Swamp Milkweed

North Carolina has a vast array of native plants. Some are more suited to home gardens while others are best viewed in their native habitat. This is due mostly to their availability or lack thereof. But even if you can’t have every kind of native plant you want in your yard, this provides a great excuse to travel throughout our state to see wildflowers in the wild.

Our hardiness zones range from Zone 6a in the mountains to Zone 8a at the coast. As for specific zones in major NC cities, Asheville falls in Zone 6b and Wilmington is classified as Zone 8a. Winston-Salem and most of Durham are in Zone 7a while Raleigh is in Zone 7b, and Charlotte straddles both zones.

Here are six native plants that will suit all of our North Carolina regions:

1) Wood-Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia

Thriving in moist, well-drained soil and rich woods, Wood-Anemone, often referred to as Thimbleweed, is as easy to grow as it is to love. Reaching a maximum height of a foot with large, white flowers, Wood-Anemone stars in the spring border.
Suitable in Zones 3-9

Photography courtesy of Emily via Flickr

Photography courtesy of Emily via Flickr

2) Carolina Lupine, Thermopsis villosa

Native to the mountains, Carolina Lupine thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. The showy, yellow spires of its sweetpea-like flowers make the lupine a tough plant in the spring. It reaches four feet tall.
Suitable in Zones 3-10

Photography courtesy of Uleli via Wikimedia

Photography courtesy of Uleli via Wikimedia

3) Northern Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum

For such a delicate-looking fern, it’s difficult to imagine that this native is hardy in North Carolina. When planted in a shady spot with moist, humus-rich soil, the Northern Maidenhair Fern offers architectural interest with a delicate texture. Over time, the fern will reach two feet tall. It’s a slow grower, so give it some time.
Suitable in Zones 3-8

Photography courtesy of Joshua Mayer via Flickr

Photography courtesy of Joshua Mayer via Flickr

4) Dwarf Crested Iris, Iris cristata

Blue flowers always seem to mystify the gardener, and the Dwarf Crested Iris has one such bloom. In the early spring, blue-violet flowers emerge from the base of strappy foliage. While it grows in the full sun with moist, well-drained soil and reaches up to 3-6 inches tall, this underused iris happily grows and blooms in partial shade.
Suitable in Zones 3-9

Photography courtesy of Drew Avery via Flickr

Photography courtesy of Drew Avery via Flickr

5) Eastern Blue Star, Amsonia tabernaemontana

Amsonia tabernaemontana blooms in the spring. New growth emerges followed by a periwinkle blooms. After it flowers, Blue Star shows off in summer as a delicate, shrub-like plant. But in the fall, this plant is a head-turner. Turning a caution-sign yellow, Blue Star is sure to have you stopping and staring. It grows best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil and reaches up to four feet tall and 1-3 foot stems.
Suitable in Zones 4-9

Photography courtesy of Ezra S F via Flickr

Photography courtesy of Ezra S F via Flickr

6) Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Most school kids know that Swamp Milkweed is the only host plant for the monarch butterfly. That is reason enough to grow it, but did you know it also has a wonderful flower and a delightful scent? It is also not only a nectar source for the monarch butterfly, but all butterflies like to alight for a sip of sweetness. It thrives in full sun and moist soil, and it reaches four feet tall. The plant gets its name from the milky looking appearance of its sap.
Suitable in Zones 3-9

Swamp Milkweed

Photograph courtesy of Larkin Kinsella, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr

With beauties like these, why not go native?


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Yoest is an award-winning freelance writer and garden stylist. As a gardener, she's curious about plants, soil, design, and how others use these to create their gardens at home.