What Plants Can I Grow in Detroit?

By: Lively Root
October 25, 2021
What Plants Can I Grow in Detroit?
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Which Plants Can I Grow in Detroit?

Motor City, home of Motown Records, and the Detroit Institute of Arts are all part of what signifies Detroit's robust culture and history. The city continues to influence not just local populations, but national ones as well. Adjacent to Lake St. Claire and just east of Lake Erie, Detroit also boasts one of the best climates around for its prolonged growing season and ample precipitation! This weather makes it a perfect spot for anyone looking to grow the garden of their dreams. So buckle up, and let's take a ride along the avenues that will ensure some of the best fruits, veggies, flowers, and more you've ever grown:

Which Plants Grow Well in Detroit?

Whereas things can get cold in the Detroit region, that shouldn't scare you away from the ample growth you can nurture with just a little due diligence. Even with the harsher winter season, its spring and summers are perfectly suited for sustained growth and are substantially long in their own right compared to other regions! Best of all, anyone looking to start their garden in Detroit need look no further than any number of local parks and gardens for inspiration as well as guidance on what plants work best in the area. Take a look, check your Farmer's Almanac, and if you need a little help, here are a few you can try: 

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae): Native to the area and sporting a vibrant lavender hue with a golden center, this plant takes on a resemblance close to that of a daisy, blooming in late summer to early fall. With a preference for moist, well-draining soil, it's capable of thriving on rainwater alone and can reach heights of up to 6 feet! Be sure to plant in full sun.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa): A beautiful and low-maintenance flower for any gardener, its colors can range from gold to vibrant orange, bringing a burst of color to your garden. As the name suggests, this plant is a favorite of butterflies and other pollinators! Tolerant of drought and poor soils, plant in full sun for best results.


English Ivy Gold Child (Hedera helix 'Variegata'): This plant is perfectly suited for patios, trellises, lattices, ladders, railings, or just about anywhere it can exercise its love of climbing, which can reach heights of up to 10 feet! Its unique, star-shaped leaves take on a lush, green shade all ringed in white, lending this plant even more character for your garden. Give them morning sun, then dappling shade for the rest of the day, and be sure to bring them indoors if things drop below 35°F. English Ivy Glacier and English Ivy Green Ideal are two variants of Gold Child that love climbing just as much, and bring unique vibes and patterns of their own. Equally suited to the task of bringing lovely character to your garden, they're perfect for patios, lattices, and anywhere else they can climb to their full potential!

When April rolls around, it's the perfect time to start your cold season veggies indoors in preparation for the coming growing season. When things warm up a bit, move them outside and get ready to enjoy a wonderful variety, including these veggies:

  • Greens
  • Eggplants
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers

There are just as many choices with warm season veggies and fruits in the Detroit climate! Mind your timing when planting any plants of this variety, paying close attention to the first and last frosts of the year. Once you have the weather determined, try some of these:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Kale
  • Bush Beans
  • Butter Lettuce
  • Radish

Best Landscaping Plants in Detroit

What might seem a daunting challenge in finding landscaping plants that can withstand the Detroit winters is quickly mitigated by some of the local plant life already proven to thrive in the region. Not only that but there are already several species well-adapted to their environment in terms of temperatures and soil composition. There are lots of possibilities waiting for you, and once you've done your due diligence in your area, give a few of these a look for your garden:

Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana): Also known as old man's beard, this native vine is found commonly in wetter areas. Cascading, white flowers bloom in late summer to early fall, leaving behind long, wispy strands from which it derives its nickname. Give this one partial sunlight, avoid rocky or sandy soils, and be ready for it to climb up to 20 feet if you have space or means for it to do so! A perfect plant for railings, lattices, trellises, and more.

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium): Perfect for bordering or as an ornamental touch, little bluestem will add wonderful texture and year-round color to your garden. Blue-green grass starts the year, then turns a bright rust color throughout fall and into winter. In August, it even sports dark purple flowers! Capable of thriving in a variety of soils, tolerant of drought and heat, plant in full sun and let it do its thing!



Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aethiopicum): Don't be fooled by its delicate appearance! This plant is hardy enough to survive temperatures as low as 10°F, making it perfect for any Detroit garden or yard. It thrives best in moist soil with high humidity, and when properly nurtured, grows lovely, elegant fronds of vibrant green, lending a warm, spring vibe to the area year-round.

If your growing plans involved fruit, you couldn't have picked a better area! Detroit is perfectly suited to accommodate a wide variety of fruit plants, all of which are adapted to handle the cold quite well. Here are a few you can enjoy yourself:

  • Sweetheart and Stella Cherry Trees
  • Asian Pear Trees (Shinseiki, Seuri)
  • Nectar and Candor Peach Trees
  • Honeycrisp and Gala Apple Trees
  • Bosc Pear Trees


Which Plants Are Native to Detroit?

Are you looking to go with something a little more native to the area? If so, you're giving yourself a notable advantage this growing season by utilizing plants that have already adapted to the region and are best suited to preventing soil erosion for it. Not only that, native plants contribute largely to the native ecosystem, providing food and habitat to many birds and pollinating insects that need both reliably. If possible, check to see if there's any endangered plant species you can help restore by planting a few of your own. If you're looking for some inspiration, check with your local nursery! Here are a few local plants we love:

Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium): This shrub is primarily located on the banks of streams and in moist, wooded areas. With dark green leaves and domed clusters of white flowers that bloom in May, it also bears yellow berries that ripen to a bluish-black as its foliage takes on a burgundy coloring. Able to thrive in drier soils and pest-resistant, prune right after the flowers bloom to ensure buds for next summer!

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata): As the name implies, you'll usually find this plant in a number of wetland areas, notably swamps. But don't let the name dissuade you! With tightly clustered, often lovely pink blooms that are quite fragrant, it also can come in a wide variety of colors. Even better, it can survive in well-drained soils and is a favorite of pollinators, especially Monarch butterflies who rely on it to survive!

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius): Perfect for privacy borders, this shrub blooms in spring, after which its flowers drop in summer. This exposes a unique characteristic of this plant due to its bark that peels back and reveals layers of different colors beneath. This pattern is where the plant gets its name! Look for clusters of white or pink flowers when in bloom, and be sure to prune dead or damaged branches in spring, giving it ample sunlight.

Other Plants That Grow Well in Detroit

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): Blooming in spring with large, daisy-like flowers of beautiful yellow, this plant will bring a lively flair to your garden that will attract a number of butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. It's also the first to sport its lovely flowers each year as an early bloomer! Grow in moist, rich soil in full sun to partial shade!

Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides): This formidable tree is tall and graceful with white bark and leaves that "shiver" in the wind. Green in spring, gold in fall, and talkative throughout with its distinctive sounds from which it derives its name! Please give it a minimum of 4 hours of sunlight daily, and be sure to check your soil composition before planting in preparation for nutrients and ample watering. Note their interconnected root systems that connect every tree of its kind in the vicinity! 

Detroit Gardening Tips

With colder winters and frosts that can't be ignored, timing is everything in Detroit. However, this shouldn't deter you or your gardening aspirations in the area, as the growing season is accommodating and prolonged. Moreover, preparing for the colder temperatures is easily navigated by simply staying aware of weather conditions. Utilize your local Farmer's Almanac or similar resource, and you'll be well on your way. Be ready to overwinter certain plants if necessary, and don't be afraid to mulch. Further steps you can take to prepare for the cold are raised beds and cold frames to keep your plants healthy and happy!

When Should I Plant My Garden in Detroit?

Detroit lands in Zone 6 of the USDA Hardiness scale, which means staying informed on the first and last frost dates will be essential for your gardening success. The first of which usually happens in November, and the last comes sometime at the end of April or early May. Bear in mind, these can change from year to year or region to region, so be sure to check your area specifically to be certain of your conditions!

Planting in Zone 6

Like all other Zones of the USDA Hardiness scale, Zone 6 is divided into two subzones, 6a and 6b. Categorized by their average winter temperature range, 6a has a range -10 to -5°F, and zone 6b has a range of -5 to 0°F. Because of this, annuals are commonly utilized in this region. Furthermore, mulching, cold frames, and raised beds are also widely implemented in this area to give plants a little help in surviving the harshest conditions. These tools and practices can also help you accommodate a wider variety of plants available for gardeners to grow each season!