A Great Time to Go Native: Fall Plant Sale at the NC Botanical Garden

You can never go wrong with Purple Coneflowers.

Those of us living in the southeastern United States hear the refrain every year: fall is for planting. Truer words were never uttered. In our hot, humid, often droughty summers, plants do well to survive at all. Spring planting of new trees, shrubs, and perennials is a huge gamble, even if you water during droughts. Spring-planted plants just don’t have big enough root systems to withstand all that our summers often throw at them.

Swamp Milkweed is a food plant for Monarch caterpillars and a nectar source for many butterfly species, including this Spicebush Swallowtail.

However, as the cooler, usually wetter weather of autumn arrives, new plants can focus on root growth while soils are still warm but not desert dry. Native deciduous trees, shrubs, and perennials do especially well at establishing themselves when fall-planted, because they can devote all their energy to root growth after leaf fall.

Mid-summer blooms of Buttonbush lighten shady moist spots in your landscape, and provide nectar for pollinators, and seeds for wood ducks.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better selection of native trees, shrubs, and perennials than you will find at the NC Botanical Garden’s annual Fall Plant Sale. Members get first crack at the goodies on Friday, Sept. 14 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. — and a 10% discount! If you’re not a member, you can join that evening and use your discount immediately. The public gets their chance at the plants the next day, Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Bring your own flats or boxes to use to carry your purchases home.

Umbrella Magnolia offers gorgeous flowers, dramatic leaves that turn tobacco gold in fall, and these scarlet seed cones before the leaves turn — a native showstopper!

Why go native? If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ve read my reasons more than once. To summarize:

  • Native plants are adapted to our region, so they are better able to withstand our droughts, wet spells, heat waves, and occasional ice storms.
  • Native plants are food sources for native wildlife. As urbanization continues to eradicate our region’s native forests and fields, planted natives in home landscapes, parks, etc. help to keep our native wildlife alive.
  • Native wildflowers especially are key to maintaining our native pollinators. Now that honeybees (not native) are under attack by diseases and other issues, native pollinators are becoming increasingly critical to farmers who need their crops pollinated. Nobody eats if the food crops don’t get pollinated.
  • Native plants in our landscapes remind us of where we are, affirming our sense of place. Certain trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and ferns evolved here; they belong here, as do the insects, reptiles, mammals, and birds that evolved along with their native food sources.

The berries of this native Viburnum are devoured by birds as soon as they ripen in mid-summer.

We are all in this together, whether we realize it or not. Going native is your easiest gardening choice, and it’s your wisest. This fall, please consider adding some native plants to your landscape.

And if you live anywhere near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, plan to visit the NC Botanical Garden’s Fall Plant Sale. All proceeds support this wonderful public garden, so every purchase is a win for all who love the natives of this region.

Our native deciduous azaleas are usually overlooked by deer, and offer bloom colors that the evergreen non-natives cannot match.

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  1. #1 by Sam Taylor on May 19, 2013 - 4:51 pm

    What determines the color of the native decideous azalia? I have an Orange/ Yellow one and my grandson who lives in Ridgeway, Va., found a white one in the woods near his home. Is there a simple way of rooting this variety?

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on May 20, 2013 - 7:19 am

      Hi, Sam.

      The color of our native azaleas is mostly a product of which species it is. Several species are native to various parts of the southeastern US. Additionally, deciduous azaleas are notorious for their spontaneous hybrid production, so it’s not unusual to find seedlings resulting from the cross of two native species, especially with the help of the horticulture industry. In fact, it’s often difficult to determine exactly which species we have.

      As for rooting azaleas, layering is probably the simplest method. Here’s a link to the Azalea Society of America’s Web page where they discuss ways to propagate azaleas. The methods described work for any kind of azalea.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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