Don't take plants from the wild!

Nursery-propagated plants are available for every species listed on this page. There is no reason to despoil wild areas by removing plants. Statement on collecting plants.

Wild red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

full sun part shadeaverage to moist soilzones 3-9
It’s hard to think of a more graceful plant than the wild columbine, with its spurred red-and-yellow flowers nodding on slender stems. These, like many red flowers, attract hummingbirds. The delicately scalloped leaves form a neat mound of foliage. Wild red columbine, like most columbines, tends to seed itself in the garden (though not such much as to be a nuisance). In the wild, this plant prefers growing in the alkaline soil of limestone rocks, but in the garden it will grow in anything except very strongly acidic soil. 1-2′ tall.

Bearberry, kinnickinick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

full sun part shadedry to average soilzones 2-6
Bearberry is a useful ground cover that is handsome year-round. The leaves are glossy and evergreen. Small pink or white flowers in late spring are followed by bright red berries, popular with ground-dwelling birds. In winter, the stems become red and the leaves take on a dark red tint. Bearberry grows well in exposed, rocky or sandy sites; it also tolerates acid soil and the salt spray of seaside locations. 4″ tall. More photos and information from UConn.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)

part shade full shadedry to moist soilzones 3-8
An easy, tolerant plant that makes a good ground cover. Its bold, heart-shaped leaves create a pleasing texture in the garden. The roots smell very much like ginger, though this plant is not related to culinary ginger. Wild ginger has interesting triangular flowers in spring, but finding them requires getting down on hands and knees — they bloom just above the ground. (Click on the photo to the left to see an image of wild ginger in bloom.) 6″ tall.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

full sundry to average soilzones 3-9
True to its name, butterfly weed is a marvelous for attracting butterflies. The “weed” label, however, is entirely undeserved; it’s not weedy in its looks or habits. The handsome, dark green foliage is topped with bright orange flowers in July and August. Butterfly weed has a long tap root that makes the plant highly drought-resistant, but also makes mature plants tricky to transplant. Container-grown plants, however, transplant easily. Butterfly weed is considered a “Great Plant for American Gardens” by the American Horticultural Society. 2-3′ tall.

White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata, syn. Aster divaricatus)

part shade full shadedry to average soilzones 4-8
A good ground cover for tough situations. White wood aster thrives in dry shade, so it can be planted beneath shallow-rooted trees such as maples and elms. The flowers are not especially showy, but they are long-lasting, and an individual plant may be in bloom for two months. Foliage grows 6″ high; flower stalks 18-24″.

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, syn. Aster novae-angliae)

full sunpart shadeaverage to wet soilzones 3-9
There are hundreds of species of asters, but one of the best for gardens is our New England aster. (The American Horticultural Society lists it as a “Great Plant for American Gardens”.) New England aster lights up the fall garden with its cheerful flowers, resembling purple daisies. This is a tall plant, good for the back of the garden. Frankly, its lower leaves can look tatty by fall, so keep it behind other plants. 3-5′ tall.

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

full sun part shademoist to wet soil
or water up to four inches deep
zones 2-7
In the wild, marsh marigold grows in shallow water or marshy soil, but it doesn’t need a marsh — it will grow in moist garden soil. In mid-spring, its glossy, bright yellow flowers really grab one’s attention. The plant goes dormant by mid-summer, so it makes a good companion for late-emerging plants, such as ferns. 1′ tall.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)

part shade full shademoist soil, preferably acidiczones 3-9
This charming woodland plant has soft lavender flowers in spring. Even when wild geranium is not in bloom, the distinctive, deeply cut leaves provide a decorative effect. If it is planted in a moist woodland spot, wild geranium may spread slowly by seed. 1-2′ tall.

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

full sun part shademoist soil in part shade, or wet soil in full sunzones 3-9
In the wild, cardinal flower grows mostly in sunny swamps, but it will grow in moist garden soil if given part shade. Cardinal flower blooms in mid- to late summer; the brilliant red flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. It is considered a “Great Plant for American Gardens” by the American Horticultural Society. 3′ tall.

Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum, syn. Smilacina racemosa)

part shade full shadedry to moist soilzones 4-8
This is a graceful plant for the woodland garden. In spring, clusters of starry white flowers are borne at the ends of arching stalks. Solomon’s plume is easy to grow, and it spreads fast — give it lots of room or be prepared to weed out excess. Its cousin starry Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum stellatum) is another worthwhile garden plant, more restrained in its habits. Both plants have interesting berries; red-spotted in Solomon’s plume, and striped like a beach ball in starry Solomon’s plume. 1-2.5 feet tall.

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)

part shade full shadeaverage to moist soil;
prefers acidic soil
zones 3-9
Partridgeberry is a member of that essential garden category, the shade-loving evergreen ground covers. It is one of the best choices for dark shade. Partridgeberry spreads across the ground by vining stems, growing only two inches high. Its leaves are small and dark green, often with light-colored veins. Partridgeberry has white flowers in early summer; in fall and winter it is ornamented by bright red fruits. 2 inches tall.

Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata)

part shade full shadeaverage to moist soilzones 3-8
Lightly fragrant clusters of lilac-colored flowers grace this woodland plant in spring. The flowers reward close inspection — each petal is shallowly notched at the tip, and appears to have been pinched where it joins the center of the flower. Wild blue phlox is considered a “Great Plant for American Gardens” by the American Horticultural Society. 1 foot tall.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

part shade full shadeaverage to moist soilzones 3-8
Bloodroot is one of the earliest wildflowers of spring. In March, the delicate white flowers appear, each with a broad leaf wrapped protectively around its stalk. Bloodroot goes dormant around mid-summer. Ferns make good companions, as they tend to emerge late in spring. By the time bloodroot goes dormant, ferns can fill in the gap. 6 inches tall.

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

part shade full shadeaverage to moist soilzones 3-8
Foamflower’s charms have just recently begun to be appreciated by gardeners and plants breeders. Foamflower has spikes of fluffy white flowers that rise above a carpet of soft green leaves. It blooms strongly in late spring, and, if it has consistently moist soil, it will continue to produce the occasional flower spike until frost. Foamflower spreads by stolons, so it can be used as a ground cover. The leaves will stay green through mild winters. 8-12 inches tall.

Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragariodes)

full sun part shade full shadedry to moist soilzones 4-9
Barren strawberry looks similar to strawberry plants, but with showy yellow flowers (and no edible fruit). Like strawberries, barren strawberry will spread quickly by runners, making it a good ground cover. The leaves are evergreen, at least during Connecticut’s milder winters. Yellow flowers in spring and summer. 4-8 inches tall.

Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

full sunaverage soilzones 4-9
This is a showy vine with scarlet flowers in summer and autumn. Trumpet honeysuckle is a favorite with hummingbirds. The leaves are dark green on top, and pale blue-green beneath. The vine climbs by twining stems, so it needs a trellis, fence, or large shrub to climb on. Climbs 10-20′. More photos and information can be found at UConn’s Plants Database.

Climbing bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)

full sundry to moist soilzones 3-8
This vine is rapidly becoming rare in New England, due to competition from an invasive alien, Asiatic bittersweet. Climbing bittersweet is grown for its showy fruit — clusters of bright orange-red seeds with pumpkin-orange seed covers. The fruits dry well, and they are good for decoration. Both male and female vines are needed to get fruit, but unfortunately bittersweet is generally sold without labeling the sex. Planting four or more vines is generally enough to get both sexes. Be sure to buy this from a nursery that knows their plants well; we have seen nurseries that selling Asiatic bittersweet labelled as climbing bittersweet. (Asiatic bittersweet is too aggressive to be a good garden vine — it can climb to the top of an 80 foot tree.) Climbing bittersweet grows 20-30′ high.

Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana)

full sun part shadeaverage to moist soilzones 3-9
Virgin’s bower is grown for its late-summer flowers. After the flowers are gone, it has attractive, feathery seed heads. This vine spreads rapidly, so it’s best to give it lots of space. Climbs 5-20′.

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

full sun part shade full shadedry to average soilzones 3-9
A vigorous and adaptable vine with showy fall foliage. Virginia creeper will climb up walls or trees, clinging to the surface with adhesive disks. If it doesn’t have anything to climb, it serves as a fast-spreading ground cover. In fall, the leaves turn brilliant red. Tolerates salt, strong wind, and urban conditions. Not recommended for climbing up shingled or painted surfaces. Climbs 50′. More photos and information can be found at UConn’s Plants Database.

Marginal woodfern (Dryopteris marginalis). Marginal woodfern has dark green, leathery fronds. The fronds stay green all winter, adding interest to the winter landscape. 2′ tall. More information from University of Vermont.
(  / average to moist soil / zones 3-8)

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). This is a large fern that forms lovely vase-shaped clumps. In good conditions it tends to spread aggressively by the roots, so exercise caution in planting it near delicate plants. Grows 2′-5′ tall — more sun and moisture means taller.
(  / average to wet soil / zones 3-8)

Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea). Simply a magnificent fern. Given constantly wet soil and full sun, cinnamon fern will grow in dense, 5′ clumps. Less tall, but still handsome, in drier or shadier conditions. The cinnamon-colored fertile fronds make a nice accent. 3-5′ tall.
(  / moist soil in part shade, or wet soil in full sun / zones 4-8)

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). The evergreen fronds of this fern have been used for Christmas decorations, hence the name. This fern is very useful in plantings beneath trees, as it tolerates root competition. Christmas fern is also more tolerant of dry soil than are most ferns. 1.5′ tall. More information from the University of Vermont.
(  / average to damp soil / zones 3-8)

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). This is the dominant grass of tall-grass prairie. The blue-green leaves turn shades of red and purple in fall. 4-6′ tall. More information from the Missouri Botanical Garden.
(  / dry to average soil; needs good drainage; good in sandy soil / zones 2-8)Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Another denizen of tall-grass prairie, switchgrass forms tall, stately clumps. In early fall, it has airy purplish flower-heads. The seeds provide food for birds. The grass is yellow in fall, and tan in the winter. 3-5′ tall. More information from the Missouri Botanical Garden.
( / dry to average soil / zones 4-9)

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, syn. Andropogon scoparius) is a highly ornamental grass that deserves to be used more. Little bluestem is a dominant grass of mixed-grass prairie; in the east, it tends to grow in abandoned fields and rocky ridges. Little bluestem thrives in poor or rocky soil, where it grows into a neat column. In rich soil, however, it grows tall and floppy. In fall, the grass turns reddish-gold, with fluffy white seed clusters. Its gold color and columnar form persist all winter. It’s still looking good after winter wind has damaged most other grasses. 3′ tall. More information from the Missouri Botanical Garden.
( / dry to average soil / zones 4-9)

Most of these shrubs are covered also in University of Connecticut’s excellent Plant Database, which has detailed descriptions and lots of photos. Click on the “UConn Plant Database” link to go to the page for that plant.

Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia, Photinia pyrifolia)
full sun part shade full shadedry to moist soilzones 5-9
This is a quietly handsome shrub that thrives in a wide range of conditions. It has clusters of white flowers in the spring, followed by bright red berries that attract birds. Its brilliant red fall foliage ends the year with a bang. 5-10′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
full sun part shadeaverage to moist soilzones 3-9
With fragrant white flowers in mid-summer, sweet pepperbush is a valuable addition to the landscape. The flowers are a magnet for butterflies and bees. 6-9′ tall. Prefers acidic soil; tolerates ocean spray and road salt. UConn Plant Database.
Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata)
full sun part shademoist to wet soilzones 4-9
The glory of this shrub is its berries. They turn red in early fall and continue to provide cheer through most of the winter. An ideal shrub for pond-side plantings; winterberry loves wet soil, and it looks beautiful reflected on the water. Both male and female bushes are needed to get berries; one male is enough for half-a-dozen females. Unlike most hollies, winterberry is deciduous. Typically 6-10′. UConn Plant Database.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
full sun  full shadeaverage to moist soilzones 5-9
Mountain laurel is Connecticut’s state flower. In spring, its pale pink flowers attract hummingbirds. The leaves stay green all winter; the shrub looks good even in very cold weather (unlike evergreen rhododendrons, which curl up their leaves and look like they’re shivering). Mountain laurel will grow in full sun if it has consistently moist soil. In full shade, its form is tall and loose; the bare, contorted branches are picturesque. 5-12′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica, syn. Myrica pensylvanica)
full sun part shadedry to moist soilzones 3-7
Bayberry is a tough shrub. It grows in nearly any soil, from heavy clay to infertile sand. It tolerates salt, making it good for seaside and heavily-salted roadside. Its leaves and berries are aromatic. The gray, waxy berries (used in bayberry candles) are attractive in winter, and they provide food for birds. Bayberry has fine-textured foliage and an interesting branch structure. 6-10′. UConn Plant Database.
Rosebay, Great Laurel (Rhododendron maximum)
part shade full shademoist soilzones 4-9
With large clusters of pink or lavender flowers, rosebay is one of our showiest native shrubs. The large, oval leaves are evergreen. The twisty branches provide another ornamental feature. Rosebay dislikes hot, dry locations; it does best in morning sun and afternoon shade. 6-15′. UConn Plant Database.
Pinxterbloom azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides, syn. Rhododendron nudiflorum)
full sun part shadedry to moist soilzones 4-9
In spring, the pinxterbloom azalea puts out fragrant flowers in pink, lavender, or white. The trumpet-shaped flowers have long stamens, giving them a festive look. Pinxterbloom is a tolerant shrub — unlike most members of the Rhododendron genus, it will grow in sandy, rocky, or dry soil. Typically 4-6′. UConn Plant Database.
Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)
full sun part shademoist to wet soilzones 4-9
In summer, the swamp azalea has white flowers with a delightful, spicy fragrance. The flowers attract hummingbirds. True to its name, swamp azalea enjoys a soggy spot — probably the only azalea that does. 3-7′ tall.
Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)
full sun part shadedry to averagezones 4-9
Fragrant sumac thrives in poor soil and hot, dry locations. It spreads by suckers and by stolons, so it can form a large colony. These traits make it an excellent choice for preventing erosion on steep banks. The leaves are aromatic; they turn a good red in fall. 3-6′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
full sun part shadeaverage to moistzones 3-8
Highbush blueberry is used in commercial blueberry farming. It’s a good addition to the yard, and not just for its delicious fruit. In early summer, it has urn-shaped flowers in pale pink or white. In fall, its foliage presents a range of colors, from yellow to red to burgundy. During the growing season, its dense, rounded shape and fine-textured foliage are attractive; in winter its rusty red or yellow-green bark becomes prominent. 6-10′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
American highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum, syn. Viburnum opulus var. americanum)
full sun part shade full shadeaverage to wetzones 2-7
American highbush cranberry is a very easy-to-grow shrub that is decorative for most of the year. In late spring, it has flat clusters of white flowers. In late summer, the red berries appear; they can persist through the winter. The berries are edible to birds and humans — they make good preserves. The fall foliage is yellow, red, or red-purple. American highbush cranberry ought to be more widely planted; it is both prettier and more adaptable than the commoner European highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. opulus). 8-12′ tall. All of Connecticut’s native Viburnums are good landscape shrubs: mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), hobblebush (V. alnifolium), nannyberry (V. lentago), possum haw (V. nudum), black haw (V. prunifolium), arrowwood (V. dentatum), and downy arrowwood (V. rafinesquianum). UConn Plant Database.

Most of these trees are covered also in University of Connecticut’s excellent Plant Database, which has detailed descriptions and lots of photos. Click on the “UConn Plant Database” link to go to the relevant page.

Red maple (Acer rubrum)
full sun part shadedry to wetzones 4-9
Red maple makes a beautiful shade tree or street tree. This maple has red flowers in early spring, and brilliant, clear red foliage in fall. The silvery bark is handsome year-round. Red maple is a fairly fast-growing tree. 40-70′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
Downy serviceberry, downy juneberry (Amelanchier arborea)
full sun part shadedry to moistzones 4-9
Downy serviceberry is a graceful small tree or large shrub. It has clusters white flowers in spring. Its edible fruits taste a bit like blueberries; they are loved by birds. Beautiful fall foliage in shades of yellow, orange, and red. The slender, curving trunks with light-gray bark are attractive in winter. 20-25′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
River birch, black birch (Betula nigra)
full sun part shadeaverage to wetzones 4-9
River birch is an excellent large landscape tree. The bark ranges from tan to cinnamon brown in color; its habit of peeling in sheets is attractive. Like many other birches, river birch often has several trunks, forming a handsome clump. Unlike the more commonly-planted white birch, river birch is seldom troubled by insect pests, and it tolerates summer heat well. 40-70′. UConn Plant Database.
American hornbeam, ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana)
full sun part shade full shadeaverage to wetzones 3-9
American hornbeam is a pleasing small tree, with attractive blue-green foliage and good fall color. The trunk has subtle ripples, as if there were muscles bulging beneath the bark; the tree is sometimes called musclewood. In the wild, it usually grows along rivers or streams, and it will tolerate occasional flooding. Birds enjoy the fruit. 20-40′ tall. UConn Plant Database.
Hackberry, sugarberry (Celtis occidentalis)
full sunvery dry to moistzones 4-9
Hackberry is a fast-growing shade tree that is exceptionally tolerant of adverse conditions. It withstands soggy soil or extreme drought, clay or sandy soil, urban pollution, and strong wind. Its roots grow deep; the absence of shallow roots mean it can be planted next to walkways and not cause heaving. The edible berries are said to taste like dates; they are relished by birds. 40-60′. UConn Plant Database.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
full sun part shadeaverage to moistzones 4-9
Redbud is valued for its showy, deep-pink flowers, which appear in spring before the tree leafs out. It blooms heavily from a young age. The broad, heart-shaped leaves are also pleasing. Redbud makes an effective companion for flowering dogwood, as it blooms at the same time and enjoys the same growing conditions. (Redbud is, however, somewhat more adaptable than dogwood to less-than-perfect conditions.) 25-30′. UConn Plant Database.
Pagoda dogwood, green osier (Cornus alternifolia)
part shademoistzones 5-9
The pagoda dogwood gets its name from its horizontal branching habit, which gives the tree a tiered look. This distinctive form makes the pagoda dogwood a good specimen tree; it can also add variety to mixed plantings or woods. Its flowers aren’t as showy as those of the flowering dogwood, but the fruit is ornamental. As it ripens, the fruit turns first red then blue-black; the stalks are coral-colored. The fruit is popular with birds (which unfortunately means that it doesn’t stay on the tree very long). Pagoda dogwood has fairly nice fall foliage in red to purple-red. The tree does not like hot dry spots, though it tolerates full sun if the soil is reliably moist. Mulching will help keep the soil cool and moist. 15-25′. UConn Plant Database.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
full sun part shademoistzones 5-8
Flowering dogwood is an exceptionally ornamental tree year-round. In spring, it has large white flowers with four distinctively notched, petal-like bracts. The leaves are a nice dark green in summer, and a beautiful red to purple in fall; flowering dogwood holds its fall color for a long period. The shiny red fruit is also attractive, and it provides important winter food for wildlife. In winter, the tree shows off its lovely structure — low, gracefully curved branches with light-colored bark. While flowering dogwood is susceptible to anthracnose and borers, proper growing conditions minimize the risk. Wet leaves are more vulnerable to anthracnose infection, so a sunny location with good air circulation is best. Consistently moist soil is important, especially for trees growing in full sun. (Mulching the soil is an easy way to maintain soil moisture.) Slightly acidic soil high in organic matter is preferred. Read more about anthracnose and other plant diseases in Cornell University factsheets. 20-30′. UConn Plant Database.
Sour gum, black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
full sun part shadeaverage to wetzones 5-9
Sour gum is one of the very best trees for fall color. The show starts as early as mid-summer, with a few leaves turning orange or red. By fall the whole tree is a blazing mix of warm colors, and the color lasts a long time. In summer the foliage is glossy dark green. Sour gum grows fastest if it has fertile, slightly acidic, moist soil, but it will grow in anything except alkaline or extremely dry soil. Salt tolerant. 40-60′. UConn Plant Database.
American hop hornbeam, ironwood (Ostrya virginiana)
full sun part shadedry to moistzones 4-9
American hop hornbeam is a graceful medium-small tree. Mature trees have a pleasing rounded shape, with drooping lower branches. The name comes from the decorative, papery fruits, which resemble hops. Hophornbeam is an excellent choice for a dry woodland; once established, it is highly drought-tolerant. 30-40′. UConn Plant Database.
Fire cherry, pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)
full sundry to moistzones 4-8
Fire cherry is one of the first trees to appear after a forest fire, as its seeds resist burning and the tree tolerates the harsh, exposed conditions of burned land. In the landscape, it does well in sunny locations, where it will tolerate poor soil, dry soil, and strong winds. It’s a fast-growing small tree with delicate white flowers in spring, followed by bright red fruit. The smooth, red-brown bark is appealing. Fall color is yellow to red. 25-35′.
White oak (Quercus alba)
full sun part shadedry to averagezones 4-9
Connecticut’s state tree, white oak is a beautiful and majestic tree. White oaks planted in the open develop a broad crown, with many branches nearly horizontal. The foliage is dark red to reddish-purple for a long period in fall. White oaks can live for centuries; planting one is an easy way to earn the gratitude of future generations. Oaks in general are excellent trees for wildlife — they attract not just squirrels, but also foxes, deer, porcupines, rabbits, and many species of birds. 50-80′. UConn Plant Database.
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
full sundry to averagezones 4-8
Staghorn sumac is a resilient small tree with many ornamental attributes. Its large compound leaves bring a tropical effect to the landscape. Fall color is a brilliant red, almost pink. Female plants have attractive clusters of fuzzy, dark red berries through fall and winter. Spreading by root suckers allows staghorn sumac to form a pleasing clump; cut off wayward shoots to maintain the desired clump size. Staghorn sumac is widely planted as an ornamental in Europe; it should be better appreciated in its homeland. It tolerates heat, drought, pollution, and very infertile soil — virtually anything except soggy soil. 15-25′. UConn Plant Database.

Notes on Garden Conditions

Light:
full sun Full sun -- more than five hours of direct sun per day.
part shade Part shade -- two to five hours of direct sun, or all-day dappled sun, as from sunlight shining through open trees.
full shade Full shade -- less than two hours of direct sun per day.

Soil moisture: "Average" soil moisture describes typical conditions for Connecticut. "Dry," here, means soil that dries fairly quickly after a rain, or soil dried out by shallow tree roots -- not desert conditions.

Hardiness zones: These describe the plant's tolerance of winter cold. Here is one site where you can look up your hardiness zone. All plants listed here are hardy throughout Connecticut, which is in zones 5 and 6.

Height: Heights are given in feet ( ' ). To convert to meters, multiply feet by 0.3.


Sources of information on this page.