Much like the people who live in Saskatchewan, the plants that have evolved in the province can handle anything Mother Nature throws at them.
“Native plants are cold-hardy, wet-hardy and drought-hardy, so they’re locally adapted to our climate,” says Renny Grilz from Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company in Aberdeen.
Native plants—that is plants that were growing here before European settlement—have become increasingly popular with gardeners in the province. Some want to try something new, while others have heard about the environmental benefits.
There are quite a few good reasons to plant native plants according to Chet Neufeld, Executive Director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan (NPSS). They can thrive off whatever rain falls. They don’t generally require pesticides or fertilizers to grow. Having lots of green in your yard can even reflect the light, lowering the cooling costs for your house.
Of particular interest for many gardeners, the blooms attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds, bringing a variety of local wildlife into their backyards.
Native plants are also easy to grow. Even an inexperienced gardener can successfully introduce new plants with ease. Many can be seeded directly into the ground, but you can also purchase seedlings if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs.
Before introducing native plants to your garden, you’ll need to do some homework. Find out what the plant needs, how tall it will get and what it grows well with. Make sure what you are planting is truly native to Saskatchewan—many stores sell generic wildflower mixes that might contain invasive species. Attend workshops, tours and local events like farmers markets and Seedy Saturdays to speak directly with the people collecting and selling the seeds. Visit the NPSS website for more information and a list of native plant sellers.
Start with a small section of your yard and select one or two plants that should grow well in the location. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—if something doesn’t work, try a different plant or a new location.
The most important thing is to be patient, says Grilz. “They’re perennials and it takes a long time for them to get established.” It can take two or three years before a plant blooms. The results will be worth the wait.
Ready to add native plants to your garden? Here are six Neufeld recommends for beginners:
Prairie Coneflower: Full sun, all soil types. A knee-high flower that grows well with other plants and self seeds.
Wild Bergamot: Full sun to part shade, all soil types as long as there is some moisture. A knee-high edible plant pollinators love.
Blue-eyed Grass: Full sun, all soil types including rock gardens. This tiny iris is tricky to start from seed, so try seedlings.
Black-eyed Susan: Full sun, all soil types. Pollinators love this flower, which looks lovely in bouquets.
Western Canada Violet: Part shade to full shade, all soil types. This low-growing flower forms mats, making an excellent ground cover.
Wild Columbine: part shade to full shade, all soils. This flower is popular among pollinators and is easy to grow from seed.