are 2016 growing season favorites from just a couple of average gardeners at Plant Exchange.

Grasslands are dominant in this region and trees grow naturally in ravines or near bodies of water except when planted. For an authentic touch of the region, ornamental grasses that add a new seed head or texture or color of blades seem to fit well.

These Northern Sea Oats were grown as annuals from seed started early. Transplants were placed in several planter boxes on the deck where they filled in the boxes. Here in early Autumn, seed heads are maturing and blades will turn from green to light brown as at the sea shore. These oats remained upright in wind and moved in the prairie breeze.


Maximilian Sunflowers grow head high and taller here, producing many blooms over the late summer and fall season. They are native plants that grow in a wide range of soils and conditions, including reduced moisture clay alkaline soil in full sun. These heirloom sunflowers are quite attractive to butterflies, as some hybrids are not.


‘Bull Dog’ Okra from Park Seed was one of our vegetable favorites this season, versatile as food and ornament. Red color added interest. They were tender and tasty and produced well in fewer days than some other varieties. Warmth is required for seed germination and then having many days for harvest adds productivity.  Plants have large blooms and the unharvested okra could be used in arrangements. The entire okra plant is a favorite of deer also.


‘Ruby Silk’ Ornamental grasses (Johnny’s Seeds) were grown as an annual from seed and transplanted into large containers to grow and mature. The fine, long blades moved in the breeze and about mid-summer, the red seed heads appeared and lasted the rest of the season. When snow came in late fall, their fine texture didn’t stand up after the snow melted, so they aren’t as attractive as native grasses for winter interest.


What a year for Rudbeckia or Black-eyed Susans! These started blooming in June and continued into late fall. Rudbeckia are perennials here and had been grown from seed the year before. They overwintered in a raised bed garden.


‘Lunchbox Peppers’ are vegetables from Johnny’s Seeds that are a mixture of red, yellow and orange sweet peppers. The colorful peppers are about 2 inches long.  Pepper transplants grew to maturity in a large container on the deck in summer.  They continued to bloom and produce indoors in southern exposure until after Thanksgiving. Alas, they had to go because of an infestation of spider mites.


We hope you enjoyed our ‘best of the season’ recollection. Before you know it, we’ll be planting seeds again!

Thanks to loyal “Followers” and all those who send “Likes” our way!


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