The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

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Lake Simcoe Shoreline Status
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Native Gardens

Native Plants

Why native plants and shrubs?

Native plants and shrubs look wonderful in a garden, are well adapted to local climate and soil conditions, and are more resistant to local disease and pests than more highly bred, exotic species. They require less time and money to maintain and have a better chance of healthy growth than most hybrid species.  

Native plants and shrubs and the natural environment

When you add native plants to your landscape, they won’t be the only colourful and amazing things you’ll see. That’s because native plants will attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to your garden, drawn by their natural food and habitat sources. 

Native plants also act as a filter for rainwater runoff, with roots that take hold and grow easily, adapting well to changing conditions.  As the plants and shrubs mature, the root systems become more complex, which leads to increased stability and greater erosion protection.

How to select species

Which plants you should select depends on the conditions in your garden, such as:

  • Sun, partial sun or shade
  • Moist or dry soil
  • Sandy, loamy or clay soil type

Consulting with a nursery in your area will help ensure you are selecting native plants that are suited to your garden’s characteristics.  

Some native perennials (plus one grass and shrub included for variety) that give a lovely burst of easy-to-care-for colour that lasts all season include the species outlined in this table:​

Plant Species ​Characteristics ​Likes Special Features
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)​
  • Perennial wildflower
  • Yellow daisy-like flowers
  • Blooms June to October
  • Part of the sunflower family
  • Grows 30-90 cm tall

Full sun to partial shade

Moist, well-drained soil

  • ​Attracts butterflies and supports local pollinators
  • Fall bloom
  • Drought resistant
  • Lovely as cut flowers
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Perennial wildflower
  • Large, flat-topped clusters of bright-orange flowers Blooms
  • May to September
  • Part of the milkweed family but has no milky sap
  • Grows 45-60 cm tall

Full sun 

Well-drained soil

Tolerates drought

  • Attracts b​​utterflies and  humming birds
  • Beneficial to honey bees, native bees and bumble bees
  • Makes a lovely cut ​flower​
Spotted Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
  • Perennial wildflower
  • Pink-purple fuzzy flowers in flat-topped clusters
  • Blooms July to September
  • Grows 60-200 cm tall
Full sun or partial shade Moist soil
Attracts butterflies and other small pollinators Fall bloom Pleasant vanilla scent Excellent for erosion control
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Perennial wildflower
  • Blue violet flowers with petals
  • Blooms mid-summer
  • Grows 60 to 90 cm

Full sun for optimal bloom but will tolerate partial shade
Nutrient-rich, well-drained soil

A magnet for bees and butterflies Hold their blooms wonderfully
​​Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • Perennial Bunch Grass
  • Feathery appearance
  • Purple Seed Head with Blue-Green Stems
  • Fall Colour is Maroon/ Tan 
  • Bloom From August to October 
  • Grows 45-120 cm tall
Full Sun Dry to normal sand and loam​
  • Attracts birds and butterfly larvae
  • Drought resistant
  • Deep roots, great for erosion control​
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
  • Shrub or small flowering tree if pruned
  • Dense,  cream-white flower clusters 
  • Blooms in spring
  • Hanging clusters of edible 1 cm long fruit start off green and then change to yellow, pink, rose and finally blue-black
Full sun to shade Moist to dry sites​
Fruit is eaten by birds and wildlife​

How to organize your garden

Once you have selected the native plant species, lay them out in your garden before planting. Groups of plantings look more natural than individual plants scattered all over. For a truly artful look, go for layers of plants that provide varied heights in your garden. This includes large and small shrubs, groundcover, grasses, and your perennial wildflowers (as well as small and large trees and evergreens if space permits) for an attractive, low maintenance planting. 

For more information on which native plants to select, and how to grow them, visit the North American Native Plant Society.​

Planting instructions

Were you lucky enough to receive one of our seed packs at an event? Here are some basic planting instructions to help you plant your seeds:

Black Eyed Susan

  • Start i​n indoors and plant in early March or sow directly in fall (Mid-September to October)
  • Flowers June to September​
  • Plant in moist well drained soil
  • Full sun to part shade
Butterfly Milkweed
  • Start in indoors and plant in early March or sow directly in fall (October)
  • Flowers June to September
  • Plant in medium moisture well-drained soils
  • Full sun to part shade

Meadow Blazing Star

  • Start in indoors and plant early March or sow directly in fall (October to November)
  • Flowers July to August
  • Plant in moist to well-drained soils
  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Spotted Joe Pye Weed

  • Start in indoors and ​plant in early March or sow directly in late fall to mid-winter
  • Flowers July to September
  • Plant in medium moisture well-drained soils
  • Full sun to Partial Shade​​

phone icon   Who to Contact 

1-800-465-0437 Toll free

Trail icon We Fund Native Gardens 

If you’re thinking of a landscape project that helps our feathery friends with their needs to eat, drink, shelter and raise their young, contact us. We offer funding of up to $1,000 for projects with these goals.

This grant covers garden design plans, the purchase of native plants and the implementation work. Make sure to reach out before any work gets initiated. 

Learn more about our Wildlife Enhancement Grant

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