Northeast Native Plants to Try

Count on these regionally adapted native plants to create an easy-care landscape.
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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

Photo By:

Photo By:

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

Photo By:

Photo By:

Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

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Photo By: American Beauties Native Plants at

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Photo By: Bailey Nurseries, Inc. at

Shooting Star

Tuck this pretty wildflower in a part to fully shaded garden with average, well-drained soil. The purple to pink blooms appear in early spring and provide an important pollen source for bees. Plants are spring ephemerals and disappear as summer heat arrives. Let blooms set seed, and you’ll be rewarded with drifts of these bloomers. Avoid waterlogged soils, especially those that drain poorly in winter. Plants are increasingly rare in the wild. Shooting star is hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’)

Blue-eyed grass pairs pretty blue blooms with grassy foliage on plants that flower from late spring to early summer. Allow blossoms to set seed, and you’ll be rewarded with a spreading colony of blue-eyed grass. Some consider this native invasive, so take care where you site it and if you let it set seed. Ideal conditions include full sun with medium-wet, well-drained soil. This deer-resistant perennial is hardy in zones 3 to 9.

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon fern adds a vertical touch to shade garden plantings with strongly upright fronds. Brown spore fronds appear in spring and linger into the growing season. This fern thrives in acidic, humusy, moist soil, but plants also adapt to less favorable conditions. Plants provide habitat for insects and ground-feeding birds. Hummingbirds harvest fibers from stems to line their nests. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 9 and grow 2 to 3 feet tall.

Eastern Hornbeam

Also known as ironwood, eastern hornbeam is a lovely tree that offers multi-season interest. Male flowers, or catkins, linger on trees well into winter. Female flowers resemble hops. A woody fruiting capsule contains tiny nutlets favored by birds like grouse, pheasant and songbirds. The wood of hornbeam was prized by colonists for its strength and graced many tool handles and sleigh runners. This tree is hardy in zones 4 to 8.

Fringed Bleeding Heart

Celebrate spring with the delicate blooms and ferny foliage of fringed bleeding heart. Nectar-rich blossoms beckon butterflies and hummingbirds. This tough woodland perennial is rabbit-resistant and hardy in zones 4 to 9. Plants self-sow freely, creating colonies. Remove spent flower stalks if you don’t want this bleeding heart to spread. Fringed bleeding heart thrives in part to full shade in rich, humusy soil.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Dainty white bell-shaped blooms with green tips dangle beneath stems of Solomon’s seal in spring. Flowers provide an important early season nectar source for pollinators. Plants thrive in moist, well-drained soil in full to part shade. Once established, Solomon’s seal spreads to form lush colonies. Leaves turn a burnished gold in fall. This perennial is hardy in zones 3 to 9.

Swamp Milkweed

A must in butterfly gardens, swamp milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterfly adults visit blooms, along with many other pollinators. Flowers are typically pink, but you may spot some white blossoms on plants. Despite the name, swamp milkweed tolerates average to moist soils. This tap-rooted perennial prefers full sun and is best left undisturbed once planted in the garden. Swamp milkweed is hardy in Zones 3 to 6.

American Witch Hazel

Yellow flowers with ribbon-like petals appear on plants in late fall about the time that leaves drop, providing an important late-season pollen source for insects. Plant form is a shrub to small tree. In its native setting, witch hazel favors woodland settings with well-drained, acidic soil, but tolerates heavy clay soil. Plants form suckers and will spread to form a shrubby colony. Remove suckers to keep plant spread in check. Witch hazel is hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana clausa)

Bottle gentian is also known as closed gentian because the blue flower buds, which appear in late summer, never open. Bumblebees are strong enough to push past the closed petals to pollinate blooms. Leaves and roots boast a bitter taste, which keeps deer, rabbits and underground critters from feasting on plants. Bottle gentian is hardy in zones 3 to 7 and carefree once established.

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant is known for wandering and quickly spreading throughout a garden. ‘Miss Manners’ is a cultivar of the native plant that forms tidy clumps. Hardy in zones 3 to 9, plants flower for weeks in the summer garden, attracting butterflies. Stems make fabulous, long-lasting additions to garden-gleaned bouquets.

'Shenandoah' Switchgrass

Switchgrass clumps grow more up than out, creating a vertical accent in a xeriscape. 'Shenandoah' reaches 3 to 4 feet tall and boasts a succession of color. Summer’s blue-tone leaves slowly incorporate shades of burgundy, which fade to bright red in fall, then a dusky brown in winter. Flower plumes open deep red in summer, forming a reddish cloud above foliage. Seedheads fade to beige and linger into mid-winter. Plants tolerate drought, are deer-resistant and are hardy in zones 4 to 9.

Wild Spotted Geranium

It’s tough to beat wild spotted geranium for shady to full sun color. This perennial spreads happily but not aggressively in medium, well-drained soil. Leaves turn pretty hues of red and orange in fall. Plants are hardy in zones 5 to 9. Wild geranium is a great choice for planting in beds beneath trees.


Native serviceberry tree brings multi-season interest to any yard. Watch for fragrant white blooms that appear before leaves in spring, followed by tasty blue-hued berries in June. Birds love the berries, so if you want any for a pie, net trees. Fall color features shades of red and orange. Plants are hardy in zones 4 to 8 and thrive in full sun to part shade. Remove suckers as they appear to tend a tree with a single trunk.

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