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Cleveland Heights Gardener Touts Native Plants to Grow at Home

Culver's root, cardinal flower and black-eyed Susan blooming in July [Peggy Spaeth]

It's that time of year again when you start to see signs of spring begin to bloom. But it may surprise you that many common plants in Northeast Ohio are not native to the region.

For instance, forsythia bush with its bright yellow blooms is prevalent in yards and an early spring bloomer— but not native.

English ivy and Japanese barberry are also non-natives [Peggy Spaeth]

Peggy Spaeth is a “born again” gardener who tore out the daylilies and hostas from her Cleveland Heights yard about eight years ago on a quest to grow plantings native to the region.

“I wanted to live in the woods,” she said, joking that she couldn’t move into the Metroparks. “I decided to turn my yard into where I wanted to be.”

While she doesn’t necessarily expect gardeners to pull out all of their plantings, she provided some suggestions on what to plant that is native.


“If you have shade, a nice shady backyard or even front yard, I love bloodroot,” Spaeth said. “Bloodroot is one of the first things to bloom in the spring.”

Bloodroot [Peggy Spaeth]

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower is a “tall, red, spiky flower that feeds hummingbirds,” Spaeth said.

It blooms in July. She plants it with its blue counterpart, lobelia or blue cardinal flower, and butterfly weed, which is orange.

Cardinal flower, blue lobelia and butterfly weed blooming in July [Peggy Spaeth]

Wild bergamot

“Wild bergamot is beautiful, kind of a glowing lavender color. It’ll spread well and it’s covered with bees,” Spaeth said.

It can be planted in spring.

Wild bergamot [Peggy Spaeth]

Spaeth is spreading awareness about ecological gardening through a series of talks with her volunteer group, Friends of Lower Lake, which is part of the non-profit  Doan Brook Watershed Partnership. The Friends of Lower Lake group is also removing non-native plants around Lower Shaker Lake and replacing them with natives.

“It’s a task with no end,” Spaeth said. “Once we remove all of the invasives and replace them with natives, then there needs to be constant maintenance.”

Volunteers Sue Strauss, Mark Majewski, Peggy Spaeth, Eran Shiloh, Russ Hall, Kathy Smachlo and Tim Kalan photographed after removing Japanese honeysuckle from around Lower Shaker Lake [Peggy Spaeth]

View this post on Instagram Now that the snow has melted, what can you see growing? Here’s a primer in natives to plant in spring from Cleveland Heights gardener Peggy Spaeth.

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Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.