Outstanding native species for fall planting

Published 2:24 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cooler temperatures are right around the corner, offering excellent conditions for planting some lovely new additions to your home landscape. Fall installation will provide an extended period for root establishment before the warm temperatures return again.

What better place to find a great selection of Mississippi native plants that enjoy our local climate than at the Crosby Arboretum’s fall plant sale this weekend?  We’re excited to have selected such an exceptional variety of native trees, shrubs, and perennials this year.

Bigleaf magnolia is always a popular tree at the Arboretum’s plant sales, and we will have some beautiful selections of this plant as well as the Ashe’s magnolia. You can see examples of both of these deciduous magnolias when you cross over the first bridge on our Arrival Journey and approach the Visitor Center. Mature bigleaf magnolias can have leaves that measure up to three feet in length. Both trees have simply awesome spring blooms.

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Ashe’s magnolia has a very similar appearance to the bigleaf magnolia, but has shorter leaves, up to two feet in length. It produces blooms on much younger plants than bigleaf magnolia, which can take 10 to 15 years to produce a flower. An Ashe’s magnolia, however, may bloom in only four years. Both trees prefer rich, moist, well-drained soil and are at home in the forest understory, although full sun will produce a straighter plant with more abundant blooms.

Oakleaf hydrangea, native azaleas, and Grancy greybeard are popular garden shrubs that will be found at the sale. Oakleaf hydrangea is favored for the coarse texture of its leaves, gorgeous white lasting bloom spikes, and scarlet hues that rev up the temperature of your fall garden. This shrub, like the deciduous magnolias just mentioned, favor rich, well-drained and moist soil.

Native azaleas, like ornamental azaleas, do not tolerate drought well, and prefer moist, well-drained acidic conditions. Give them a layer of mulch such as pine straw to help retain soil moisture. If you want to kill a native azalea, put it in full sun and poorly drained soil, and it will soon be out the door. But should you prefer to keep it around for a longer period of time, locate it in a moist, well-drained location, and beneath the shifting shade of tree canopies.

Pay close attention to where the Arboretum’s native azaleas thrive – at the sloped edges of our water bodies, and bordering our pathways. Then, do your best to locate your own native azaleas in similar conditions.

One of the hardest things to accept is that you may not have the correct soil and light conditions to support the plants you would like to grow in your home landscape. But you will find many plant experts and native gardening enthusiasts at our plant sale events who can steer you in the direction of appropriate substitutes and help you select the right plants for your own unique site conditions.

Grancy greybeard is an old-time favorite, also called fringe tree. It has unusual airy white fringed flowers that light up the spring garden. It has a sweet but not overpowering fragrance, and works well in the wildlife garden or as a specimen tree. Although it too prefers a moist, well-drained soil, it will tolerate drier conditions.

Many of the shrubs offered are also excellent choices for your wildlife garden – for example, beautyberry, now gracing local roadsides, turning heads with its brilliant magenta fruits clustered in balls around the stems. It’s an undemanding shrub, easy to grow in sun or shade. Arrow-wood viburnum, winterberry holly, inkberry holly, and dahoon holly are also attractive shrubs and dependable berry producers.  

Muscadines, mayhaws, and native blueberries will be available at the sale, and trees will include the southern sugar maple (yes, there really is such a thing!), red buckeye, southern magnolia, longleaf pine, water hickory, and persimmon.

Add some passion vine to your butterfly garden, or plant some coral honeysuckle for the hummingbirds. We’ll also have firespike, monarda, and cardinal flower, also favored by hummers. Perennials include Gallardia, also called blanket flower, Louisiana phlox, Stoke’s aster, butterfly weed, muhly grass, and purple coneflower.

These are only a few of the many selections to be found at the Arboretum’s fall native plant sale. Whatever your passion, we guarantee that if you come, you’re bound to find a few new favorites and pick up some valuable landscape advice as well!

See the program calendar on our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu for more information on our fall native plant sale to be held this Friday and Saturday, September 28 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A new feature on our website this year is a plant list for the sale with prices and sizes, and a beautiful Native Plant Sale Catalog designed by Arboretum staff member Robin Veerkamp. See our website’s September calendar page for the links to view or download these documents.

Arboretum staff and volunteers, including Pearl River County Master Gardeners, will be on hand during the sale to consult with you about your property’s site conditions, and make plant recommendations. The sale will be held in the Arboretum’s greenhouse area (use our Service Entrance). Site admission is free on both days of the plant sale, so if you’d like to see what goes on here at the Crosby Arboretum, take advantage of one of these two days of free admission! Members may enter the sale area one hour earlier than the general public each day.

For more information, please call our office at (601) 799-2311. The site is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

For further exploration:

See the Crosby Arboretum’s Native Plant Data Base, linked on our website’s home page, to read profiles on the plants that are found on the site, many which are commonly found in Pearl River County.

How many of these can you recognize?