Category: Horticulture Info

Need to know when to plant, spray, harvest, display or view? You are in the right place! If you need me to address a situation within your landscape, give me a shout! Otherwise, check out these posts for general information on Horticultural needs of a 5A landscape.

Shelf and Bracket Fungus

Shelf or bracket fungi tend to grow in somewhat circular shapes. They can be parasitic, saprotrophic (decomposing) or both. Many times these fungi can kill the tree they infest and then continue to live on it for years after its death. Some species have multi-colored growth rings just like the trees they eat.

A few of these are edible! Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is commonly cultivated for food. Polyporus squamosus, or Dryad’s Saddle is listed by many sites as an edible. Be sure you learn your Shroom ID before gnawing on one of these. I AM NOT a shroom IDer… That is why I did not caption the above photos 😉

Sadly, once a tree is infected, the fungus cannot be killed. These fungi cause either white or brown rot in the heartwood; both are structurally weakening. The brown rots are the result of a fungus not being able to break down lignin in the cell walls (Lignin is what makes cells strong). White rots attack both lignin and cellulose. Sometimes, the tree becomes hollow, yet remains stable, however decay usually leads to weakening of the trunk, eventual limb fractures or toppling. Top rots which affect upper parts of the tree are less hazardous (dropped branches) than the root or butt rots which can be quite damaging because the whole tree may fall!

Bracket fungi cause millions of dollars in damage through lost wood production in the lumber trade. The only mitigation is to harvest the tree before the rot spreads too far. Income is lost because foresters need to harvest more wood to make quotas. Removing the infected trees decreases nesting sites for birds and animals, also. The rotten wood is easier to excavate and fallen logs provide cover.

There is a good side to these fungi!

The Chinese and Japanese continue to use many types of bracket fungi as a way to prevent and treat a number of diseases, including hepatitis, hypertension, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, rheumatism, cancer, reduce saracoma 180 (cancer in connective tissues), esophageal carcinoma (malignant tumor with epithelial cells), hyperglycemia and to treat rheumatic tuberculosis. They have also been used to relieve pain, reducing fever, indigestion and hemostasis, and reducing levels of phlegm, steroids, fatty acids, applanoxidic acid, ganoderic acid, ganoderenic acid, and furanoganoderic acid. Studies have been conducted which show the fungi has antitumor, antimicrobial, antibronchial asthma, immune-stimulating, immune-regulating, liver- protecting, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-allergic and anti-oxidative properties. Antibacterial properties are also found in the tube layers of Artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum). It prevents tumor growth and increases white blood cell activity. Extracts from Ganoderma applanatum lower glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels significantly.

I brought up Artist Conk, want to know why it is called that? When the bottom is touched, it bruises the tender white underbelly a dark brown. Many folks have some beautiful art with Artist Conk as their medium.

Remember, mycelium, the body of the fungus, decomposes chemicals in the tree cells. White rots attack both lignin and cellulose, which are the molecules found in paper. The rotted wood is white because that is the color of the cellulose left behind. Scientists are experimenting using white rot fungi to convert wood chips to paper pulp. This process reduces energy use and pollutants. White rot fungi can also destroy toxic chemicals like PCB’s in soil. Go Go Fungi power!

Fungi are just the suckerfish of the woodlands. Someone has to do the dirty, clean-up work so the cycle of life can go on in the forest.

Here are some interesting sites I came across while researching this topic:

YES!! Fungi are great cures for many ailments.
I do investigate these ‘medical alternatives’, as a true cure may be found in them!! Burdock root (burr plants) & Turmeric (ginger) keep my skin issues in check. They are affordable, don’t destroy my system (like antibiotics) and no need to go to the doctor.

The U.S. GOV site on alternative meds

A list of every medical mushroom

A well written piece about shrooms with a bit of history

Dr. Mercola writes many articles about alternative health, good stuff)

© The Naturarian

Houseplant Scale on Schefflera Arboricola

The Schefflera Arboricola is a fairly easy Midwestern houseplant to care for. When I lived in Florida, there was one growing in my front yard, right in front of the chimney. My Midwestern version is a smaller scale!

This time of year my butt has just about been kicked by Old Man Winter. I’m soooo over winter. My houseplants have had it also. Here I am, a horticulturist and should have noticed this earlier. I did see the shiny leaves, but I thought it was just where I had over-sprayed some horticultural oil. Nope, not that lucky. From a distance, these guys are hardly noticeable. However, just get a bit closer and you’ll see them all… Huddling on the midrib.scale insect on houseplant leaf

houseplant

Next I noticed my sock stick to the floor… The floor was sticky. Remember there are signs and symptoms to all plant problems. The shiny leaves and sticky floor are signs of a honeydew producing pest. Signs are observations that are directly related to the problem. A symptom would be the leaves showing some spotting.

Here’s the little guys close up, along with their honeydew which is just a sweet name for poop. In the wild, opposed to the tame of my living room, ants would be attracted to the sweet honeydew and protect the producer. Ants have been known to herd aphids (another honey-doer!) and protect them in little colonies. I’ve seen it, pretty weird!

scale insect on leaf

We’re not going to have freeloaders on my plants! I promptly dragged ‘Sheffy’ into the shower for a rinse. I would have preferred to use horticultural oil, but I was out. I did have an organic insecticidal soap.

houseplant getting rinced off in bathtub

Spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect.

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.

© The Naturarian

 

Start Thinking About Spring Flower Containers!!

Happy Spring!… ? OK, Really, is it Spring?

No. However I’m optimistic that Woodstock Willie (my local groundhog) got it right, and I’m looking forward to an early spring!

In the meantime, it’s time to start thinking about your outdoor spring container displays. “How early can I plant?” will surely be your next question. Depending on your ‘love and devotion’ level, is how early you can plant. Factors:

  • Availability of plant material? Hard to plant what you can’t get.
  • Is your irrigation turned on? If not, you’ll need to water regularly.
  • A well-watered pot holds heat – water right before a freeze.
  • Fabric (NOT plastic) to cover in case of frost. Be sure to remove the next day.

Be sure your container / pot is very clean to start the season. A good, stiff brush dipped in a 10% bleach solution will do the trick. This will kill off any of the nasties waiting to infect your flowers. This cleaning should take you through the season also. No need to disinfect after each season change. (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter)

Spring flowers such as; Petunias, tulips, hyacinths, primrose, cyclamen, hydrangea, muscari, snap dragons, ranunculus, helleborus, viola, ivy and diacia are just a few cool weather choices.

Give your display a bit of height with pussy willow or forsythia branches. If cut at the right time (pretty much right before placing in display) they will also bloom, adding to the WOW factor.

These flowers will last until the weather turns hot & then it’s time to switch over to your summer display.

I’ll be taking requests from now until April 15th. After that date, most things are so picked over, it’s hard to be creative. You’re also almost into summer pots by then….

Want a FAST quote? Attach a photo in the comments or Email me for a quote!

Anticipated installation start this year is April 1st, possibly one week earlier. This is all based on weather forecasts.

© The Naturarian

The Skinny on Skinny Trees – Columnar / Fastigiate Trees

evergreen bushes that resemble male peepee

Columnar or fastigiated trees make great candidates for landscape areas where space is restricted such as in parkway strips, between the sidewalk and driveway, or near the corner of a building. Many of these trees can also be used as a privacy screen. Columnar trees are also recommended for parking lots where outward branching can get in the way of vehicles. Be sure to check the salt tolerance factor of the tree before planting in a parking lot. And of course, be sure you think about the over-all look you’re going for…..

If you click on the Latin Name, the link will take you to Google Images for that species.

INTERMEDIATE & SMALL TREES (15′ – 30′ feet tall):

White Japanese lilac shrub tree white blooms
Japanese lilac trees bloom white, in mid-summer

Amelanchier laevis ‘Cumulus’ – Serviceberry – 20’H x 18’W

Amelanchier laevis ‘Ballerina’ – Serviceberry – 20’H x 15’W

Malus ‘Red Jewel’ – Red Jewel Crabapple – 18’H x 12’W

Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ – Chanticleer Pear – 30’H x 15’W

Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’ – Ivory Silk Lilac – 20’H x 15’W

LARGER TREES (Over 30′ feet tall):

Acer x freemanii ‘Armstrong’ – Armstrong Freeman Maple – 40’+H x 15’W

Acer x freemanii ‘Marmo’ – Marmo Freeman Maple – 50’H x 30’W

Acer saccharum ssp. nigrum ‘Greencolumn’ – Greencolumn Black Maple – 40’H x 25’W

poplar tree windscreen
Poplar tree windscreen

Carpinus betula ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright European Hornbeam – 40’H x 20’W

Fagus sylvatica ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright European Beech – 40’H x 10’W

Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’ – Princeton Sentry Ginkgo – 60’H x 20’W

Populus tremula ‘Erecta’ – Upright European Aspen – 30’H x 8’W

Populus nigra – Lombardy Poplar – 50’H x 12’W

Quercus x warei ‘Long’ – Regal Prince English Oak – 60’H x 20’W

Taxodium distichum ‘Mickelson’ – Bald Cypress Swanee Brave – 50’H x 20’W

EVERGREENS:

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ – Skyrocket Juniper – 12′-18’H x 2′-3’W

Evergreen hedge
Pyramidal Eastern Arborvitae

Picea pungens’Glauca Fasigiata’ – Upright Blue Spruce – 15′-20’H x 5’W

Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright Eastern White Pine – 30′-50’H x 10′-15’W

Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ – Emerald Eastern Arborvitae – 20′-30’H x 5′-8’W

Thuja occidentalis ‘Pyramidalis’ – Pyramidal Eastern Arborvitae – 15′-20’H x 5′-8’W

© The Naturarian

How to Read the Midwestern Landscape

Understanding what you see and observe in the landscape and knowing key indicator plants (axiophytes) aid in identifying each Illinois region community. Learning a few characteristics of each area can help with this identification.

Each area has its separate restoration challenges, however the wetland communities are the most frequently restored regions, followed by prairie, savanna, and woodland, respectively.

Wetlands

Some of the main, topography indications of a wetland are:

  • Standing water during growing season
  • Drift lines
  • Watermarks
  • Sediment deposits

Sometimes because of drain tiles, dams/dikes, or channeling of streams, this might not be as reliable of an indication.

Conducting a soil test is the next test. Wetlands have a hydric soil characteristic described as one or more of the following:

  • predominantly peats or mucks
  • have bluish-gray coloring
  • contain dark streaks of organic material
  • include decomposing plant material

Plant indicators include cattails, bulrushes, cord grass, sphagnum moss, bald cypress, willows, sedges, rushes, arrowheads, and water plantains. Additionally, several types of oak, tamaracks, and pine trees occur in wetlands.

Wetland restoration relies heavily on the hydrology of the location. Generally, when natural water patterns return to an area, the usually, highly viable seed banks of the wetland overwhelm invasives. This makes for the easiest restoration, as most invasives cannot thrive in the wet conditions. Volo Bog is an example of how the returning of hydrology (breaking of drain tiles), along with overseeding, can restore a wetland.

Prairies

prairie land with yellow flowers

Identifying a prairie area should begin with an observation of the layout. Prairies are flat or gently undulating, dominated mostly with grasses, and generally treeless. Some of the plant indicator species include (but not limited to) big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, black oak, round-head bush-clover, butterfly milkweed, lead plant, heath aster, grey headed sunflower, compass plant, and cup plant.

Prairie soils (Mollisol) are very rich in nutrients. This is why many prairies are destroyed to grow other crops.

One challenge of prairie restoration lies in the condition of the site when presented for restoration. This will dictate the amount of time and money needed for the task. Another dilemma is the ability to burn. Many smaller restorations near communities that have banned any type of burning, must use alternate methods for restoration, which may delay the re-establishment for years.

Savannas

savanna land with wildflowers and trees

Savannas are recognized by grassland-like features, with scattered trees that are few enough in number not to affect light penetration to the ground.  Indicator plants consist of: yellow & purple giant hyssop, tall anemone, purple milkweed, prairie brome, cream wild indigo, woodland boneset, oaks, and Jacob’s ladder, to name a few.

Savanna’s restoration issues also lie with ability to burn, but time is also a huge factor. Reconstruction may require the planting of oaks and other native trees, which take years to mature.

Woodland

wooden bridge in woodland area

Woodland is an area with dotted trees where the portion of the land surface covered by the crowns is more than 30% (open woodland) but less than 60% (forest). Indicator species can include; oaks, shagbark hickory, black walnut, bitternut hickory, bottlebrush grass, woodland phlox, elm-leaved goldenrod, cut-leaf coneflower, brown-eyed susan.

The main challenge of restoring woodlands is time. Canopies need time to develop, and the understory elements might need to develop later because of this. Many times money and long-term dedication are the biggest hurdles.

© The Naturarian

Prairie Fires – Cleansing the Midwestern Landscape

prairie fire with person in fire gear

Fire has played an instrumental role in affecting many of the prairies in the Midwest.

Historically, tall grass prairies are shaped by one of three types of disturbances;

  • Drought
  • Animal grazing
  • Wildfires

There are many misconceptions that if the prairie (or other natural area) was left alone, it would revert to native. In the absence of disturbance, prairies often revert to either poor quality grasslands or thorn woodlands.

Native American Indians were keen on this information, observing what Mother Nature did naturally to herself to cleanse her skin, fire. They learned that fire removed the thorny brush, which gave access to animals and hunters alike. The open areas were also available to grazing animals and native plants that equal medical supplies and food to the Indians.

Many people aren’t happy about the burning that takes place in our area. They state they have allergies and the smoke drives them from their homes. Prescription burns are actually quite predictable and knowledgeable burn coordinators can adapt during the small percentages of uncertainty and plan accordingly so smoke avoids entering inhabited areas. A prescription burn coordinator is required to know the ecology, natural history, fire behavior, fire effects, and suppression techniques for the area.

I have a degree in Natural Areas Management and have been trained by the Chicago Wilderness Group as a Burn Crew Member. I’ve only enjoyed the privilege of three burns in my career, but I’ve always had pyro tendencies… Remember, I’ve had chemistry sets since a young age. Mom only let me play out in the yard, to keep the explosions/fires/mess outdoors. I didn’t think there was a profession that actually paid you to start fires… If I had the opportunity to do this full time, I would!

A brief description of how a burn takes place from planning to completion:

  • An area is chosen to burn
  • Timing (spring or fall)
  • Management goals and existing conditions are recorded
  • Plan is implemented, permits pulled, municipalities informed
  • When correct weather patterns are predicted, which include; moisture levels, wind, load levels (how much is expected to burn)
  • Crew availability
  • Burn takes place
  • Area is monitored and information recorded for future management goals.

prairie fire

Simply, to describe what happens during burn, there are two general jobs on the crew, excluding management; the fire starters and the fire stoppers called ‘moppers’. Everyone on the burn crew gets a job, equipment related to the job and who to report to, or the ‘Buddy System’. Burns can be conducted with a very small crew, however my county sends emails to prospective certified burn members that can volunteer for the day to help. Barely a burn goes by without at least a few volunteers.

Fire starters receive a fuel-dripping type device to start the fire. Generally, the LEAST experienced crew member gets this job, as this job has the least chance to screw-up. I guess the crew member could fail to start the fire… But, it’s stopping the fire that is the hard part. Fire starters start their burning in the pattern that has been determined to work for the area. Depending on the terrain and firebreak options (rivers, roads, mountains, already burned areas, etc.) most burns either burn into themselves, i.e. burn the edges first and the fire burns itself inward towards the center or it can end at the respective firebreak.

prairie controlled burn fire

The burn needs to be monitored and managed. Most of the time tall grass prairie fire is only a couple of feet high, just creeping along at a slow walk, other times (cattails especially) the flames can leap two stories high.

The mopper’s equipment can consists of either a backpack tank of water, rakes, or ‘a-mudflap-on-a-stick’. Most likely, I don’t need to explain the water-tank or the rake… The mudflap-on-a-stick is exactly what you are envisioning. It is used to blot the fire out along the fire line. There is a technique in using this piece of equipment. Slapping it down causes a gust of air and fans the fire, obviously not the desired outcome. The flap should be placed on the fire line (the burning foliage) and dabbed along to snuff it out. Fire is more delicate than some think, if one of the three ingredients for fire is removed (air, fuel, spark), no more fire.

During the fire, there is one hard fast rule of safety. STAY IN THE BLACK! The BLACK is the already burned areas. Fire can’t go where there is no fuel.

I’d love to develop a cologne called, ‘Campfire’. I looove that smell. =-)

 

© The Naturarian

Know, Know, Know Your Oaks


I was taught this song in my college trees class. The student that shared it with the class said she had learned it Girl Scouts.

There are several species or types of oaks. The White Oak is the state tree of Illinois, among other states. Sing this song to the tune of “Row, row, row your boat” to try to identify what type of oak you are looking at. The branching structures will match the song.

Know, know know your oaks,

Look at how they grow

Red oak, White oak, Pin oak, Bur oak

Red Oak (make a ‘V’ with your arms above your head)

White Oak (hold your arms straight out from your shoulders)

white oak

Pin Oak (make an upside down “V” with your arms pointing toward the ground)

pin oak

Bur Oak (make your arms twist in different directions)

Bur oak

And the acorns down below! (wiggle your fingers and point to the ground)

© The Naturarian

 

Propagating Woodies in the Midwest

There are many benefits to propagating with cuttings (opposed to seed) such as instant maturity, faster growth and easier transplanting.

The first step would be to find a healthy specimen from which to obtain the cutting. You should scout for plants while they are still actively growing and mark healthy branches, as when they are dormant, it will be hard to tell healthy from not.

The rooting media has four functions:

  • To hold the cutting in place
  • To provide moisture
  • To permit the exchange of air at the base of the cutting
  • To provide a dark environment for the cutting’s base

A cutting of evergreen spruce tree with hormone on cut to be potted

With this in mind, there are many options for rooting media. Any mixture of sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite, coarse sand, peat, or crushed shale will do well.

Keep the cutting moist, but not over-wet is a very important step in the process. Again, there are many methods to provide a moist atmosphere:

  • Misting
  • A plastic bag surrounding the pot
  • Soaking the pot in water

Auxins or growth hormones are of great help to the success of cuttings. Note that there are different strength suggestions for different types of wood.

Timing

In the end, timing will be the largest factor of success or failure. It is also the one factor that is hard to put an exact date on. Below is general information regarding timing (and other information) separated by types of wood.

My propagation professor told me if 1 out of 10 of your cuttings take root, be happy.

Late fall to early spring cuttings:

Deciduous Hardwoods

  • Examples: privet, forsythia, roses, willow, sycamore, crape myrtle, euonymus, dogwood, fig, quince, pear, plum.
  • The cuttings length should be 4-10 inches, with at least two nodes. Cut just below the node and smash end with a mallet.
  • Use an auxin of 2,500 – 5,000 ppm.

Evergreen Hardwoods

  • Examples: juniper, yew, spruce, abies, arborvitae.
  • The cutting’s length should be 4–8 inches, with at least two nodes. These cuttings are hard to root and take time. It is important to maintain adequate moisture levels during rooting.
  • Use an auxin of about 2,000 ppm.

Late spring to late summer cuttings:

Semi-Hardwoods –

  • Examples: holly, rhododendron, olive, euonymus.
  • The cutting’s length should be 3-6 inches. Some leaves towards bottom should be removed to reduce moisture loss.
  • Use an auxin of 1,000 – 3,000 ppm.

Spring to early summer cuttings:

Softwoods

  • Examples: maple, magnolia, spirea, weigela, peach.
  • The cutting’s length should be 3-5 inches. Try to use lateral or side branches for the cuttings. Remove all flower buds.
  • Use an auxin of 500 – 1,250 ppm.

Check the cuttings after a few weeks to see if there are roots forming. If the cutting above looks healthy, continue checking bi-weekly. Once roots have formed, the cuttings can be planted in larger pots. Continue to keep the new plant watered regularly.

© The Naturarian

Trees and Shrubs For Midwestern Clay Soils

Most of the Midwestern area is comprised of clay soils. Never fear! This is a much better situation to have than sandy soils. Clay soils maintain more minerals and moisture than other soils.

Sometimes clay soils can be bad, such as in conditions where there are more problems than just the soil. If while digging in the soil, it looks blueish-black and smells kinda off, this is because of poor drainage and the smell is from rotting organisms. The area should be assessed for drainage problems before anything else is done.

If the clay is a redish-orange, this is perfect as the soil is holding all the minerals plants crave.

With regards to planting woody plants, be sure to plant these correctly and never lower than the top of the roots of the rootball. If you’re at all concerned about the clay content of your soil, plant you woody plant a bit higher. Trust me, they will love you for it!!

Trees for Clay Soils

Scientific NameCommon NameGrow Zone
Abies balsameaBalsam fir3
Abies concolorWhite fir4
Acer freemaniiFreeman maple4
Acer ginnalaAmur or ginnala maple3
Acer platanoidesNorway maple4
Acer rubrumRed maple3
 Acer saccharinumSilver maple3
Alnus glutinosaEuropean alder4
Betula nigraRiver birch4
Carpinus carolinianaBlue beech4
Carya cordiformisBitternut hickory4
Carya ovataShagbark hickory4
Celtis occidentalisCommon hackberry2
Crataegus speciesHawthorn3-4
Fraxinus nigraBlack ash3
Fraxinus pennsylvanicaGreen ash3
Ginkgo bilobaGinkgo4
Gleditsia triacanthosCommon honeylocust4
Gymnocladus dioicusKentucky coffeetree4
Juglans cinereaButternut4
Juglans nigraBlack walnut4
Larix deciduaEuropean larch4
Larix laricinaTamarack2
Malus speciesApple, crabapple3
Phellodendron amurenseAmur corktree4
Picea abiesNorway spruce4
Picea glauca var. densataBlack Hills spruce4
Pinus nigraAustrian pine4
Pinus strobusWhite pine3
Pinus sylvestrisScots pine3
Pinus ponderosaPonderosa pine4
Populus speciesAspen, cottonwood2
Pyrus speciesPear4-5
Quercus bicolorSwamp white oak4
Quercus macrocarpaBur oak3
Salix speciesWillow2
Syringa reticulataJapanese tree lilac4
Tilia speciesLinden, basswood3
Ulmus speciesElm4

Shrubs for Clay Soils

Scientific NameCommon NameGrow Zone
Amelanchier speciesServiceberry4
Aronia melanocarpaChokeberry3
Caragana arborescensSiberian peashrub3
Cephalanthus occidentalisButtonbush4
Cornus albaTatarian dogwood3
Cornus alternifoliaPagoda dogwood4
Cornus racemosaGrey dogwood3
Cornus sericeaRed osier dogwood3
Diervilla loniceraDwarf bush-honeysuckle3
Elaeagnus commutataSilverberry2
Euonymus alatusBurning bush3
Forsythia x ‘Meadowlark’‘Meadowlark’ forsythia3
Forsythia x ‘Northern Sun’‘Northern Sun’ forsythia3
Hamamelis virginianaWitch hazel4
Ilex verticillataWinterberry4
Juniperus species (most)Juniper3
Physocarpus opulifoliusCommon ninebark2
Potentilla FruticosaPotentilla2
Rhus speciesSumac2
Ribes alpinumAlpine currant2
Ribes odoratumClove currant2
Rosa rugosaRugosa rose2
Salix speciesWillow2
Sambucus canadensisAmerican elderberry3
Spiraea speciesSpirea3-4
Symphoricarpos albusWhite snowberry3
Syringa speciesLilac2
Thuja occidentalisArborvitae, white cedar3
Viburnum dentatumArrowwood viburnum3
Viburnum lentagoNannyberry viburnum2
Viburnum opulusEuropean cranberry bush3
Viburnum sargentiiSargent viburnum4
Viburnum trilobumHighbush cranberry bush2

© The Naturarian

Perennials for Midwestern Clay Soils

Most of the Midwestern area is comprised of clay soils. Never fear! This is a much better situation to have than sandy soils. Clay soils maintain more minerals and moisture than other soils.

Sometimes clay soils can be bad, such as in conditions where there are more problems than just the soil. If while digging in the soil, it looks blueish-black and smells kinda off, this is because of poor drainage and the smell is from rotting organisms. The area should be assessed for drainage problems before anything else is done.

If the clay is a redish-orange, this is perfect as the soil is holding all the minerals plants crave.

The soil should be mixed with a fair amount of compost to help perennials get a good start. If the soil is very compacted, some sand can be mixed it also. Be sure to surround the perennial bed with leaf compost to aid in nutrients getting to the roots and all the other benefits mulch does for plants.

  • For Trees and Shrubs for clay soils ~ CLICK HERE
Botanical Name Common Name Bloom Color Light
Achillea tomentosa woolly yarrow Jun-Jul yellow sun
Achillea filipendulina fernleaf yarrow Jun-Jul yellow sun
Arisaema spp. Jack-in-the-pulpit May-July green/purple shade
Aruncus dioicus goatsbeard Jun-Jul white ps/sh
Asclepias tuberosum butterflyweed Jun-Aug orange et al sun
Astilbe arendsii & var. false spirea, astilbe Jun-Aug white-pink-red ps/sh
Bergenia cordifolia heartleaf bergenia Apr-May pink ps/sh
Brunnera macrophylla Siberian bugloss Apr-May blue ps/sh
Echinacea purpurea purple coneflower Jul-Oct pink sun
Helenium autumnale
‘Moerheim beauty’
Sneezewort Jul-Sept bronze red sun/ps
Heliopsis scabra Heliopsis Jul-Aug yellow sun
Hemerocallis spp. daylily summer many sun/ps
Heuchera hyb. coral bells Jun-Aug white-pink-red sun/ps
Hibiscus spp. rose mallow Jul-Sept white-pink-red sun/ps
Hosta spp. plantain lily Jul-Aug lavender ps-sh
Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ houttuynia June white sun/ps
Iris sibirica, pseudo-
acorus, versicolor, etc.
Siberian and blue and yellowflag iris variable blue, violet, yellow et al. sun/ps
Liatris spicata gayfeather, blazing star Jul-Aug pinkish sun/ps
Liriope muscari lily turf Aug-Oct lavender-mauve-white ps/sun
Lysimachia spp. Yellow loosestrife, gooseneck loosestrife Jul-Sept yellow-white sun/ps
Perovskia atriplicifolia Russian sage Summer Lavender sun
Primula spp. primroses Mar-Jun many ps/sh
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ Goldsturm rudbeckia July-Sept yellow sun/ps
Salvia spp. salvia, sage Jul-Oct blue-violet sun/ps
Sedum spectabile var. stonecrop, sedum Aug-Oct pink-red sun
Tradescantia virginiana spiderwort Jun-Sept blue-violet-white sun/ps
Yucca filamentosa Adams’s needle summer white sun

© The Naturarian