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Plant Profiles

Plants come in many forms, some flower, others don't; some are woody and others herbaceous; some are native and some have been introduced.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, "Flowering plants are the most diverse group of land plants, with 64 orders, 416 families, approximately 13,000 known genera and 300,000 known species. There are about 1,800 native flowering plants growing in Ohio."

Of these, perhaps only a few hundred are likely to be cultivated since many would be excluded for having very exacting growing conditions or propagation demands. And some may have undesirable characteristics and should be avoided (think Poison Ivy).

These plant profiles will feature some of the most desirable and useful native plants for landscaping and restoration.

Planting, growing and maintenance are common tasks of any gardener. This series of profiles points out some of the common practices and provides resources for deeper understanding.

Plants featured here are superior candidates for landscape and restoration projects. Desirable characteristics are showy flowers, long bloom periods, wildlife associations, hardiness, and being broadly adaptable to a variety of soil and moisture conditions.

Purple Coneflower with bumblebee

Plant Names Simplified

Plants often have a variety of common names since people have given names to the same plant based on location, how they were used or what language was spoken. A few centuries ago scientists developed a method to provide one universal name, anchored to a collected specimen that has been adopted world-wide. This system originated in Europe with many nationalities and languages but where most educated people also new Latin. This unifying language was used and continues to be used for the basis for naming all living things.

Further, they developed a system of classification or grouping of organisms with similarities. With plants, the commonalities were typically based on their flowers. As wise as that system is, we end up with wildly different plants landing in the same family. For instance within the Pea Family are, of course, the garden vegetable and similar vining plants but also some trees and shrubs. As odd as this may seem, these various Pea Family plants have a variety of similarities that bind them together well beyond the shape of their flowers. The system works pretty well.

The Family group, in this system, is further divided into Genus before landing at the individual Species level. The following hierarchy shows each level with the species having a two part name made up of the Genus and the a 'specific epithet' or species name.

The Latin word Pisum means 'Pea' and sativum translates as 'cultivated'.  Italics are used to indicate their Latin origin. An oddity in the English language, the word 'species' ending with 's' is used to indicate a single one.

Common Milkweed Bloom

Planting Your Garden

Know your location

1) How much sun does it get?

Full sun is usually best for pollinator gardens. Many plants that tolerate some shade will produce more flowers in sun.
If there are six hours or more of direct sunlight per day during the growing season, call it full sun.
Light Shade has direct sunlight three to five hours a day. Many plants thrive with some relief from the most intense heat of the day.
Partial Shade may still get some direct sunlight but has canopy cover blocking the indirect sun from much of the sky.
Full Shade has less than an hour of direct sunlight, canopy, tall buildings or overhangs significantly reduce sunlight.

2) What is the soil like?

County offices should have soil maps and a means to analyze a soil sample. Maps may not tell the full story, though. Soils disturbed during construction may be quite different. Fill dirt may have been added, topsoil may have been removed or subsoil from a basement spread out. There's no substitute for digging in.

First, do a percolation test to check for drainage.

  • Dig a post hole at least one foot deep.

  • Fill with water.

  • When it is empty, fill it again.

  • Mark the time and check back later to see how long it takes to drain.


If the water is still there after twenty-four hours, the soil is poorly drained.
Next, take some wet soil and squeeze it between your thumb and fingers. If it is very smooth and holds together, you have clay. If it is textured, gritty and falls apart, you likely have sandy soil.

See how this is done in a short video from Growit Buildit.

Live Plants or Seeds

The surest way to have predictable and rapid results is to start with potted plants. Larger pots are more likely to have second season plants or older. They are most likely going to bloom in their first season with you.
Smaller plants will be less expensive but may need a year or two to set down roots before flowering. Plug plants are young, individuals typically grown in narrow, deeper pots with robust root growth. Plugs are a great way to establish thick waves of a single species for dramatic effect.

Even native plant species, perfectly adapted to local growing conditions, need attention the first year or two. Weekly watering, more or less depending on heat, wind and rainfall, and weeding to prevent competition will help to assure a successful garden.

Seeds are much less expensive than live plants, easily transported and versatile. Seeds can be planted in pots, inside or outside or simply sown directly where they are to grow. But, they require more skill and patience than live plants. Most native perennial seeds need some conditioning before they will sprout.

In a natural setting, native plants produce and disperse seeds that do not sprout and grow right away. Typically, their growth is triggered after a cold dormant period. For your seeds to sprout in the spring they will benefit from a cold spell of one or two months for best germination. More precise conditions depend on the species concerned. The process known as stratification prepares seeds for reliable and more uniform sprouting.

See additional resources below.

Printable planting notes from (OPN) HERE.

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Is it a slope or is it flat?

The lay of the land can help you make plant choices. Slopes tend to shed water and less rain water soaks in resulting in dryer root zones. Flat land tends to hold water in place and allow water to more easily remain. North facing slopes get less intense sunlight. I nature, these slopes tend to be more moist, cooler and host more northern species. The opposite is possible with south facing slopes.

Account for potential erosion when digging on a slope. You may consider erecting a temporary drift fence or covering loose soil with mulch or straw.

Seeds for Large Areas

If you have a large area, perhaps a meadow and don't want the expense of hundreds, even thousands of individual transplants, seeds are the economical method of establishing a native planting. Download the following PDF for an overview of this method.

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