Five Underutilized Native Plants For Your Garden

Apr 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day everyone!

To celebrate the beautiful world we live in, I visited my local nature preserve and and gathered some pictures of five cool native plants that are underutilized in the garden setting. I will keep the writing brief – this will be a mostly visual post. Here we go!



Cinnamon Ferns thrive in any garden given some shade and moist soil. In their native habitat, they can reach over four feet tall, usually topping out at two to three feet in a typical garden setting.


I discovered a patch of Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus) growing along the woodland edge by a trailhead. This shrub makes beautiful, somewhat fragrant flowers in mid-spring. The rest of the year it has round green leaves that change to a soft golden yellow in autumn. It would make a great addition to an informal shrub border, woodland edge, or shade garden.


False Indigos (Pictured: Baptisia alba var. macrophylla) make a great native alternative to the more finicky lupines. If you’re interested, check out the amazing selection of cultivars available through Plant Delights Nursery.


To me, no garden is complete without the addition of Louisiana Irises. You might be surprised to know that most varieties are hardy to zone 5, meaning they can be grown in almost three quarters of the US. They also boast the greatest selection of colors out of any Iris group – almost every known color but pure black.


True Spider Lilies (Hymenocallis sp.) are only marginally hardy (USDA zones 7-10), but deserve an honorable mention. Even if you’re out of their native range, consider growing them in pots and overwintering them under cover – they will reward you with a show unlike any other bulb I know of.

Well, there you have it! Five underutilized and deserving natives that you can grow in your garden today.


There is an ever-increasing need to preserve our native plants from destruction – one of the best options being cultivation in our gardens. If you’re new to growing natives or are hesitant because of their wild reputation (pun intended 😉 ), give them a try!


What about you? What are your favorite natives to grow in the garden? Let’s hear it in the comments below! 




  1. LaLennoxa says:

    I’m glad you mentioned Hymenocallis. I invested in some bulbs earlier this season and am looking forward to the show. Though I just wish they were a zone or two hardier so I would not have to do the lift thing! In my area, the native fern is the Ostrich one and it’s a classic beauty. I also like gardening with asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger), which is such an amazing shade groundcover and has these cute flowers which you often only see only
    If you are looking for them. And since I am obsessed with most things in the Aroid family, I must give props to our native jack-in-the-pulpits, arisaema triphyllum – every time I look at them, I want more!

    • Travis says:

      I have native Jack-In-The-Pulpit in the woodland behind my house – they are one of my favorite wildflowers! They are the one plant I never seem to have enough of. 🙂

  2. Sandy Lux says:

    For you water gardeners, you can put the spider lilies in a submerged pot within your water garden. Your fish will trim the roots for you so the plants don’t overgrow their pot, and the spring blooms give a nice “punch” to your water garden. If you get the plants out of the wild, you may want to isolate the plants in some water that has a little clorox in it to kill any harmful bacteria before introducing the plant to your “controlled” water garden. Sandy Lux

    • Travis says:

      Hey Sandy! 🙂

      I’ve never planted Spider Lilies in a water garden with fish – that seems like a great way to grow them though!

  3. Rosie Smith says:

    Hi Travis – I had no experience with Baptisia until we moved into a small condominium complex 2 years ago (it’s pretty cool; we live on 10 historic acres designed and planted first by Olmsted and then by Thomas Sears). This spring I’ve been taking a few stalks from inside the perimeter to bring in the house. They are lovely, almost architectural, in a vase! But also, great to see all the varieties from Plant Delights – I forget about them as a resource. Fun reading your newsletter and blog … thanks and keep up the great work!!


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