If you haven’t jumped on the native plant trend, what are you waiting for?

Natives naturally resist diseases and pests. They’re happier and healthier, needing less water than non-natives.  

And you’ll be helping out a host of wild critters, who love native plants. They offer a free buffet of berries, nuts and seeds. Some native blooms provide nectar for hummingbirds and insects.

Northern Virginia is home to lots of great native plants.

“There’s so much opportunity to use natives here,” says Shelley Russell, landscape designer at Level Green Landscaping. “There’s a great selection.”

Russell shares a few of her favorite native plants for NOVA, from trees and shrubs to grasses and perennials.  

You’re bound to love a few of them for your landscape.

Native Trees

Russell loves these four native trees that thrive in Northern Virginia:

- Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)

ServiceberryA great four-season tree, it offers lots of pretty white flowers in the spring, berries birds love in the summer, vibrant leaves in fall and silvery bark in winter.

- Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) ‘Rising Sun’

Eastern Redbud“I love this tree so much,” Russell says. “It has these great chartreuse leaves against the red flowers. I planted this in the Franciscan Monastery.”

Abundant rosy-lavender flowers appear in early spring, followed by heart-shaped lime green leaves in summer. Its leaves turn shades of orange, gold and yellow in autumn — an explosion of hues, all at once.

- Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering DogwoodThe ‘Cherokee Princess’ variety is often called the most lovely of the native American flowering trees. Each pretty white flower cluster is surrounded by four showy, white, petal-like bracts which open flat, giving the appearance of a single, large, 4-inch wide white flower. Birds love its bright red fruit.

- Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana flowerThe creamy white flowers on this native beauty produce a strong vanilla scent you can smell hundreds of yards away. Even the bark has a mild spice fragrance.

Native Shrubs

“In the 15 years since I started my career, I’ve noticed a lot more native shrubs available on the market,” Russell says. Here are five she loves for NOVA properties:

- Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’)

Clethra alnifolia summersweet flowersThis shrub’s compact habit makes it a great choice for small gardens. Or use them in mass along foundations or mixed in with perennial borders. 

Bonus: The sweet-scented white flowers attract butterflies.

- Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’)

Itea virginica in fallThis compact shrub starts out the summer with a beautiful blanket of fragrant white flowers. In autumn, its foliage turns a stunning garnet-red, especially in full sun.

- Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

BeautyberryIts long, arching branches and yellow-green fall foliage is pretty, but this native shrub’s stand-out feature is the clusters of glossy purple fruit in the fall and winter. 

- Munchkin Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Munchkin’)

Oakleaf HydrangeaUnlike traditional oakleaf hydrangea, this “munchkin” stays compact, making it a great choice for smaller landscapes.

Its impressive flower clusters open white and age to pink, and stay sturdy even after heavy rain. Its oak- like foliage turns a brilliant mahogany in fall.

- Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Redtwig DogwoodRussell loves the ‘Arctic Fire’ variety for its compact habit. It has the spectacular dark red stems of its bigger relative, but grows to half the size.

Native Grasses

Grasses bring a graceful elegance to the landscape. Here are Russell’s top three native picks for Northern Virginia:

- Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ or ‘North Wind’)

Switchgrass - Panicum virgatumThis native prairie grass adapts well in the landscape. It blooms in the summer, offering airy pink flower spikes. Its seed heads are pretty, and provide food for birds in the fall.

- Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

pink muhly grassThat’s right — pink grass! It offers a fairylike appeal but is tough as nails, tolerating rocky soil, harsh sun and drought.

Who wouldn’t love pink grass?

- Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Mexican feather grass - Nassella tenuissimaA graceful, delicate addition to the landscape, its flower heads sway in the breeze, adding nice movement. It reseeds itself, so it’s a great choice to fill in a slope or meadow.

Native Perennial Flowers

Don’t forget flowers. These five natives will bring color and beauty to your Northern Virginia landscape:

- Thread-leaf Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii)

Thread Leaf Blue StarRussell likes Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ or the new variety ‘Carolina Moonlight’

A graceful and long-lived native plant, this offers very fine foliage and clusters of steel blue flowers in May and June. Then, in autumn, stunning golden fall color.

- Tickseed (Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’)

Tickseed flowersBright, cheerful and really low maintenance, this native boasts delicate, yellow daisy-like flowers that emerge in June and last right through until frost.

- Coral Bells (Heuchera americana ‘Green Spice’)

Coral Bells - Heuchera AmericanaNot all heuchera are native to the U.S., Russell cautions, so know what you’re choosing.

This variety is, and it’s a beauty, with purple-veined green leaves layered with silver. It’s great for brightening shady areas.

- Coral Bells (Heuchera x villosa ‘Berry Smoothie’, ‘Caramel’, ‘Citronelle’, ‘Georgia Peach’)

Heuchera Georgia PeachChoose any of these native beauties to add color and vibrancy to shady areas. ‘Georgia Peach’ has glowing peach-colored foliage that transitions to a rosy purple in the fall.

- Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida)

Black Eyed SusanThis is an American classic, a member of the sunflower family. Cheerful and hardy, it’s happy in all kinds of soil, from loam to clay.

Go Native With Level Green Landscaping

Our plant experts love matching the right property with the perfect plants, including the best native plants for Northern Virginia.

We’d love to suggest some native beauties for your property. Then, while you enjoy the beauty, you can also feel great about creating less maintenance on your commercial property.

Our service area includes Washington DC, Maryland and parts of Virginia. We focus on commercial property maintenance for offices, retail spaces, mixed-use sites, HOAs/condominiums, distribution centers, municipalities and institutions.

Contact us at 202-544-0968 or by filling out our form online.

You can also schedule a free consultation to talk with us about how we can enhance and maintain your commercial landscape.

Ready to try some of our favorite native plants? We’d love to hear from you.

Request a Consultation

Image sources: sweetbay magnoliasummersweet - by Sesamehoneytart [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], virginia sweetspire - by User:SB_Johnny [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], beautyberry - by Melissa McMasters [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], oakleaf hydrangearedtwig dogwood, switchgrassmexican feather grass - by David J. Stang [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], tickseedheuchera americana, georgia peach - by David J. Stang [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]