Gardening in sand country

Rob Zimmer Special Contributor
Now Media Group

In Wisconsin, there are many areas that are blessed with sand, though talk to gardeners there and they may think differently.

I'm a big fan of gardening in sand country, where the doors are opened for a number of fascinating plants that grow much better in sandy soils than in heavy clay found in other regions of the state.

There are many advantages to sandy soils, most notably favorable drainage. Look closely at many plant tags and well-drained soil is a must. Any plants that require good drainage will grow well in sand.

Sand country treasures

Weather full sun or full shade, there are a variety of interesting plants available for gardeners in sandy areas.

Many of our Wisconsin natives, for example, thrive in sandy soils. Spring bloomers such as wild lupine, shooting star and pasqueflower grow well in sand.

Colorful blooms for early summer include orange milkweed, lead plant, wild false indigo, many varieties of coreopsis, coneflowers, black-eyed Susan and others.

Our exceptional native grass varieties perform well in sandy soils found in their native meadow and prairie habitats. The colors, textures and growth forms of these ornamental beauties complement the colorful blooms of summer and fall splendidly.

Dotted mint, also known as spotted bee balm, with its unusual foliage and lemon yellow blooms, dotted in maroon, is one of the more unusual choices for sandy areas. Growing 1 to 2 feet in height, this plant features leaves that transform from silvery green into a rich lavender or purple by midsummer.

Sweet fern, a small native shrub with sweet-scented foliage and woody branches is another great choice for sandy locations. Not a true fern, its lacy foliage and wonderful scent make it a favorite for gardens, borders and landscaping.

By late summer, the sand-loving prairie giants begin to reach for the skies. The towering beauty of prairie dock, cup plant, compass plant, Jerusalem artichoke, wild sunflowers and other prairie giants transform August into a blooming paradise.

Many of these colorful blooms last well into September, when they are joined by colorful asters, Joe pye weed, ironweed and other sand lovers.

Annuals and perennials

Many garden perennials, including traditional favorites such as iris and hostas, grow wonderfully in sand.

Yucca, rattlesnake master, sea holly, rose campion and lavender are great choices, as are all of the succulents and sedums. Pick up some blue-eyed grass, as well.

Dry sand in shade is a great place to grow hostas, along with coral bells, foam flowers and a variety of ferns.

Other exceptional plants for sandy areas include annuals such as cosmos, zinnias, Mexican sunflower, dianthus, snapdragons, calendula and more.

Find Rob Zimmer online at www.robzimmeroutdoors.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RobZimmerOutdoors.