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North American Plants for New England Gardens

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There is a continuing trend in horticulture towards the increased use of plants of North American origin in the garden. This continent has a great diversity of plant life, much of which lends itself to residential and commercial landscapes. North America is divided into many ecologically distinct regions. Here in New England, we live in the eastern deciduous forest but within this region there are many different plant habitats such as meadows, marshes, mountains, uplands, and sand plains, among others. Many plants that are native to other areas of the country are adaptable to a much larger area than where they are growing wild. White fir (Abies concolor), while native to Colorado, is one of the best firs for eastern gardens, and Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), found from New Jersey south, is an exceptional ornamental plant for much of New England. The term "native" is often defined as those plants that have been documented to occur in an area before the arrival of the colonists. Sometimes "native" is used to mean "native to the United States". This is the definition used for this fact sheet. In most cases, the listed plants will be selected for ornamental purposes and this broader definition is applicable. However, when re-vegetating wetlands, restoring natural areas or landscaping coastal properties, use plant species that are naturally found within those habitats.

While most indigenous plants are adaptable to various growing conditions, some have distinct requirements for light, soil type, or moisture levels. Though many of the plants listed here will produce more flowers and/or fruit if grown in full sun; they will also grow well under shaded conditions, but typically develop a more open growth habit. Examine a site where a particular plant is growing naturally in order to understand what its growing requirements are. This is particularly important for wetland species. New England also encompasses a range of cold-hardiness zones, from Zone 7 on Cape Cod to Zone 3 in northern Maine. Some native plants occur throughout this range while others are restricted to the warmer zones. Refer to reference books for the specific hardiness of the species of native plants listed.

Many native trees and shrubs blend well with the introduced plants that are already in our landscapes. They may produce impressive displays of flowers, colorful clusters of fruit or have spectacular foliage color or interesting bark. They can be part of a fragrance garden or attract hummingbirds to an area. Whatever the niche, there is plant from the North American palette to fill it. Many of these plants are available from nurseries and garden centers in Massachusetts and other New England states.

Several reference books are available that provide more detailed information on native plants. Among them are Michael Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" and Gary Hightshoe's "Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America".

 

Sun, Droughty Soil
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - Bearberry
  • Comptonia peregrina - Sweet fern
  • Hypericum prolificum - Shrubby St. Johnswort
  • Juniperus communis - Pasture juniper
  • Juniperus horizontalis - Creeping juniper
  • Juniperus virginiana - Eastern red cedar
  • Myrica pensylvanica - Bayberry
  • Ostrya virginiana - Ironwood
  • Physocarpus opulifolius - Eastern ninebark
  • Pinus banksiana - Jack pine
  • Pinus rigida - Pitch pine
  • Prunus maritima - Beach plum
  • Rhus aromatica - Fragrant sumac
  • Rhus copallina - Shining sumac
  • Rhus typhina - Staghorn sumac
  • Viburnum dentatum – Arrow wood

 

Sun, Well-Drained Soil
  • Abies concolor - Concolor fir
  • Acer rubrum - Red maple
  • Acer saccharum - Sugar maple
  • Aesculus parviflora -Bottlebrush buckeye
  • Aesculus pavia - Red buckeye
  • Amelanchier spp. - Shadbush
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi -Bearberry
  • Betula nigra - River birch
  • Carpinus caroliniana - American hornbeam
  • Ceanothus americanus - New Jersey tea
  • Cercis canadensis - Eastern redbud
  • Chionanthus virginicus - Fringetree
  • Cladrastis kentuckea - Yellowwood
  • Clethra alnifolia - Sweet pepperbush
  • Comptonia peregrina - Sweet fern
  • Cornus racemosa - Grey dogwood
  • Crataegus viridis - Green hawthorn
  • Fothergilla gardenii, F. major - Fothergilla
  • Fraxinus americana - White ash
  • Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Green ash
  • Halesia tetraptera - Carolina silverbell
  • Hamamelis virginiana -Common witch hazel
  • Hydrangea quercifolia - Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Hypericum prolificum - Shrubby St. Johnswort
  • Ilex glabra - Inkberry
  • Ilex opaca - American holly
  • Itea virginica - Sweetspire
  • Juniperus communis - Pasture juniper
  • Juniperus horizontalis - Creeping juniper
  • Juniperus virginiana - Eastern red cedar
  • Kalmia latifolia - Mt. Laurel
  • Cdambar styraciflua - Sweetgum
  • Liriodendron tulipifera - Tuliptree/tulip poplar
  • Magnolia acuminata - Cucumber magnolia
  • Magnolia virginiana - Sweetbay magnolia
  • Myrica pensylvanica - Bayberry
  • Ostrya virginiana - Ironwood
  • Oxydendrum arboreum - Sourwood
  • Physocarpus opulifolius - Eastern ninebark
  • Picea glauca - White spruce
  • Pieris floribunda - Mt. pieris
  • Pinus banksiana - Jack pine
  • Pinus strobus - White pine
  • Pinus resinosa - Red pine
  • Prunus maritima - Beach plum
  • Ptelea trifoliata - Hoptree
  • Quercus spp.- Oak, various species
  • Rhododendron calendulaceum - Flame azalea
  • Rhododendron periclymenoides-Pinxterbloom azalea
  • Rhus aromatica - Fragrant sumac
  • Rhus copallina - Shining sumac
  • Rhus typhina - Staghorn sumac
  • Rosa carolina - Carolina rose
  • Rosa virginiana - Virginia rose
  • Thuja occidentalis - eastern arborvitae
  • Tilia americana - Basswood
  • Vaccinium spp. - Blueberry
  • Viburnum cassinoides - Northern wild raisin
  • Viburnum dentatum - Arrow-wood
  • Viburnum lentago - Nannyberry
  • Viburnum prunifolium -Blackhaw viburnum
  • Viburnum trilobum – American cranberrybush viburnum

 

Moist Soils
  • Acer rubrum - Red maple
  • Aesculus parviflora - Bottlebrush buckeye
  • Aesculus pavia - Red buckeye
  • Aronia spp. - Chokeberry
  • Betula alleghaniensis - Yellow birch
  • Betula nigra - River birch
  • Calycanthus floridus - Carolina allspice
  • Carpinus caroliniana - American hornbeam
  • Cercis canadensis - E astern redbud
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides - Atlantic white cedar
  • Chionanthus virginicus - Fringetree
  • Cladrastis kentuckea - Yellowwood
  • Clethra alnifolia - Sweet pepperbush
  • Cornus alternifolia - Alternate leaf dogwood
  • Cornus amomum - Silky dogwood
  • Cornus racemosa - Grey dogwood
  • Fagus grandifolia - American beech
  • Fothergilla major, F. gardenii - Fothergilla
  • Franklinia alatamaha - Franklinia
  • Hamamelis virginiana - Common witch hazel
  • Halesia tetraptera - Carolina silverbells
  • Hydrangea arborescens - Smooth hydrangea
  • Hydrangea quercifolia - Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Ilex glabra - Inkberry
  • Ilex verticillata – Winterberry
  • Itea virginica - Virginia sweetspire
  • Kalmia angustifolia - Sheep laurel
  • Kalmia latifolia - Mt. laurel
  • Lindera benzoin - Spicebush
  • Liquidambar styraciflua - Sweet gum
  • Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree
  • Magnolia acuminata - Cucumber magnolia
  • Magnolia virginiana - Sweetbay magnolia
  • Nyssa sylvatica - Tupelo
  • Pieris floribunda - Mt. pieris
  • Rhododendron calendulaceum - Flame azalea
  • Rhododendron maximum - Rosebay rhododendron
  • Rhododendron vaseyi - Pinkshell azalea
  • Rhododendron viscosum - Swamp azalea
  • Rosa carolina - Carolina rose
  • Salix discolor - Pussy willow
  • Sambucus canadensis - Elderberry
  • Spirea latifolia - Broadleaf meadowsweet
  • Spirea tomentosa - Steeplebush
  • Stewartia ovata - Mountain stewartia
  • Styrax americanus - American snowbell
  • Thuja occidentalis - Eastern arborvitae
  • Tilia americana - Basswood
  • Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush blueberry

 

Wetlands
  • Acer rubrum - Red maple
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis - Buttonbush
  • Chamaedaphne calyculata - Leatherleaf
  • Clethra alnifolia - Sweet Pepperbush
  • Cornus racemosa - Grey dogwood
  • Ilex glabra - Inkberry
  • Ilex verticillata - Winterberry
  • Kalmia angustifolia - Sheep laurel
  • Lindera benzoin - Spicebush
  • Nyssa sylvatica - Tupelo
  • Quercus bicolor - Swamp white oak
  • Rhododendron viscosum - Swamp azalea
  • Salix discolor - Pussy willow
  • Nyssa sylvatica - Tupelo
  • Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush blueberry
  • Viburnum dentatum - Arrowwood

 

Part Shade/Shade
  • Aesculus parviflora - Bottlebrush buckeye
  • Aesculus pavia - Red buckeye
  • Amelanchier spp. - Shadbush
  • Aronia spp. - Chokeberry
  • Carpinus caroliniana - American hornbeam
  • Cercis canadensis - Redbud
  • Chionanthus virginicus - Fringetree
  • Clethra alnifolia - Sweet pepperbush
  • Cornus alternifolia - Alternate leaf dogwood
  • Cornus amomum - Silky dogwood
  • Cornus racemosa - Grey dogwood
  • Franklinia alatamaha - Franklinia
  • Halesia tetraptera - Carolina silverbell
  • Hamamelis vernalis - Vernal witch hazel
  • Hamamelis virginiana - Common witch hazel
  • Hydrangea quercifolia - Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Ilex glabra - Inkberry
  • Ilex opaca - American holly
  • Kalmia angustifolia - Sheep Laurel
  • Kalmia latifolia - Mt. laurel
  • Leucothoe axillaris - Coast leucothoe
  • Leucothoe fontanesiana - Drooping leucothoe
  • Magnolia virginiana - Sweetbay magnolia
  • Pieris floribunda - Mt. pieris
  • Ptelea trifoliata - Hoptree
  • Rhododendron arborescens - Sweet azalea
  • Rhododendron maximum - Rosebay rhododendron
  • Stewartia ovata - Mountain stewartia
  • Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush blueberry
  • Viburnum acerifolium - Mapleleaf viburnum
  • Viburnum alnifolium - Hobblebush
  • Viburnum cassinoides - Northern wild raisin
  • Viburnum dentatum - Arrowwood
  • Viburnum lentago - Nannyberry
  • Viburnum prunifolium - Blackhaw viburnum

 

Trees & Shrubs to Attract Birds
  • Amelanchier spp. - Shadbush
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - Bearberry
  • Aronia spp. - Chokeberry
  • Cornus alternifolia - Alternate leaf dogwood
  • Cornus amomum - Silky dogwood
  • Cornus racemosa - Grey dogwood
  • Crataegus phaenopyrum - Washington hawthorn
  • Fraxinus americana - White ash
  • Gaylussacia spp. – Huckleberry
  • Ilex glabra - Inkberry
  • Ilex opaca - American holly
  • Juniperus virginiana - Eastern red cedar
  • Myrica pensylvanica - Bayberry
  • Prunus maritima - Beach plum
  • Prunus serotina - Black cherry
  • Sambucus canadensis - Elderberry
  • Vaccinium spp. - Blueberry
  • Viburnum spp. - Viburnum, various species

 

Coastal Planting
Ground covers, grasses and forbs:
  • Ammophila breviligulata* - American Beach grass
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi* - Bearberry
  • Carex pennsylvanicum - Pennsylvania Sedge
  • Coreopsis lanceolata - Lance-leaf Coreopsis
  • Coreopsis verticillata - Thread-leaf Coreopsis
  • Deschampsia flexuosa - Tufted Hairgrass
  • Limonium nashii* - Sea Lavender
  • Panicum virgatum - Panic Grass
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia* - Virginia
  • Schizachyrium scoparius - Little Bluestem
  • Festuca ovina - Sheep Fescue
  • Festuca ovina var. longifolia - Hard Fescue
  • Festuca rubra - Red Fescue
  • Hibiscus moscheutos - Marsh Hibiscus
  • Hudsonia tomentosa* - False Heather
  • Juniperus horizontalis* - Creeping Juniper
  • Kosteletzkya virginica - Seashore Mallow
  • Solidago sempervirens – Seaside goldenrod
  • Spartina alterniflora – Smooth cordgrass
  • Spartina patens – Saltmarsh cordgrass
Shrubs:
  • Amelanchier canadensis* - Shadbush
  • Aronia arbutifolia - Chokeberry, Red
  • Aronia melanocarpa - Chokeberry, Black
  • Baccharis halimifolia - Groundsel Bush
  • Clethra alnifolia - Sweet Pepperbush
  • Comptonia peregrina* - Sweet Fern
  • Ilex glabra - Inkberry
  • Ilex verticillata - Winterberry
  • Itea virginica - Sweetspire
  • Iva frutescens – Marsh elder
  • Leucothoe axillaris - Coast Leucothoe
  • Myrica pennsylvanicum* - Bayberry
  • Physocarpus opulifolius - Eastern Ninebark
  • Prunus maritima* - Beach Plum
  • Rhus aromatica - Sumac, Fragrant
  • Rhus copallina - Sumac, Shining
  • Rhus glabra - Sumac, Smooth
  • Rhus typhina - Sumac, Staghorn
  • Rosa virginiana - Virginia Rose
  • Sambucus canadensis - Elderberry
  • Vaccinium corymbosum - Highbush Blueberry
  • Viburnum cassinoides - Northern Wild Raisin
  • Viburnum dentatum - Arrow-wood
Trees:
  • Acer rubrum - Red Maple
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides - Atlantic White Cedar
  • Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Green Ash
  • Ilex opaca - American Holly
  • Juniperus virginiana* - Eastern Red Cedar
  • Magnolia virginiana - Sweet Bay Magnolia
  • Nyssa sylvatica - Tupelo
  • Picea glauca - White Spruce
  • Picea pungens - Colorado Spruce
  • Pinus rigida* - Pitch Pine
  • Prunus serotina* - Black Cherry
  • Quercus spp.* - Oak, various species
  • Thuja occidentalis - Eastern Arborvitae
*suitable for exposed conditions

Written by: Roberta Clark
Revised: 08/2011

Topics: 
Commercial Horticulture
Commercial Horticulture topics: 
Plant Materials