When lilacs are in bloom you will know because they smell absolutely wonderful and provide a show of excellent colors! Most lilacs only bloom for 3 weeks in the spring, but there are exceptions...like the 'Bloomerang' and 'Josee' cultivars. They are the only re-bloomers that do well in our climate. Lilacs can withstand shade and will actually be perfectly fine, but they will not produced nearly as many blooms if they are shaded. They like at least 6-8 hours of full sun each day. The more sun they can get the stronger scent and more blooms they will have!
The best time to prune lilacs is just after they are done flowering because they will start producing new buds that same summer. If you prune a lilac in the fall you are most likely eliminating next season's flowers.
Lilacs are one of many species of plants that are more susceptible to powdery mildew than others. 'Bloomerang' cultivar is an great option for powdery mildew and deer resistant.
Nothing announces spring is finally here quite as cheerily as a forsythia. The bright yellow blooms are one of the first things to bloom in the spring when the forsythia becomes covered in small, bell shaped flowers. Though the rest of the year you are left with a simple, green shrub, the spring display makes this one absolutely worth it.
Uses: Forsythia comes in a wide range of sizes from the low, spreading Gold Tide forsythia at only 1-2 feet tall and wide all the way to Beatrix Farrand forsythia which stands at 10 feet tall with blooms up to 2 inches wide. So whatever size space you look to fill, forsythia is a good option!
Fun Fact: Already have a forsythia bush? Want more? To propagate your forsythia, just take a cutting of a stem and set it a good, wet potting soil. Wait a few weeks and it will root and become a new shrub! forsythia will also spread naturally, slowly colonizing an area via the roots.
Hardiness zones: 3-8
Winterberry is native to the Eastern United States and Southeast Canada. Commonly found in moist swamps and thickets within these regions.
Uses: Winterberry branches are prized by many décor and art enthusiasts for uses in floral arrangements, winter window boxes, wreaths, and mistletoes.
Fun Fact: The berries are mildly toxic to humans and animals. Also, beware that if you decide to use winterberry in your landscape you are welcoming robins, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings, deer, raccoons, and mice to your yard.
Hardiness zones: 3-9
We are always looking for good shade plants for out landscapes and this evergreen is one of the best. With a hardyness zone going all the way to 2 for some varieties you can be sure this plant will do just fine in Minnesota's long, harsh winter. With dense, dark green foliage these look great in a hedge or just trim it back now and then and let it's natural shape take over. From tall upright forms to low and sprawling there is surely a yew to fit any space.
One caution with this plant is that it is poisonous! They are not recommended for homes with small children or pets.
Fun Fact: Yews are all over in ancient lore. The oldest yews are thousands of years old! Due to their long life and poisonous nature they are often used in ancient mythology to symbolize death and are referred to in Gaelic, Celtic, and Scottish lore. They also have a very close nit wood grain and make great, sturdy furniture.
Globe Blue Spruce
Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce, Picea pungens Globosa
3-5 ft tall and 5-6 ft wide
Full to Part Sun
Bright blue needles in spring that fade to deeper blue
The Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce is native to the western United States. In the wild it grows best in dry, well drained soil and in higher elevations. The bright blue needles have helped make this one of the most popular evergreens in ou area. With a hardiness zone going all the way to 2 you don't have to worry about this shrub struggling in our long winters.
Uses: This small shrub is often used as an accent in rock gardens or to provide winter interest in a foundation planting. Often these shrubs are grafted to a standard, giving them a 'lollipop tree' appearance and used as a small accent tree near front entrances or along paths.
Fun Fact: They are super slow growers so they only grow maybe 1-6” per year! Hint hint, this is what classifies this conifer as ‘dwarf’.
Hardiness zones: 2-8
Euphorbia pulcherrima, Poinsettia
Over 100 types ranging from 1 to 15 feet tall and wide
Red, pink, and white 'blooms' are the most common
Poinsettias are native to mexico and in the wild can grow up to 15' tall. The Aztecs used the red bracts to make dye and the sap to help control fevers. But we all know the Poinsettia as a Holiday plant. This came about as a Mexican legend about a little girl on Christmas giving one to Jesus.
What we commonly refer to as petals on the Poinsettia plant are actually modified leaves called bracts. Normally they are simply green however if they have 12 hours of darkness every day for about a month this triggers the plant to bloom and the bracts turn those bright, vibrant colors.
Poinsettias can stay beautiful in your home for months with the right care. They cannot tolerate freezing, however they do want to be between 55-65 degrees typically. They also like the soil to be a bit drier so be sure to punch holes in the foil that typically wraps a poinsettia to allow excess water to drain out.
Fun Fact: Poinsettias are not poisonous. This is an extremely common misconception surrounding this plant but many studies have been done to prove it. It is estimated a person would have to consume hundreds of poinsettia leaves or bracts before any symptoms would show and even then it is mostly indigestion.
Red Twig Dogwood
Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus alba
6 to 9 ft Wide and 8-12 ft Tall
Red Twig Dogwoods are native throughout most of northern and western North America. They can be susceptible to a variety of fungal problems like leaf and twig blights, canker, and leaf spots, but these rarely kill the plant.
Uses: Colorful landscape plant in the winter, Red Osier Dogwood was used by native Indian tribes externally and internally to treat diarrhea, fevers, and skin problems.
Hardiness zones: 3-8
Fun Fact: The newest growth on the plant typically gives off the most color. If you want more color in the winter, cut back the entire plant to the ground every 2-3 years in the springtime.
2-5 ft high and 2-3 ft wide
Sun to part shade
Bloom time is July to October
Perennial in the Aster Family!
Goldenrod is native to Eastern North America. It can be found in woodlands, swamps, meadows, fields, and mountains.
Uses: pollination, gout, joint pain, arthritis, inflammation reducer, and can alleviate a sore throat when brewed into tea
Hardiness zones: 3-8
Fun Fact: The ball that develops in the stems of some goldenrod is due to a parasite called the goldenrod gall fly. The larva grows inside the stem, causing it to widen and form a hard casing around the larva.
There are 45 species of goldenrod in MN.
Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparius
24 inches Tall, 18 inches Wide
Blooms Mid Summer to Mid Fall
Bloom Colors are Reddish/ Purplish stems
Little Bluestem is a warm season grass that does best in well drained soil. It is native to Eastern North America, mainly in prairies, fields, clearings, or hills.
Uses: Prairie Restoration, Erosion Control, Ground Nesting Bird Habitat
Hardiness zones: 3-9
Fun Fact: Some tribes used little bluestem switches in ceremonial sweat lodges. The Lakota word means “small red grass”. Dried leaves and stems were rubbed into soft fiber for moccasin lining and insulation.
I picked this plant because I love how beautiful it is in the fall. Deep purples and reds are very vibrant and it stays standing upright until you decide to trim back for winter. If you don’t want to trim back for winter it offers a great splash of color to your landscape.