Growing With Native Plants

A quiet revolution is going on in gardens all across Saskatoon. A renewal. A return to appreciating the beauty and diversity of the plants that have been blooming here for hundreds and thousands of years. By adding native plants to your garden, you can join this growing trend.

Why is this important?  We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis.  Little of our native prairie ecosystem remains intact. Populations of grassland birds, songbirds and insects are dropping at alarming rates

Gallery of Native Plants

Crocus

Early blue violet

Canada violet

Wild strawberry

Star-flowered Solomon's seal

Tall lungwort

Buffalo bean

Canada anemone

Wild blue flax

Prairie rose

Harebell

Giant hyssop

Canada Milkvetch & Prairie Sage

Gaillardia

Western red lily

Wild bergamot

Meadow blazingstar

Purple prairie clover

Black-eyed susan

Prairie coneflower

Smooth blue aster

Stiff goldenrod

Obviously, on the scale of a city lot or balcony, we cannot restore our ecosystem to its natural beauty and function. We are not going to be reintroducing a herd of bison to Stonebridge or wolves to Holiday Park. But what we can do, even in an intensely urban environment, is welcome native plants back to their home territory.

When we do, we support local insects, a crucial link in our native ecosystem.  Most native insects, including butterflies, moths and their larvae, as well as bees, rely on native plants for food. Birds, even songbirds that feed on seeds and berries as adults, rely on insect larvae (think caterpillars) to feed their young.

We support insects by providing them with the resources they need to survive, including the plants they eat. For the most part, that means native plants for native insects. And that supports native birds. It is all interconnected.

Endangered woodland skipper butterfly in Saskatoon. Photo by Meghan Mickelson.

Supporting moths, butterflies and bees throughout their life stages means leaving leaf litter for overwintering pupae and adults, growing lots of plants to support lots of caterpillars (food for nestling birds), and choosing flowering plants for sweet nectar and protein-rich pollen for the hundreds of bee species native to our province.

In addition to flowers, wild bees need a source of water, shallow enough so they will not drown, and places to nest. The requirements vary depending on the species. Bumblebees might form a colony in a mulch pile or underground in a mouse nest. Most of our wild bees are solitary and nest in hollow stems or in undisturbed ground.  Mess is important.

Here are the ground rules: Embrace Mess. Go Organic. Lawn Be Gone. Grow Native Flowering Plants.

And when you do, gift after gift begins to arrive – joy at that first bit of mauve as the crocus you planted last year emerges from the ground, wonder at seeing a sleeping bumblebee in a bed of bergamot blossom, curiosity piqued when you spy a little red and gold bee land in fallen leaves. What could it possibly be called? As the plants take root and grow and flower in this place where they belong, we too begin to belong.

 – Candace Savage and Joanne Blythe

Shop Local

It is important to source seeds and plants from local or regional suppliers.

A pine siskin eating giant hyssop seeds. Photo by Meghan Mickelson.

Grow Biodiversity
In our area, these are the plants that host the highest numbers of butterfly and moth larvae and feed the birds and other wildlife. 

  • Goldenrod
  • Wild strawberry
  • Wild blue flax
  • Early blue & Canada violets
  • Wild sunflowers
  • Wild sages
  • Saskatoon berries
  • Wild roses
  • Green ash
  • Willows
  • Manitoba maple
  • Pin & choke cherries
  • Native dogwoods

Plants for Pollinators
“These are native flowers that are mobbed by just about anything with wings,” – Chet Neufeld, Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan

  • Wild bergamot
  • Giant hyssop
  • Meadow blazingstar
  • Canada milkvetch

Starting Seeds in an Eco-Friendly Way – Sandra Walker shows us how to start wildflower seeds in eggshells, view the video here.

Top tips

  • Start small.  Set yourself up for success. If your space is large, do it in stages.
  • Connect with other native plant gardeners. Hint: join the Saskatchewan Butterflyway group on Facebook, or meet local experts here.
  • Never dig up plants from the wild.
  • Beware “wildflower” seed packets. They are mostly wild elsewhere and some are invasive here.
  • Grow plants that host the highest number of butterfly and moth larvae.
  • Grow plants that support high numbers of pollinators.
  • Plant with a succession of blooms in mind – crocuses in spring through to asters and goldenrods in the fall.
  • If your site has lots of sun, consider adding native grasses.
  • Do not use poisons.
  • You’ll need to weed, tend and water, especially in the first few years.
  • Don’t worry if you eventually need to “disturb” your plantings by thinning or moving plants.
  • Watch, learn and adapt as your garden evolves.
  • Enjoy!
Have you started growing with native plants?

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