We’re lucky to be residents of a region that is home to fertile soil, four distinct seasons, and the perfect amounts of sunshine and rain to encourage plenty of growth. That means that when spring arrives, it can be hard to resist the temptation to grow lots of new plants and trees. But if you’re new to the area or to gardening, it can be hard to know exactly which plants to cultivate.
To answer this question, we’ve outlined some of the best plants for northern Virginia, plus some information about how to grow and care for your new friends.
A perennial flower is one that continues to grow year after year – making it a great option for an enduring touch on your environment. However, unlike their annual friends, perennials tend to only bloom for a short period of time.
When it comes to caring for perennials, there are a few general tips to follow:
- Give taller perennials support in the form of stakes
- Be sure to regularly remove any faded flowers (this will lead to more blooms)
- Divide them as needed as they tend to grow bigger each year
- Group your perennials by water needs as some are more-moisture loving than others
Some types of perennials that we recommend include:
Coral Bells (Heuchera), known for their red, purple, silver, bronze, green, and patterned leaves are a low maintenance evergreen option. There are 36 species of Heuchera and Virginia is home to two native species: Heuchera americana and Heuchera villosa.
Tickseed (Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’)
Want a plant that is not only beautiful but is also hardy? Tickseed would be it. It gained its name due to the resemblance between ticks and its seeds. Additionally, it has a blooming time longer than many other perennials.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
If this one looks particularly familiar, it could be because it was designated as the ‘Floral Emblem’ of Maryland in 1918. That aside, its bright colors make it at home in gardens or in wildflower meadows.
When it comes to growing trees, patience is essential. Fall is often considered to be the best time to plant, but spring works too. It’s important to make sure your water your new tree sufficiently throughout those hot summer months.
When planting your tree be sure to:
- Make sure you choose the right location – considering exposure, final tree size, water and soil needs and other factors
- Don’t plant too deeply. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s better to have a shallow hole. This is because if a tree is planted too deeply, the trunk will be underground – creating problems for later.
- Dig a hole 2-3x wider than the container or root ball
- Add back the dirt that came out of the hole. You don’t need to add extras, just the tree itself and the dirt you removed from the hole
- Add a 2-3″ layer of mulch in the 3-4 feet surrounding the tree
- Remove any and all burlap, wire, or nylon that is on the tree before planting it
And of course, once your tree is in the ground, be sure to give it plenty of water! A drip irrigation system can be a great way to achieve this.
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Also known as ‘Rising Sun’ this tree is bright, vibrant, and sure to bring pleasure for years to come. It has rosy-lavender flowers in the springtime and gorgeous green leaves in the summer.
Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
When you think summer in the south, is a Magnolia not the first thing that comes to mind. With dewy white flowers and a fresh and enticing scent, the Magnolia is the perfect edition to any Virginia home.
American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
Move over oranges, the persimmon is here to take center stage. These trees, whose name translates to ‘fruit of the gods’ – though they never converted to commercial farming owing to the softness of the fruit.
Shrubs are considered by many to be transitionary plants that can serve as visual bridges and dividers. They prefer soil that is moderately drained and to be in a place that gets about a half day of sunlight. One of the biggest benefits associated with shrubs is that they don’t require a huge amount of maintenance once they are established.
Do you find yourself using the phrases ‘bush’ and ‘shrub interchangeably? They’re actually not the same thing!
- A bush is a woody plant without any central stem. They are generally annual and do not climb.
- A shrub is a perennial woody plant. It is distinguished from a bush by having branches that are lower to the ground.
Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)
If you’re in search of something that will bring deep colors in summer and fall, this shrub is the perfect choice. A bonus? It is full of fragrant white flowers during the summer.
Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Red stems? Yes please – they can be found in the ‘arctic fire’ variety. Unlike many other shrubs, it can also be used in much more compact habitats, unlike some of the other larger, also red stemmed cousins.
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Did you know this shrub was once used as a live tonic? Well while today it may have to settle for just being a beautiful touch in your garden – especially given the upright and narrow white flowers that it blooms.
Whether you’re in the sprawling farms of western Loudoun County or in something a little more urban in Fairfax, finding and growing the right plants can make a huge difference. And not only in daily life and enjoyment, but also in the overall resale value of a property down the line. Should we write a piece about the next best indoor plants too?
For an extensive list of suggestions, and even invasive plants to avoid, be sure to take a look at the Northern Virginia Native Plant Guide.
If plants aren’t your thing, but you love veggies, did you know that local produce is available through Community Supported Agriculture?