Native Plant Alternatives



A great reference of native plant alternatives to plants that can become invasive.  (Source: US Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers Website:


Traditional  Planting

Desirable Characteristics

Great Alternatives

Japanese Wisteria showy flowers, fragrance woodland phlox, Phlox divaricatus
sweet azalea, Rhododendron canescens
coast azalea, Rhododendron atlanticum
American wisteria, Wisteria frutescens
Japanese Honeysuckle fragrant flowers leatherflower, Clematis viorna
Carolina jasmine, Gelsemium sempervirens
trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens
sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana
purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata
English Ivy Drought Tolerant Evergreen plantain-leaved sedge, Carex plantaginea
marginal woodfern, Dryopteris marginalis
woodland aster, Eurybia divaricatus
alumroot, Heuchera villosa
creeping mint, Meehania cordata
Allegheny spurge, Pachysandra procumbens
creeping phlox, Phlox stolonifera
Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum
Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides
Autumn Olive Drought Tolerant strawberry bush, Euonymus americanus
wax-myrtle, Myrica cerifera
meadowsweet, Spiraea latifolia
mapleleaf viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium
Barberry Cheap/Nice Fruit strawberry bush, Euonymus americanus
shrubby St. Johnswort, Hypericum prolificum
winterberry, Ilex verticillata
deerberry, Vaccinium stamineum
mapleleaf viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium
Purple Loosestrife Long Bloom Season/Wet Tolerant swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
sweet pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia
purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
gayfeather, Liatris spicata
grass-leaved blazing star, Liatris pilosa
green-headed coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata
New York ironweed, Vernonia novaboracensis
Miscanthus species Strong Vertical and Fall/Winter Interest split-beard bluestem, Andropogon ternarius
switchgrass, Panicum virgatum
sugarcane plumegrass, Saccharum giganteum
little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium
Indiangrass, Sorghastrum nutans
Lesser Celandine Early Color spring beauty, Claytonia virginica
yellow ragwort, Senecio aureus
Other spring ephemerals, if nursery propagated
Asian Bittersweet Showy Fruits American bittersweet, Celastrus scandens
Virginia rose, Rosa virginiana
Porcelainberry Fast Grower/Colorful Fruits gray dogwood, Cornus racemosa
Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
swamp haw viburnum, Viburnum nudum
Shrubby honeysuckle Replant after removal spicebush, Lindera benzoin
highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum
arrow-wood viburnum, Viburnum dentatum
Burning Bush Euonymus Fall Color fringed bluestar, Amsonia ciliata
Hubricht’s bluestar, Amsonia hubrichtii
witch-alder, Fothergilla gardenii
oak-leaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia
fetterbush, Leucothoe racemosa
swamp haw, Viburnum dentatum
arrow-wood viburnum, Viburnum nudum


Basil Basics


What’s not to love about basil?  If I had to pick just one plant to grow, basil would take the prize.  True, I have a love affair with pesto, but nothing can top a caprese salad and even the scent of brushing against the plant as you walk by can be intoxicating.

Native to SE Asia and the South Pacific, basil is in the mint family.  There are thirty different species but the most commonly cultivated in the U.S. is Ocimum basilicum.   Its genus name Ocimum is a Greek verb meaning, “to be fragrant” and species basilicum means “king or prince.”   I rest my case, oh king of herbs!

Basil is easy to grow, garden pesky wildlife avoid it, and the 1-3 foot plants look great in ornamental, vegetable and container gardens.  There are varieties with interesting leaf shapes and flavors such as cinnamon, lemon or anise as well as the beautiful color of purple leafed basils.  My favorite for its large tender leaves is Genovese Basil.  (For a broader list of basil varieties and more cultural details see the University of Minnesota Basil Fact Sheet at or )

Basil needs at least 6-8 hours of sunlight and well-drained soil, ideally with a pH of 6-7.5.  Seeds can be planted outdoors after spring frosts are history and temperatures range between 55-60F.  Alternatively,  you can start basil seeds  indoors about 4-6 weeks earlier.   If you shop early, basil seedlings can be found at most nurseries.  Depending on your desire for pesto, two to eight basil plants will yield plenty of pesto if you treat them right.

Once established outdoors, add a couple of inches of mulch such as grass clippings, compost or ground up leaves around the base of each plant to maintain the moisture provided by weekly watering.  Container plants may need to be watered more frequently.

You can begin snipping leaves and stems once the plant is established, leaving at least two-thirds of the plant for future growth.  By pinching off the flowering ends first you will send energy to the rest of the plant and keep the leaves tender and flavorful.  This pruning also encourages an attractive form and keep your basil plants from becoming woody.

Now, the best part.  Basil is delicious fresh in a sandwich, in salads, sauces, pasta, pizza or scrambled eggs.  It can be dried, or the true prize, in my mind is Pesto:

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1/3 cups pine nuts (also good with walnuts)

2 medium garlic cloves

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3-1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Make a paste of the first four ingredients in a food processor and then slowly add the olive oil.  Season to taste.  Stores well for a week or freeze in ice-cube trays and then transfer to an airtight container in your freezer for later use.

Soil Tests


It all starts with the soil, so getting to know yours is an important first step.

The University of Minnesota Soil Lab will give you recommendations to make your lawn or garden more productive for just $17. Download the form at and follow the instructions. You simply collect five trowels of soil from throughout your lawn or garden, mix it together and mail one pint of your sample to the University of Minnesota Soils Lab with the form and a check.

Two or three weeks later you will receive a summary of your soil texture, percent organic matter, pH, nutrients and suggested fertilization needs. With this information you are on your way to improving your garden soil.

Become a Goodhue County Master Gardener


If you have gardening talents you would like to share with other residents of Goodhue County, consider becoming a Master Gardener!  Applications for this University of Minnesota Extension sponsored program are accepted each fall.

The Master Gardener program is an educational program designed to train volunteers to help others in their communities with horticulture. The  Master Gardener Core Course is held at either the University of Minnesota (St Paul MN) or the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Chaska MN) or online. A total of 48 hours of education, this class is taught by University of Minnesota extension educators and faculty. Some of the topics included in the core course are: entomology, herbaceous plants, trees and shrubs, indoor plants, integrated pest management, lawn care, fruits and vegetables.

Upon completion of the Master Gardener program, each Master Gardener is required to complete an internship of 50 hours of volunteer time the first year, and 25 hours of volunteer time in following years. These volunteer hours can be achieved in a variety of ways including presentations and community service projects.

For more information, please contact U of MN Extension Goodhue County, 651-385-3100 or 1-800-385-3101.