11 Best Native Plants for Maine

The Vacationland is homeland to you; even still, you need not venture far to appreciate your state’s natural beauty. Inspired by the Wild Gardens of Acadia, your latest project is cultivating a bed of native plants in your own Maine landscape. To start you off on this quest, we’ve gathered 11 best native plants for Maine, just waiting to take root near you.

In this article, we’ll cover:

11 Best Native Plants for Maine

1. Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

closeup image of nannyberry plant

Photo Credit: Doug McGrady / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The flashy white flowers of this perennial bloom in May, followed by an autumn to winter season of color-changing leaves and berries— leaves turn burgundy while the edible berries go from green to yellow to red to deep blue. Perfect for growing as a natural privacy screen or specimen plant, this drought- and pollution-tolerant native attracts caterpillars, moths, birds, and other pollinators but repels deer.

Plant type: Shrub or small tree

USDA hardiness zone: 2 to 8

Sun: Full sun or part shade

Soil: Clay, loam, sand, moist, well-drained soil

Duration: Perennial

Bloom Time: Early summer

Water needs: Medium

Mature height: 10 to 20 feet

Foliage: Deciduous; glossy, dark green leaves turn burgundy in fall; too much shade may cause milder

Maintenance: Medium; prune after flowering and water regularly until established; no need to fertilize

2. Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

closeup image of Pagoda Dogwood

Photo Credit: Michele Dorsey Walfred / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Named for its resemblance to a pagoda temple — its branches grow in similarly structured horizontal layers — the pagoda dogwood produces perfumed, white blooms and blue or purple berries in spring and summer, respectively. Plant it as a specimen tree, or pair it with maples, beeches, birches, or serviceberries. 

Offering year–round interest, as well (the leaves turn yellow, red, and orange in autumn), this native selection is tolerant of pollution and attracts all kinds of pollinators. Keep a lookout though, as it’s susceptible to canker, twig blight, and leaf spot.

Plant type: Shrub or small tree

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 7

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Well-drained, nutrient-rich, acidic; sandy, loamy, clay

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Sweet

Bloom time: Early summer

Water needs: Low; water regularly until established and then only during drought

Mature height: 12 to 20 feet

Foliage: Deciduous; turn red, yellow, and orange in fall

Maintenance: Low

3. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common Milkweed

Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

As Maine is the final summer destination for monarch butterflies’ annual migration from Mexico, common milkweed is an especially important native plant that can help fight the decline of these butterflies’ populations. This native wildflower provides a place for monarchs to lay their eggs and gives off round, ball-like clusters of purple or pink flowers each summer. 

Since common milkweed spreads swiftly via rhizomes, it’s best planted in naturalized areas, so it doesn’t become invasive in your traditional garden.

Plant type: Wildflower

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 9

Sun: Full sun

Soil: Chalk, clay, loam, sand

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Sweetly scented

Bloom time: Summer

Water needs: Low, average

Mature height: 2 to 6 feet

Foliage: Oval, green leaves with hairy underside; release milky substance when crushed

Potential hazards: Toxic if ingested

Maintenance: Low

4. New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Photo Credit: USFWS Midwest Region / Flickr / Public Domain

This native selection, ideal as a garden mass planting for displays of fall color brought on by pink or purple ray flowers surrounding a yellow center, is perfect for attracting various pollinators. 

Able to thrive in a range of soil types, New England aster is pretty low maintenance when it comes to water needs; it likes things moist but can tolerate some dry soils. To keep this tall-growing flower on the shorter side, prune stems in early summer. If provided the right amount of sunlight, water, and overall care, this plant can live up to 10 years.

Plant type: Flower

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Sun: Full sun

Soil: Well-drained, acidic, clay, sandy, loamy; poorly-drained clay soils may cause aster wilt

Duration: Perennial

Bloom time: Late summer, autumn

Water needs: Medium

Mature height: 3 to 6 feet

Foliage: Dark green leaves

Maintenance: Low; vulnerable to powdery mildew. Cut back stems in mid-summer to avoid staking and to produce more flowers.

5. Northern Bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica)

closoeup image of Northern Bayberry plant

Photo Credit: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

This wide-growing, rounded shrub generates inconspicuous gold, yellow, or green blooms in spring. Come summer and through the following spring, whitish-gray berries grow from the stems, providing a food source for birds. The fruits’ waxy finish is also used in candles and soaps.

Northern bayberry can live up to 30 years and is best used as a specimen plant, hedge, or foundation plant. It’s excellent at preventing erosion and is resistant to deer, salt, drought, heat, compacted soil, and seasonal flooding, so it’s easy for beginners to grow.

Plant type: Shrub

USDA hardiness zone: 4 to 6

Sun: Full sun

Soil: Sandy, rocky, acidic; well-drained with high organic matter

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Whole plant scented when crushed; peppery and woody scent

Bloom Time: Spring

Water needs: Low; water regularly until established

Mature height: 6 to 12 feet

Foliage: Deciduous to semi-evergreen; fragrant, dark green, shiny leaves

Maintenance: Low

6. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Photo Credit: Andrew Curtis / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Drought-tolerant, this low-growing groundcover is a prime pick for a xeriscaped yard. In mid-spring, pink, bell-shaped flowers will spring forth, while summer sees the emergence of red berries that last through fall. 

Adding to the year-round interest are the dark green leaves that turn burgundy from fall through winter. This native plant, which can live up to 20 years, is also resistant to salt and pollution and can work well in an ornamental, butterfly, rock, or winter garden.

Plant type: Evergreen shrub

USDA hardiness zone: 2 to 6

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Sandy, acidic; can be dry or moist but no standing water; susceptible to yellowing leaves if not acidic enough

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Autumn leaves/pine

Bloom Time: Early spring to early summer

Water needs: Low

Mature height: Up to 8 inches

Foliage: Evergreen; glossy and round, turns from green to burgundy in autumn

Potential hazards: Arbutin in foliage hinders melanin production/can lighten skin

Maintenance: Low; tolerant of drought, salt, and pollution

7. Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Red Columbine

Photo Credit: Jason Hollinger / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

From spring through summer, this perennial produces downward-hanging, umbrella-shaped blossoms that are red and yellow. Post-bloom, red columbine reseeds on its own and goes dormant as some of its leaves turn pink or purple before falling off. Although this plant has no noticeable aroma, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators are drawn to its nectar. Red columbine is a great accent plant for rock gardens and coastal sites, as it is salt-tolerant. Duskywing caterpillars and columbine leafminers feed on the leaves, but don’t cause any actual harm to the plant’s health.

Plant type: Flower

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 8

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Clay, silt, or sandy soil that’s well-drained, moist, dry-ish

Duration: Perennial

Bloom Time: Spring and summer

Water needs: Weekly or whenever soil is completely dry

Mature height: 1 to 3 feet

Foliage: Blue-green leaves grow in groups of three

Potential hazards: Moderately flammable/risk of fire

Maintenance: Low; deadhead blooms as needed, cut back in late summer

8. Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)

Photo Credit: Joshua Mayer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Unlike the nonnative, “true” honeysuckle plants, Northern bush honeysuckle is not invasive and has no scent. It does, however, have similar trumpet-shaped, yellow flowers that grow in pairs or triplets. Drought-resistant, it serves well as a privacy screen or mass planting and can endure dry and seasonally flooded conditions. Northern bush honeysuckle attracts a variety of pollinators, including bumblebees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Plant type: Shrub

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 7

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Not particular; grows in range of soil types and withstands dry and seasonally flooded soils

Duration: Perennial

Bloom Time: Summer

Water needs: Low, average

Mature height: 2 to 4 feet

Foliage: Burgundy spring new growth; pointy leaves become green and copper as they mature; turns yellow-orange or reddish-purple in fall

Potential hazards: Berries are mildly poisonous to humans. 

Maintenance: Low; prune in late winter

9. Scarlet Elder (Sambucus racemosa)

Photo Credit: Algirdas / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Scarlet elder (aka red elderberry) produces memorable white, floral-scented, cone-shaped blooms that can thrive in wet soil, full sun, and partial shade. This plant’s calling card also includes clusters of red berries, which serve as food for several species of birds. 

Naturally able to manage erosion, scarlet elder makes for a fantastic hedge when planted alongside other shrubs, like winterberry and witch hazel. It also draws its fair share of pollinators.

Plant type: Shrub

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 7

Sun: Full sun or partial shade

Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Flowers have floral scent; leaves have unpleasant, stinky odor when crushed

Bloom Time: Spring and summer

Water needs:  Medium; water well in the absence of rain

Mature height: 3 to 9 feet

Foliage: Dark green with serrated edges and hairy underside

Potential hazards: Seeds are poisonous; raw berries are toxic

Maintenance: Medium; prune to contain spread

10. Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)

Photo Credit: SB Johnny / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Rosebay rhododendron grows nicely in shade gardens and as border plantings underneath heavily canopied areas of hemlocks, pines, and maples. This broadleaf evergreen boasts dark, blue-green leaves that curl up to protect themselves from cold weather and prominent pink, white, or lavender flowers that grow in bell-shaped clusters. 

Best as an ornamental planting in a cool, shady yard, this native perennial is not OK with drought, heat, or salt and is susceptible to canker, crown rot, root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spot, to name a few.

Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen shrub

USDA hardiness zone: 3 to 7

Sun: Full shade or partial shade

Soil: Moist, acidic, well-drained

Duration: Perennial

Bloom Time: Summer

Water needs:  Medium

Mature height: 20 to 35 feet

Foliage: Evergreen; leathery feel; dark, blue-green in color

Potential hazards: Toxic to humans, pets, horses, and other animals if ingested. 

Maintenance: Medium

11. Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

image of chokecherry plant

Photo Credit: Matt Lavin / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This attractive shrub, which bears white flowers, dark red berries, and green leaves, is a favorite of racoons — they love feasting on the ripened berry clusters. Also edible to humans, the fruits have been described by many as dry and “astringent.” However, taste is much improved when dried or cooked and turned into wine, jams, or jellies. Be careful not to eat the seeds, though; they are toxic. Chokecherry serves as a host to Eastern tent caterpillars, and when crushed, the twigs emit an unsavory, bittersweet smell.

Plant type: Tree

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 7

Sun: Full sun to full shade

Soil: Moist, limestone-based, sand, loam, clay

Duration: Perennial

Fragrance: Unpleasant bittersweet smell when twigs are crushed

Foliage: Deciduous; oval, bright green in color; serrated edges

Bloom time: Spring to summer

Water needs: Medium; drought-tolerant

Mature height: 30 feet

Potential hazards: Leaves, bark, stem, and seed pit are poisonous/harmful to livestock 

Maintenance needs: Low; prune late winter to early spring

How to Choose Native Plants for Your Maine Yard 

Start by assessing the conditions of your property, including the amount of sun it gets, the type of soil, and the existing plant life. Then, find out what specific native plants will be the best fit, considering what purpose you’d like each plant to have (specimen, groundcover, traditional garden, etc.). 

For oodles of inspiration, look for ideas at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden, Viles Arboretum, or the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House and Gardens, among others.

Maine’s climate includes super cold and snowy winters, with lows hovering around 15 degrees, and mild summers, with highs averaging around 70 degrees. The entire state falls within hardiness zones 3 to 6.

Other native planting options include (but are not limited to):

  • sweetfern (comptonia peregrina)
  • beach plum (prunus maritima)
  • sugar maple (acer saccharum)
  • creeping juniper (juniperus horizontalis)
  • echinacea (echinacea purpurea)

FAQ About Native Maine Plants

1. When should I plant native flowers and shrubs in Maine?

In Maine, September is the ideal time to plant natives, when not planting from seed. This allows the already-sprouted plants to establish a root system in time for winter dormancy. If planting from seed, wait until December, as this is the time when plant self-seeding naturally occurs.

2. What are the benefits of growing native plants in Maine?

Planting natives has a number of benefits, including:

● being noninvasive
● preserving biodiversity
● being naturally adapted to soil/weather conditions
● providing shelter/food for wildlife and pollinators
● using less water
● requiring less fertilization (if any)

3. Besides native garden plants and trees, what grasses are native to Maine?

The only turfgrass native to Maine is red fescue; however, there are a variety of native ornamental grasses you can try:

● switchgrass (panicum virgatum)
● yellow prairie grass (sorghastrum nutans)
● Canada wild rye (elymus canadensis)
● little bluestem (schizachyrium scoparium)

Where to Find Native Plants in Maine 

Maine is home to approximately 1,500 native plants, and the Wild Seed Project is a popular destination for learning about and purchasing various species of native trees, wildflowers, vines, shrubs, and grasses. Search its native plant finder for details.

Additionally, local lawn care professionals can provide yard care assistance via mowing, trimming, and edging the landscape. We have trusted lawn care pros in Scarborough, Wells, and many other cities across the state.  

Main Image Credit: Matt Lavin / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!