Native Ground Covers

Well adapted to our climate and soils, native plants are increasingly sought after for restoration purposes, more ecologically sensitive selections for properties bordering wild areas, and to create beautiful, low maintenance landscapes.

 

Sold in 4" (10 cm) pots unless otherwise stated. Most are produced from Ontario seed sources. Some links direct to other pages.
Anemone canadensis (Canada Anemone)
Aquilegia canadensis (Red Columbine)
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit) Limited Quantities 
Asarum canadense (Canada Wild Ginger)
Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry)
Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen)
Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)
Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke)
Native Ferns, 8 species
Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple) Limited Quantities
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)
Stylophorum diphyllum (Wood Poppy)
Viola labradorica 'Purpurea' (Labrador Violet)
Companions for Native Ground Covers
 
Anemone canadensis in flower
Anemone canadensis in flower

Canada Anemone, growing wild on our properties, flowers beautifully in part shade.

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Anemone canadensis in flower
Anemone canadensis in flower

Canada Anemone, growing wild on our properties, flowers beautifully in part shade.

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Canada Anemone
Anemone canadensis, syn. Anemonastrum canadense

 

Also called windflower, meadow anemone, roundleaf anemone

Height         12-24 inches (30-60 cm)

Spread        24-48 inches (60-120 cm)

Flower         White

Blooming     Late spring - early summer

Light           Sun to shade

Moisture      Moist to average, tolerates drought once established

Soil             Adaptable, tolerates heavy clay soils

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

This low maintenance native ground cover literally appeared on our doorstep. When we removed a dying American Elm near our potting shed, this plant sprung to life around the stump. We have come to appreciate its tenacity as a massing perennial for naturalized landscapes and bank edges; even within shady concrete beds in an urban landscape by itself or with grasses. It spreads vigorously by rhizomes to fill an area, and respectfully should not be mixed with more timid perennials. 

 

Recommendations for growing Canada Anemone

Canada anemone grows best in moist meadows, ravines and partially shaded woodland edges. Its colonizing tendency can be curtailed somewhat in darker shade, drier clay soils and root-barrier contained beds. Great for naturalizing, massing or mixing with other native meadow species or grasses. Provides habitat for pollinators; deer-resistant. Generally free from pests and disease, and can tolerate repeated mulching and salt spray. Water well during first year of establishment. 

 

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Aquilegia seed production bed
Aquilegia seed production bed

A robust seed production bed of mixed genetic sources for growing our 4" pots.

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Red Columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

 

Also called wild columbine, Canadian columbine

Height         18-24 inches (45-60 cm)

Spread        Individual clumps 12-18 inches (30-45 cm), readily self-seeds

Flower         Red and yellow

Blooming     Late spring, sporadically throughout summer

Light           Full sun to partial shade best for flowering

Moisture      Average to dry

Soil             Well-drained, alkaline or acidic

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca) 

 

Better description coming soon!

 
Jack in the Pulpit Flower
Jack in the Pulpit Flower

In spring, large corms will flower either as male or female (and change sex based on their habitat and moisture levels!)

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Jack in the Pulpit Seeds
Jack in the Pulpit Seeds

If successfully fertilized, we collect, clean and sow the bright red seeds in fall.

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Jack in the Pulpit Flower
Jack in the Pulpit Flower

In spring, large corms will flower either as male or female (and change sex based on their habitat and moisture levels!)

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Arisaema triphyllum

 

Also called bog onion, Indian turnip, brown dragon

Height         18-24 inches (45-60 cm)

Spread        Individual clumps 12-18 inches (30-45 cm), may self seed

Flower         Green, purple, white

Blooming     Late spring, sporadically throughout summer

Light           Full sun to partial shade best for flowering

Moisture      Consistently damp, or may go dormant in summer

Soil             Humus-rich, woodland loam, boggy

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

An excellent damp shady garden plant and very low maintenance once established. Better description coming soon!

Limited quantities each spring. 

 
Bearberry fall colour
Bearberry fall colour

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Bearberry in native habitat
Bearberry in native habitat

Taken near Bancroft, Ontario

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Hoar frost on bearberry
Hoar frost on bearberry

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Bearberry fall colour
Bearberry fall colour

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Bearberry
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

 

Also called kinnikinnick, bear grape, uva-ursi

Height         6-8 inches (15-20 cm)

Spread        24-36 inches (60-90 cm)

Flower         White

Blooming     Late spring

Light           Full sun to light shade

Moisture      Average to dry

Soil             Well-drained, acidic 

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

An excellent broadleaf evergreen woody subshurb for informal medium to large scale landscape areas of rugged landscapes. Very hardy and drought tolerant once established. Well-suited to Ontario's cottage country where it can be found naturally, it thrives on rocky barrens, exposed gravelly slopes and amongst boulders in full sun or under light shade. Ornamental features include shiny cupped leaves, red fall colour, profusions of white flowers and red berries in fall. Slow to moderate growth rate.

 

Recommendations for growing Bearberry

Bearberry grows best on well-drained, sandy, gritty or gravelly soils, neutral to acidic, with minimal fertility. The biggest challenges to establishing bearberry is over-mulching, over-watering and over-fertilizing. Does not like high humidity, alkaline clay or compacted soils. Exposure and air circulation reduces humidity and limits any crown rot or leaf blotches. Otherwise free from pests and disease, and can tolerate salt spray. Maintenance of established patches may include mowing or trimming after bloom to keep patch thick and tidy.

Sold in 4" (10 cm pots) and 1 gallon.

 
Bunchberry flowers and foliage
Bunchberry flowers and foliage

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Mature block of Bunchberry
Mature block of Bunchberry

Ready to ship!

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Mature 4" pot
Mature 4" pot

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Bunchberry flowers and foliage
Bunchberry flowers and foliage

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Bunchberry
Cornus canadensis, syn. Chamaepericlymenum canadense

 

Also called dwarf cornel, creeping dogwood, crackerberry, quartre-temps

Height         4-8 inches (10-20 cm)

Spread        12-24 inches (30-60 cm) 

Flower         White

Blooming     Spring to summer

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Moist

Soil             Humus-rich, neutral to acidic 

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

A widespread species in Canada and the United States, from cool, moist woodlands to mountain ranges and sphagnum bogs. This mat-forming stoloniferous species is deciduous, sending up distinctive dogwood leaves in spring, followed by white flowers (actually showy bracts) late spring to summer. If pollinated, clusters of vibrant red berries form against a beautiful backdrop of bronze-red fall colour. Ideal in smaller plantings under conifers, in combination with other native woodland species, rhododendrons, azaleas or ferns.

 

Recommendations for growing Bunchberry

Native woodland soils and conifer duff is a good medium for bunchberry. If garden soil is light-textured or gravelly, blend in compost and peat moss for moisture retention. Plant at soil surface and mulch thinly (1-2"); conifer needles make great mulch for this plant. Direct afternoon sun and wind exposure can burn leaves. Serious diseases are seldom encountered, occasionally suffers root rot and leaf spots in wet years. No ongoing maintenance needs required except watering during hot spells.

Sold in 4" (10 cm pots) and 1 gallon.

 
Spring flush
Spring flush

Newly expanding foliage is vibrant.

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Mature 4" pot
Mature 4" pot

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Wintergreen berries
Wintergreen berries

Vibrant red berries add fall interest and wildlife food.

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Spring flush
Spring flush

Newly expanding foliage is vibrant.

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Wintergreen
Gaultheria procumbens

 

Also called winterberry, checkerberry, eastern teaberry

Height         4-6 inches (10-15 cm)

Spread        12 inches (30 cm) 

Flower         White, sometimes tinged with pink 

Blooming     Spring

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Average to moist

Soil             Humus-rich, favouring acidic soils

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

One of the most widespread, durable and pleasing native ground covers with outstanding ornamental characteristics. Thick, shiny evergreen foliage was once used to distill oil of wintergreen, and comes out in a multi-coloured spring flush. Small pinkish-white flowers are not always noticed but the large red berries are, and are sometimes offered as potted Christmas plants. Spreads slowly by underground stolons, and said to attract grouse and partridge to the garden. Combine with other acidophiles in the woodland garden for best effect. Will tolerate periodic drought.

 

Recommendations for growing Wintergreen

Native woodland soils and pine duff is a good medium for wintergreen. Blend in peat moss and compost to light or alkaline soils and cultivate before planting. Plant at soil surface and mulch thinly (1-2"); conifer needles make great mulch for this plant. Direct afternoon sun and wind exposure can burn leaves. Serious diseases are seldom encountered, occasionally suffers root rot in wet years. No ongoing maintenance needs required except watering during hot spells.

 
A swathe of prairie smoke at peak flower
A swathe of prairie smoke at peak flower

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Bumblees love the early spring flowers of Prairie Smoke.
Bumblees love the early spring flowers of Prairie Smoke.

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A swathe of prairie smoke at peak flower
A swathe of prairie smoke at peak flower

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Prairie Smoke
Geum triflorum

 

Also called three-flowers avens, old man's whiskers

Height         8-12 inches (20-30 cm)

Spread        12-18 inches (30-45 cm), may self-seed

Flower         Pink and white, seed head a pink upright tuft

Blooming     Spring to early summer

Light           Full sun to light shade

Moisture      Moist to dry

Soil             Well drained to average, tolerates shallow soils and rock crevices

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

Excellent for use in the rock garden or sunny perennial border. Better description coming soon!

 
Mayapple flowering in the woodlot
Mayapple flowering in the woodlot

1-2 bright white flowers emerge between mature stems. This colony is massive!

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Mayapple flowering in the woodlot
Mayapple flowering in the woodlot

1-2 bright white flowers emerge between mature stems. This colony is massive!

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Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum

 

Also called Indian apple, hog-apple, American mandrake, ground lemon

Height         30-60 inches (30-60 cm)

Spread        2-3 feet (60-90 cm), continually spreads to form dense colonies

Flower         White with large yellow stamens

Blooming     Late spring to early summer

Light           Part shade to full shade, under mature trees

Moisture      Average to consistently damp

Soil             Humus-rich, woodland soils,  

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

Best in a large woodland garden, rhizomes can be aggressive. Be aware all but the ripest fruits are poisonous. Larval hosts for the golden borer moth and mayapple borer. Better description coming soon!

 

Limited quantities, slow to size up

 
Bloodroot in the garden (Niagara Parks Botanical Garden - Woodland Section)
Bloodroot in the garden (Niagara Parks Botanical Garden - Woodland Section)

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A flat of 15 x 4" pots after flowering.
A flat of 15 x 4" pots after flowering.

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The odd bloodroot flower comes up pink-tinged in spring
The odd bloodroot flower comes up pink-tinged in spring

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Bloodroot in the garden (Niagara Parks Botanical Garden - Woodland Section)
Bloodroot in the garden (Niagara Parks Botanical Garden - Woodland Section)

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Bloodroot
Sanguinaria canadaensis

Also called Canada puccoon, bloodwort, redroot, red puccoon

Height         10-20 inches (20-50 cm)

Spread        12-18 inches (30-45 cm), ants disperse seeds in vicinity

Flower         White (rarely pink) with large yellow stamens

Blooming     Early spring

Light           Part shade to full shade, best under mature trees

Moisture      Average to consistently damp

Soil             Adaptable, rich to well-drained floodplain meadows

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

A unique woodland plant of the deciduous North American forest and one of the earliest harbringers of spring. Single flowers are borne on stalks that emerge cupped by a single leaf. Flowers open on sunny days and close at night if not pollinated, lasting usually 5-7 days each. Mining bees are the most effective pollinators, but flowers also visited by bee flies, carpenter bees and cuckoo bees. Sand-dollar-esque leaves unfurl to protect developing upright seed pods. When ripe, ants carry the red seeds away, a process called myrmechochory. Plants excude sap if leaves or roots are broken, which can cause skin irritation or scarring in some people. 

 

Recommendations for growing Bloodroot

Though this plant is a total show-stopped in flower, the best time to transplant bloodroot is August-September, when it is transferring the energy from the spent leaves into the root system. Dividing the root system can cause rhizomes to rot easily, so it is best to move smaller seedling plants intact. If kept too damp or mulched too heavily, leaf stems can rot at the base and fall over. Provide ample air circulation in the garden by ensuring thick-leaved plants don't smother the clumps. Best tucked into sloped gardens with pockets of rich organic matter.   

1 gallon wood poppy in full flower early spring
1 gallon wood poppy in full flower early spring

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Wood poppy seed pods just before splitting open
Wood poppy seed pods just before splitting open

Pluck these off if you don't want too many extra seedlings in the garden!

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1 gallon wood poppy in full flower early spring
1 gallon wood poppy in full flower early spring

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Wood Poppy
Stylophorum diphyllum

Also called celandine poppy

Height         12-24 inches (30-60 cm)

Spread        18-24 inches (45-60 cm), ants disperse seeds in vicinity

Flower         White (rarely pink) with large yellow stamens

Blooming     Early spring

Light           Part shade to full shade, best under mature trees

Moisture      Average to consistently damp

Soil             Rich, limestone based soils, floodplains

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

This stunning woodland plant deserves as much attention as hostas, with handsome blue-green pinnately lobed leaves. Wood poppy is generally maintenance-free, can fill large areas amongst other shady shrubs and under mature trees, and The large 2-3" sunny yellow flowers light up like fireworks in the spring garden. It can be confused with the non-native/invasive greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), whose seed pods are skinny and upright. Our seed source originally came from gardens in Niagara Falls, but it has proven to be very adaptable to the Peterborough region, and travels all over the nursery via ants. It dislikes full sun and direct midsummer sun.

 

Recommendations for growing Wood Poppy

In spite of its conservation challenges in Canada (wild populations are protected in Ontario), this plant can be a bit of bully with other more mild-mannered woodland plants, even so far as smothering very small-statured trilliums and trout lilies. If you do not want it to seed, sheer off foliage with hedge trimmers shortly after flowering. Root systems are robust and can be easily divided late summer to early fall. The plant excudes a yellow sap that can stain hands, tools and clothing.

 
 
Labrador violet flowers
Labrador violet flowers

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Viola labradorica foliage
Viola labradorica foliage

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In the landscape
In the landscape

Individual clumps will spread and seedlings pop up close by.

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Labrador violet flowers
Labrador violet flowers

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Labrador Violet
Viola labradorica 'Purpurea'

 

Also known as alpine violet, American dog violet

Height         4-6 inches (10-15 cm)

Spread        8-12" inches (20-30 cm), and by seed 

Flower         Purple

Blooming     Spring to fall

Light           Sun to shade

Moisture      Average to dry

Soil             Adaptable

Current observed range in North America (iNaturalist.ca)

 

Although the name suggests otherwise, this species is widespread in Canada and the US, from the East Coast to Alaska, and native to Greenland. Allan Armitage calls this "one of the best garden violets in the entire genus". This hardy and ornamental selection is notable for its attractive rich purple, heart-shaped leaves, welcome early spring flush of purple flowers, and adaptable nature to a variety of sites. Clumps spread outward by short stolons and also by an abundance of seeds. Well suited to naturalized landscapes, rock gardens, cracks and crevices of slopes, and worthy of attention for interplanting with smaller ground covers, ferns and beneath large trees. A much better choice than Viola odorata. Flowers and leaves are edible.

 

Recommendations for growing Labrador Violet

Of all the native plants in our catalogue, this is probably the easiest to grow. Performs its best with average moisture, average fertility and part shade, but seedlings will find their way to the most appropriate places. Foliage colour bleaches out in full sun. Low tolerance for extended periods of drought. Plant at soil surface and mulch with composted pine bark fines. If you do not wish to have so many seedlings, shear spent flowers. Small seedlings are easy to weed or transplant if desired.

 
Companions for Native Ground Covers

With the variety of adaptations and possible landscape uses, contact us for appropriate companions to suit your project. 

Go back to full plant list