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Native Plant Gardens: Cultivating the Curbside

Stop in the name of native flowers!

blooming native perennials in a Maryland curbside garden

Do you have a narrow space near a curb or beyond the edge of a privacy hedge? If you have three feet or so, it can be useable, and significantly, productive habitat space. Pretty too!

Check out what Mariana of Wildflower Native Plants has done with just such a space in her home garden. Mariana, the avid gardener and native plant volunteer, started a nursery in her backyard.

native curbside perennial garden in late spring maryland

Here is her area in late spring. Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis) and golden alexanders (Zizia aurea) are blooming while other plants are just emerging. The perennials are planted at the feet of a privacy screen of trees. This gives you a sense for the space and how little room you need to create beautiful street side scenes.

black eyed susans growing beneath a mature tulip poplar tree in Maryland

Starting at the corner, beneath a tulip poplar, Mariana has planted black eyed susans (Rudbeckia fulgida). You may think of these as full sun perennials and they do thrive there. They also flower in dappled shade as well.

native perennial curbside garden in maryland
Native Perennials Planted Five Years Ago

Moving down the curbside, the area gets full sun from three sides -- plenty to allow these easy to grow, summer blooming perennials to thrive. You will see many favorites here as well as one which is not so common.

First, the more common. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), tickseed (Coreopsis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), blazing star (Liatris spicata), penstemon and wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) pump out color for weeks at a time. The perennials are common for a reason. They are easy to grow and over time will spread. And the color just keeps coming. Mariana has planted a few grasses in between the perennials to fill the gap. A cultivar of switchgrass, 'shenandoah' (Panicaum virgatum 'Shenandoah') and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) add places for your eye to rest among all the color.

Seed heads can also play a big part of this planting. Swamp milkweed and penstemon going to seed add architectural interest, not to mention, seeds!

In Mariana's side garden, butterfly weed, or monarch's delight (the much needed rebrand for this perennial!), is already seeding in.

native plant perennial garden in Maryland
Newer Portion Planted in 2021

In the "not so common now but should be soon" category, Mariana is a big advocate of this whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata). The white flowers are small and the perennial can bloom through summer. It grows here in between the larger perennials. It handles dry soils well. Mt. Cuba says in moist soils, this milkweed will spread and colonize so only plant in wetter areas if you want it to spread. It's also a larval host to the monarch butterfly. Mariana learned about those through her volunteer work at Chesapeake Natives and now often includes them in her back yard nursery.

These perennials are all easy to find at your favorite native nursery. Too hot to plant? It's always advisable to plant in spring or fall. That said, I have known a gardener or two who plant during the height of summer (and water, water!). Nothing to see here...


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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