The hillsides, forests and wetlands of Ohio are home to an array of native shrubs. The hot, humid summers and moderate precipitation of the state provide ideal conditions for these native shrubs when grown in the home garden. Warm-weather plants, typically associated with the southern United States, grow well in the extreme southern areas of Ohio, while cooler-climate shrubs perform best in the northern part of the state.
New Jersey Tea
Ceanothus americanus, commonly known as New Jersey Tea, grows wild in the prairies and dry, open woods of eastern Ohio. This shrub features oval, dark green, deciduous leaves that turn yellowish green in the fall. In summer, spikes of creamy white flowers bloom atop the 3- to 4-foot tall stems. Plant this shrub in full sun or partial shade and dry, well-drained, acidic soil.
Native to southern Ohio, Hydrangea aborescens, or smooth hydrangea, grows wild in moist, fertile woodlands, reaching up to 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Round flower heads of small, white blooms appear in the summer among the dark green, heart-shaped leaves. Prune back smooth hydrangea in the fall after the leaves have fallen to prevent the plant from growing twiggy and to increase flowering for the following year. Provide this hydrangea with partial to full shade and moist, acidic or alkaline soil.
Black huckleberry, or Gaylussacia baccata, grows up to 4 feet tall and spreads on shallow stems to form a colony. The arching stems bear small oblong leaves and light pink flowers in the spring. In summer, this shrub teems with bluish black fruits, a popular food source for birds and other wildlife. Native to eastern and northwestern Ohio, huckleberry grows wild in dry woods and bogs and prefers acidic, well-drained soil. This drought-tolerant shrub will grow in shade but flowers and fruits best if planted in partial to full sun.
Reaching up to 9 feet tall, Myrica pensylvanica, or northern bayberry, features an intricate, tiered branching structure that forms a spreading colony over time. The dark green, aromatic, leathery leaves and grayish white, waxy berries often remain on the shrub through the fall and into winter. This native shrub grows wild on beaches and in bogs in northeastern Ohio and tolerates most soil conditions, as long as it receives full sun. It will grow in sandy, infertile, salty, wet or dry soils.
Rosa carolina, commonly known as Carolina rose, can reach up to 6 feet tall. Pink flowers bloom singly or in pairs from new growth in the summer and the blooms fade from dark to light pink over time. Birds enjoy feeding on the the deep red hips in winter. Carolina rose grows wild throughout Ohio, in dry open woods, hillsides and prairies and performs best in full sun and well-drained soil. It tolerates drought and rarely requires supplemental water, but benefits from a light fertilization in the spring.