An effortless and naturalistic planting scheme with an abundance of height, texture, movement and form…
What Are Prairie Plants?
Prairie means grassland. The term as a garden style takes inspiration from the large expanse of land in North America, which was once covered with grasses and colourful wildflowers. Prairie gardens include plants that originate from varying parts of the world, combining grasses and perennials that require the same growing conditions.
This style of planting offers many benefits to wildlife, from providing pollen and nectar to shelter.
When Should I Plant Prairie Plants?
The ideal time to plant established prairie plants is in March when the soil is starting to warm up. This also gives plants the whole season to establish.
How Do I Achieve Prairie-Style Planting?
This relaxed and effortless planting scheme is created through the combination of ornamental grasses and colourful herbaceous perennials, providing a rich tapestry of height, texture and form – adding interest throughout the year. This extraordinary blend of grasses and flowers is created by planting in drifts and groups, intermingled together for a naturalised look.
Grasses add a dreamy informal structure, which brings light and airy movement. The backbone to prairie schemes, grasses add a variety of colour and form, from tall, upright grasses with elegant flower plumes to vibrant and dramatic foliage.
Ornamental grasses add an intriguing focal point that invites you to venture further into a garden, whilst framing flower combinations. Swathes of flowering perennials add colour between the areas of grasses. You may choose to keep colours limited and follow a particular colour scheme. Ideal plants for a prairie garden will have an airy and almost translucent quality, which allows you to see through them, revealing the other layers of planting. Aim to include varying heights, flowering times and flower shapes, from daisy-like blooms to spires.
How Do I Achieve Prairie-Style Planting in a Small Garden?
Prairie planting creates a great impact on a large scale, reminiscent of the American plains. Luckily, you can still enjoy a prairie-style garden, even without acres of space. In a smaller garden, you can dive into the fascinating world of prairie plants with a prairie-style border.
Mix flowering perennials with ornamental grasses, planted in small groups. For inspiration, look no further than our Pocket-Sized Prairie collection – perfect for small spaces!
Here are some of our favourites:
- Rudbeckia: Rudbeckias are native to the meadows and prairies of North America. Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ is a bushy, short-lived perennial which delights with a long flowering season with masses of small, daisy-like flowers in warm shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.
- Achillea: ‘Paprika’ and ‘Red Velvet’ are attractive varieties, both with vibrant red clusters of flat flower heads. They add a splash of colour from early summer, atop stems with feathery foliage.
- Crocosmia: Ideal for growing in swathes throughout a border, Crocosmia Lucifer is a vivid herbaceous perennial with pleated leaves and arching sprays of fiery red flowers in summer.
- Panicum: Panicum virgatum is a much-loved prairie native. Great for creating colourful swathes of texture, Panicum virgatum ‘Rehbraun’ is a striking grass that transforms as its mid-green leaves turn a fantastic dark red at the tips. Open, airy flowers appear in midsummer with a brown and red hue.
- Carex: Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’ is a hard-wearing, evergreen grass with rich red-brown foliage. Plant repeatedly within planting schemes to create a great effect.
- Calamagrostis: Calamagrostis brachytricha is grown for its tall, fluffy plumes of flowerheads. This ornamental grass forms a clump of green, linear leaves, turning yellow in autumn. It is an ideal option for a sunny prairie border for an upright habit that adds height.
How Do I Maintain a Prairie-Style Garden?
The beauty of a prairie garden, similar to a meadow, is that it requires little maintenance. The main two tasks are cutting down dead growth at the end of the year (leaving it to rot down and form a layer of natural mulch) and weeding.
For a prairie-style border, the maintenance is more comparable to a traditional herbaceous border:
- Apply a deep mulch of bark, gravel or wood chips while plants are establishing.
- Water thoroughly (at least twice a week during the first couple of growing seasons).
- Weed regularly.
- Cut foliage down in spring so that any plant material gathered throughout winter acts as a mulch to suppress early germinating weeds.