FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #4 – Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by J Cameron (newhampshirewildflowers.com)

Flowers: White-Pink

Height: 12-36” (30 to 100 cm)

Width: 24-59″ (60-150 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

Some native plants have the most unfortunate names that give them an underserved bad rap. Foremost among that group is Spreading Dogbane, which is commonly found in open areas like pastures, woodland edges and roadsides. This is another plant that can thrive in poor, dry soils. It spreads through seed held in little pods, or through its roots – hence the ‘spreading’ part of its moniker.

Dogbane is poisonous for grazers and can make them ill – hence its inclusion on the Ontario weed lists. However, in the home garden it is one of the prettiest native plants around. With its delicate arching form and small, sweetly fragrant bell-shaped pinkish flowers, Dogbane is one of those plants visitors to our garden always inquire about regarding its identity. We have it up against the Interpretation Centre by the parking lot where it does an admirable job of making do with less than ideal circumstances – even surviving periods of drought!

Leaves and arching form. Photo by P Dziuk (minnesotawildflowers.info)

We find it doesn’t spread rapidly or aggressively, and we like the fact it does try to fill in more space. This is another plant that looks best when planted in multiples, as the delicate tracery of its spine and leaves means it doesn’t cover and area with green. It would look well over a shorter groundcover like Barren Strawberry, and in front of taller, bushier plants.

Flowering from June to August, Dogbane is related to Common Milkweed, and like the latter very popular with pollinators. Some sources say it is another larval host for the Monarch Butterfly.

Are you looking for more fragrance from your native plants? Why not try Spreading Dogbane, which despite having an unfortunate name is an incredibly beautiful addition to any garden! We have Dogbane at this year’s plant sale, grown from our own hardy plants’ seed.

Read about our other top ten:

# 5 – Bigleaf Aster

#6 – Yarrow

#7 – Lanceleaf Coreopsis

#8 – Blue Flag Iris

#9 – Wild Columbine

#10 – Obedient Plant

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