What native flowers should be added to a perennial bed?


I want to add to our perennial beds at our lakefront property but want to plant native plants. In there now are a bunch of hydrangea and peony and sea pea and bee balm and bleeding heart. There is a big bush with a trumpet like purple/pink flower that the hummingbirds are loving. What would you suggest to add to this garden!? Also I have lots of planter boxes and pots that I need to fill! Is it ok to fill them with non native flowers?


Liz Stanley ,Horticulture Community Education Assistant

Thank you for your questions about planting natives in an existing perennial garden, and what to grow in containers.

The plant with tube-like flowers might be weigela. Though not native (like peonies and hydrangeas), it’s not invasive. (Sometimes weigela will bloom twice in one season.)

Your options for native plants are many, but their preferred growing conditions will narrow your selection: Soil type, pH and moisture, sunlight, etc.  If you’re looking for a natural-looking landscape, look at what’s growing nearby in an undeveloped similar shore line. Those plants will probably be very happy on your property. If you’re looking for a more ornamental landscape that will also attract wildlife, here are some resources:

– Visit this section of our Garden & Yard website: Plants for the Maine Landscape

– Our new Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification program has an excellent plant list organized by bloom time. (The list is in the application.)

 Maine Yardscaping

– Native Plants of the Northeast (and many other books!)

– Wild Seed Project’s Comprehensive Plant List

– Maine Audubon’s Plant Finder

– Maine Lakes has a Lake Book to help residents make good choices for maintaining roads and buffers for water quality.

Window boxes and container gardens are a good way to bring color into your dooryard. Most tend to be tender annuals, many of which are tropical and have been bred for heavy flowering. They need good drainage, a good (usually soil-less) potting mix and regular watering. Be sure that you combine plants that need the same amount of sunlight and moisture. In addition, there are many foliage plants that are just as colorful as flowering plants. More basics in this fact sheet from UMass: Colorful Container Gardens. Can you use native plants like ferns in container gardens? Yes, but there’s no harm in using annuals since they don’t become invasive like hardy perennials can.