Nitrogen-Fixing Native Plants

Did you know that some of our native plants hold nitrogen in nodules on their roots that get released into the soil when the plant goes dormant? We find these plants to be doubly important in native landscapes and natural areas as they feed both pollinators and other plants.  Each adds a unique texture to your garden.

False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosab_amofru_1(2).jpg

Reaching upwards of 15 feet in ideal conditions, False Indigo features similar purple flower spikes as its cousin, the Lead Plant. False Indigo is typically found in moist to average conditions in full sun to part shade. Many bee species pollinate this plant and several of the small butterflies consider it larval food.

b_amocan_1(2)Lead Plant, Amorpha canescens

Lead Plant is a classic prairie shrub reaching about three feet high and featuring dramatic spikes of purple flowers with bright orange anthers from June through August. Its silvery gray green foliage clumps into a small shrub. It prefers dry to average soils in full sun and its long tap root makes it resistant to fire. Many species of moths use it as larval food.

b_bapalb_2(2).jpgWild White Indigo, Baptisia alba

Wild White Indigo is a classic prairie perennial reaching about four feet in height and thrives in dry to average soils. Loose grey to blue-green foliage is topped by tall, white flower spikes beginning in June and lasting up to a month. Some skippers and butterflies use this as a host plant.

s_bapbra_4(4).jpgCream Wild Indigo, Baptisia bracteata

Cream Wild Indigo is shorter than other indigos at around two feet, and prefers full sun situations with dry to average soils. Rich, creamy yellow flowers begin in May and bloom laterally along grey-green stems, giving it a very horizontal look. Ornamental blue-black seed pods follow.

s_dalcan_2(2).jpgWhite Prairie Clover, Dalea candida

White Prairie Clover is a lovely prairie wildflower that reaches about two feet high and thrives in average to dry soils in full sun to part shade situations. The narrow, white, cone-like flowers bloom all summer and attract many pollinators. It is the larval host for the Dogface Sulphur and Reakirt’s Blue butterflies. It is also readily consumed by herbivores, especially rabbits.

b_dalpur_3(3).jpgPurple Prairie Clover, Dalea purpurea

Purple Prairie Clover is a charming prairie perennial for home gardens and restoration projects. It features small, cone-shaped purple blossoms with bright orange anthers that resemble a ballerina’s tutu beginning in June. The delicate foliage gives it a lacy texture. This species is a great addition for attracting pollinators.

b_lescap_1(6).jpgRound-headed Bush Clover, Lespedeza capitata

Round-headed Bush Clover is a robust and beneficial plant. It reaches about two to four feet high and is a pollinator magnet. Its seed heads punctuate the winter landscape and are excellent in dried arrangements. Round-headed Bush Clover thrives in full sun to part shade in average to dry soils. A larval host to several skipper butterflies.

Wild Senna, Senna hebecarpa

Wild Senna grows to about five feet high. Huge clusters of bright, yellow, pea-like flowers begin blooming in July and become long brown seedpods that are favored by game birds. It thrives in full sun to part shade situations in moist to average soils. Bees adore the flowers and several butterflies and moths utilize it as a larval host.

Goat’s Rue, Tephrosia virginiana

This unique prairie plant reaches about two feet high and features silvery foliage covered in silky hairs. Pink and white flowers bloom in June and through July, attracting a host of pollinators before becoming long seed pods. Southern Cloudywing skipper and Three-lined Angle moth use it as larval food, while wild turkeys consume the seeds. Goat’s Rue does best in full sun to part shade in dry, well-draining soils.