Local Heroes: Native Plants for Southcentral Gardens

What’s the first thing you do when you decide you’d like to add to the landscaping around your Southcentral home? Head to the nursery, right? Just because a plant is locally available, however, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to your Southcentral garden.

Landscaping with Alaskan native plants, also known as naturescaping, brings benefits well worth considering. When you grow native plants you’re helping to support our bird and beneficial insect populations. Naturescapes are also low-maintenance, requiring far less water and no fertilizer or pesticides.

Let’s take a look at some of Alaska’s amazing native plants that are suitable for your Southcentral home landscape.

Alaskan Trees

  • Paper birch (Betula papyrifera): Requires full sun and average soil moisture. It grows from 50 to 70 feet in height and offers attractive fall color.
  • Mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana): Great for the partially shady garden, this hemlock will reach 30 to 100 feet in height if grown in consistently moist soil. The delicate evergreen foliage is a bird magnet.
  • Sitka spruce (Picea sitkensis): Grow in full or partial sun and this evergreen tree will reward you with yellow flowers in spring. It requires wet soil.

Native Alaskan Shrubs

  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia): This 15-foot shrub requires average moisture and produces white flowers and small, edible berries.
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis): This is the one to grow if you’re tired of amending poor soil. Juniper is also tolerant of dry soil and grows best in full sun.
  • Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus): Support local wildlife with this 4-foot shrub that grows with average moisture in full or partial sun.

Flowering Perennials for your Southcentral Garden

  • Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium acutiflorum): This 3- to 6-inch tall native perennial bears blue flowers. It takes its name from the lovely leaves that alternate sides like a ladder.
  • Beach fleabane (Senecio pseudoarnica): Add a splash of yellow to the landscape with this salt spray-tolerant 1 to 2 foot tall perennial.
  • Northern geranium (Geranium erianthum): Attract butterflies and bees to the garden with northern geranium’s blue or violet flowers. This perennial grows to 24 inches in height in partial to full sun.

Alaskan Ferns and Grasses

  • Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina): Yes, ferns grow in Alaska and this one is a beauty with light green, lacy fronds.
  • Tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa): A clump-forming, semi-evergreen native grass.
  • Vanilla grass (Hierochloe odorata): Mmm, now you can have the sweet aroma of vanilla in the garden. This native grass germinates easily, spreads quickly and acts as a soil stabilizer.

Still haven’t made up your mind? Head out to Alaska Botanical Garden where you’ll find many of our native heroes growing. It’s located at 4601 Campbell Airstrip Road in Anchorage. If you know what you want to plant, the Alaska Native Plant Society has a list of Public Land Sources for Native Plant Materials in the Southcentral Alaska Region. It is available online here.

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