Western North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful native flora, great for creating a natural, artistic appeal in your yard. There are almost 4000 plants indigenous to the great state of North Carolina. The beauty of using these North Carolina native plants for landscaping at your mountain home is they are familiar with the climate and the distinct seasons Western North Carolina offers. Below are a few of the plants we recommend for your Western North Carolina home.
Best Native Plants for WNC Gardens
Carolina Lupine, Thermopsis Villosa
Carolina Lupine tends to bloom early in the summer and produces a spiral-shaped structure with various colorful yellow bloom clusters forming around it. A great choice to add some bright color to your garden. This plant requires low maintenance and little water due to its drought-tolerant nature. For best results, place in an area that receives full sunlight and contains a grade to provide well-drained soil.
Bee Balm, Monarda Didyma
Bee Balm is a beautiful North Carolina native plant that has its benefits right in its name, Bee Balm! It attracts butterflies and bees, great pollinating insects. It also attracts hummingbirds with the sweet fragrance it emits. Bee Balm produces a colorful bloom typically red pink, purple, or white that starts as a prickly looking ball that opens into bloom with delicate thistle-looking petals. For best results place in full sun with periodic watering to keep the soil moist. You may need to dig them up and divide every few years because they tend to expand every year.
Hydrangea, Hydrangea Quercifolia
Hydrangeas are amazing plants. Blooming in the spring they can be white, purple, or blue depending on the species and time of year. The plant blooms into a spiral cone-like structure with small flowers all around the cone. It is pretty much an ice cream cone for butterflies. For best results, plant somewhere with sunlight but opportunities for shade. These plants work great as shrubbery around a home. Plant them and watch butterflies rest from your window.
Oconee Bells, Shortia Galacifolia
Naturally grown only in the Carolinas, this rare flower can be found in several state parks in the Carolinas. The flower is perfect as ground cover in your garden, spreading its leaves and roots all along the ground with little white blossoms that droop down before blooming upwards, resembling a bell curve. Oconee comes from the Cherokee word meaning land by water, and this plant deserves the name, as it needs cool soil to thrive.
Crab Apple Trees, Malus Angustifolia
Southern Crab Apple trees are a great addition to any Western North Carolina yard. Crab Apple trees offer a good amount of shade to a sunny yard, as well as a fruit that can be used in cooking the best jams. The leaves can change to a deep reddish-purple that is hauntingly gorgeous and the bark is dark and scaly adding texture to your garden throughout the year.
Southern Magnolia Trees, Magnolia Macrophylla
No Carolina yard is complete without a magnolia tree. The tree is smooth, perfect for kids and grandkids to climb once it is large enough. The leaves are long and waxy on the top giving them a green shine that remains year-round. You can use the leaves to decorate during the winter for a Southern Christmas motif. The blooms start out as a hard spiky ball that opens up into a soft petaled, white flower with one of the most popular fragrances in the south. You may have smelled candles, but until you have smelled the real thing, you are missing out.
Benefits of Using Native Plants
There are a number of benefits to landscaping your mountain home with native plants. The first, and most obvious, is that native plants thrive in their natural environment. They are built for the weather and climate they will receive in your yard. This translates to less maintenance, particularly watering. Native plants have often developed defenses and immunities to local pests and diseases that can be harmful to outside plants. Depending on your goal and the plant, they can also bring in animals like butterflies or hummingbirds for you to enjoy as you sit outside your home. Another reason to use native plants is their sustainability in your yard for years to come. They live through the season changes in your home climate, so you do not have to constantly buy new plants or baby them so much in the planting process to get them to bud. Lastly, native plants garnish your house, making it look like it is a part of Western North Carolina itself, instead of just placed on a lot.
Even though you are using indigenous plants that naturally tend to thrive in your climate, you still have to set them up for success by planting them in areas they will thrive. Start by assessing the site conditions of your yard. What areas receive direct sunlight, shade, where does water runoff through your yard, what is the ph? All of these will affect the level of maintenance required as well as the type of plant and location they are planted in your yard. The beauty of natives plants is that they require fewer fertilizers than other plants because they have evolved to use the nutrients common in North Carolina soil. The next step is to find the mulches and soils necessary to help, should your soil be lacking in nutrients. Finally, develop a consistent landscaping schedule for each season. A local plant nursery can help you find the right materials and landscaping schedule for your garden.
North Carolina is filled with beautiful native plants to decorate the canvas that is your mountain home. If you need further inspiration, the North Carolina Arboretum and the Botanical Gardens at Asheville are both filled with colorful, unique North Carolina native flora for anyone to enjoy. If you need help with your garden or are just looking for some advice, go local by visiting a plant nursery in your area.