Which Plants Can I Grow in Boston?
A city with no shortage of local pride (and rightfully so!) Boston has never failed to deliver in terms of culture and history. Both for local and national history, one doesn't need to look far to see the significant events that Boston was part of. Nowadays, places like the famous Fenway Park or events like the Boston Marathon keep tradition alive in several ways. What's more, this city also has a tradition any gardener will appreciate, with an accommodating growing season and a wealth of opportunity for anyone with a green thumb! Fruit, veggies, flowers, and so much more all thrive here with just a little help from you. Let's take a closer look at why Boston is perfect for the aspiring gardener:
Which Plants Grow Well in Boston?
Where things might get cold when winter rolls around, don't let that scare you in the least as far as your growing season is concerned with Boston hardiness zones. The city is more than ready to provide everything you'll need for the growth you desire with a substantial growing season and several options to save your plants in the event things go a bit too far on the colder side. One need only look to any of the local parks or gardens in the city to see how native plants have already made the region their home. Moreover, the techniques used to sustain such plants and environments will lend you valuable insight into your own garden. Here are a few plants you can try that are proven to flourish in Boston:
English Ivy Gold Child (Hedera helix 'Variegata'): Unique, star-shaped leaves of lush green and ringed in white set this plant apart, along with its unique ability to climb and climb and climb! This plant thrives in Massachusetts plant zones. Sometimes up to heights of 10 feet! A perfect plant for hanging baskets, railings, trellising, or lattices, it thrives best in morning sun with dappling shade for the rest of the day. Just be sure to bring it inside if temperatures drop below 35°F. English Ivy Glacier and English Ivy Green Ideal are cousins of Gold Child, and both share its love of climbing just as much! Perfect for anywhere it can climb, use it on patios to add unique character with the vibes and patterns presented by either variant!
Eastern Showy Aster (Eurybia spectabilis): growing up to 2 feet tall, this native perennial is a great herb as well as a lovely, colorful flower and the perfect addition to your Boston garden. Vivid, purple blooms with yellow centers bloom in August through October and form in large clumps as the plants continue to spread through a uniquely adapted root system. It does well in dry, sandy soils, with lots of sun!
Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora): This plant also goes by the name of licorice goldenrod because of the scent of its crushed leaves! A perennial herb that grows in clumps and can reach heights of up to 5 feet, its leaves can be used in tea as well as a decoration for their dark green hue and unique shape! Flowers of bright yellow appear in late summer and bloom into autumn, and this plant does well in sandy soils with plenty of sun, perfect for Boston flower gardens.
As soon as April arrives, you're in the perfect position to start your cold season veggies! Keep them indoors to start, then move outside once things warm up a bit, and enjoy the incredible variety available to you in the Boston hardiness zone. Here are a few to get you started:
- Brussel Sprouts
There are just as many options for warm season veggies, and some fruits to go along with them! Be sure to mind your timing when planting, but some tested plants you can try are as follows:
- Butter Lettuce
- Sweet Potatoes
- Bush Beans
Best Landscaping Plants in Boston?
Finding plants that can withstand the harsher winters of Boston hardiness zones presents a unique but manageable challenge to gardeners in the area looking to create the landscaping of their dreams. Consider some of the native species around you before starting your growing season, and be sure to double-check your soil composition and frost dates as well. However, when you've completed your due diligence, get ready to enjoy the possibilities! Here are some you can try:
Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens): a native perennial found commonly in sandy areas along salt marshes, this plant is well-adapted to surviving drier conditions with lots of sunlight like Boston flower gardens. Waxy, green leaves grow all along its stem, capable of reaching heights of up to 5 feet, and these leaves also change color in late winter to a lovely red! Bright yellow flowers bloom in summer, providing vivid hues that contrast nicely with its lush green.
Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aethiopicum): Lovely, elegant fronds of this lush fern will keep a warm, spring vibe to your yard or garden year round. Thriving best in moist soil with high humidity, despite its delicate appearance, this plant is a tough one, capable of surviving in temperatures as low as -10°F! This resilience makes it a perfect option for Boston.
Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina): a deciduous and native shrub that can reach heights of up to 4 feet, its fronds are also known for their sweet aroma, which are particularly fragrant when crushed. With smaller flowers that bloom in April or May, it's also ideally suited to weather colder and drier conditions in the area, doing well in sandy soils! Just keep this one out of the shade, as it needs ample sunlight to truly thrive!
If fruit is what you were hoping for, you're in for a treat! Boston hardiness zones are perfect for accommodating a wide variety of fruit plants, all capable of handling the cold with ease! Try some of these in your area:
- Bosc Pear Trees
- Asian Pear Trees (Shinseiki, Seuri)
- Honeycrisp and Gala Apple Trees
- Sweetheart and Stella Cherry Trees
- Nectar and Candor Peach Trees
Which Plants Are Native to Boston?
By implementing native plants in your yard or garden, you're setting a path to success not just for you but for the local wildlife as well! Native plants are best suited for preventing soil erosion in your area, and are also reliable, sustainable food sources for birds and pollinating insects that need sustenance and habitat. Plus, with their adapted characteristics, they're that much easier to maintain and nurture for you, making your gardening life that much easier. If possible, see if you can help out any endangered plants in your area by growing a few yourself, and if you need some inspiration, here are a few you can try in your yard or garden this year:
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa): Sometimes mistaken for its cousin, common milkweed, this variant is just as adored by butterflies from where its name is derived. A lover of full sun, capable of growing up to 2 feet, it also blooms into lovely orange and yellow flowers in summer, bringing vibrance and life to your Boston flower garden!
Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia): Another plant widely loved by butterflies, bees, and pollinators. This plant grows toothed leaves and blooms lovely white flowers, but can also come in shades of red with marked leaves! Perfect for ground cover and capable of spreading quickly, give it lots of sun and enjoy!
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis): Orange flowers with a yellow center are what makes this plant so attractive to both the human and insect eye! It also comes with delicate, blue-green foliage that lasts all summer long, well past its blooming season. Be sure to go with the native Aquilegia canadensis, as it's the only variant native to the Boston area!
Other Plants That Grow Well in Boston?
Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum): The "weed" part of this plant's name can be a bit misleading, as it earned the moniker due to its abundance rather than being unwanted. Give this one a chance with its pink blooms that come late in the season and attract all manner of pollinators in the waning summer months! Give it lots of sun, and know that there are two varieties, Gateway and Little Joe, the former of which grows up to 10 feet and the latter up to 4.
Purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabalis): this native plant, commonly found closer to coastal habitats might be the perfect fit for your native garden. Capable of growing up to 10 feet in the right conditions, it's also tolerant of drought conditions and full sun, doing best in sandy or gravelly soils. Reddish-purple flowers bloom from July to August, taking on a fuzzy appearance when grown in large quantities. Be prepared to help trim or deadhead this plant, as it can spread quickly in Boston hardiness zones!
Boston Gardening Tips
Colder winters, frosts, and timing are the main things any Boston gardener needs to consider from the onset of the growing season. However, with said growing season being as prolonged as it is, you'll have more than enough opportunity for the garden of your dreams with just a bit of preparation! Springs and summers in this area are quite accommodating. By consulting your local Farmer's Almanac or similar resource for Boston hardiness zones, you'll be more than ready to handle the temperature and condition fluctuations that come with the territory. Overwinter as needed, don't be afraid of mulching when it gets colder, and if necessary, apply raised beds and cold frames to keep your plants healthy in the cold months.
When Should I Plant My Garden in Boston?
Falling in Zones 6 and 7 of the USDA Hardiness scale, Boston requires any gardener to mind its first and last frost dates, the first of which usually occurs in November, the last of which sometime at the end of April or early May. However, be sure to double-check your area specifically, as this will range from region to region!
Planting in Zone 6b & 7a
Zones are divided into two subzones, for example 6a and 6b, both of which are differentiated by their average winter temperature range. 7a has a range 0 to 5°F, and zone 6b has a range of -5 to 0°F. Because of this, annuals are a common choice in this region, and overwintering, mulching, cold frames, and raised beds are more readily applied here to help give plants the extra boost they need to survive some of the harsher conditions. However, such methods also mean a wider variety of plants are viable in this area with just a little help from you!