I am very excited about a new plant, native to our region here in Eastern Connecticut, that I am growing this spring to add to the front yard of our farm as an easy landscaping plant that benefits pollinators. I will also be growing some to sell to the public during our spring 2021 plant sale, if you would like to add some to your yard. I found out about the plaintain leaved pussytoes (PLP for short) through the Wild Seed Project, a nonprofit in Maine that works to encourage people to plant native plants. The PLP is named for its’ flowers resemblance to a cat’s feet, and is also known as woman's tobacco, plantain-leaved everlasting, and by its scientific name, Antennaria plantaginifolia. PLP blooms in the spring and is a low-growing ground cover the rest of the year. Native plants like PLP provide food for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Read on to find out what else is special about the PLP.
Above, the flowers of plantain-leaved pussytoes are said to resemble cat's toes. Photo by Fritzflohrreynolds - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30145010
Rugged and Easy to Care For
PLP is great to plant after removing invasive species from an area. Invasive species come from distant lands and therefore have no predators in our environment to eat them. They can easily dominate a landscape if left unchecked, and provide little food for wildlife while being a nuisance to humans. Oriental bittersweet, roundleaf greenbriar, and barberry are invasive species that were overgrown in the front yard of our farm, creating a mess of vines and thorns. I found PLP on a list of native plants to grow after removing invasive species (click here to view the full list). Shoutout to my Mom and Dad for helping tremendously in clearing out the front yard, by the way. PLP and the other native plants on the list should be aggressive enough to outcompete any invasive species that attempt to come back into the front yard.
Great for a sunny, dry spot
The plantain-leaved pussytoes hates to have its feet wet, and thrives in full sun to part shade in low fertility soil. Our sandy, rocky soil in the front yard, which struggles to hold on to water and nutrients, sounds like it will be ideal for the PLP. We also like it for our front yard because we want for our customers in our CSA and who buy our flowers and vegetables from our farm stand to be able to easily traverse the front yard. PLP is a low growing plant and a great native plant substitute for lawn. So if you are looking for a ground cover to replace your lawn and save on having to water, consider plantain leaved pussytoes. Your lawn does nothing to help pollinators, but PLP will help to sustain them.
Butterfly host plant
The plantain leaved pussytoes is a host plant to the American painted lady butterfly. There are only a few plants, including PLP, that the painted lady butterfly can lay its eggs on. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which turn into the butterflies. So consider adding PLP to your garden in order to help increase the butterfly population. Pollinators like butterflies are so important to the ecosystem and to our food supply.
The American painted lady butterfly, photo By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Self-photographed, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27747981
How to grow it
This upcoming winter and spring of 2020-2021 will be my first season of growing PLP. I ordered my seed through the Wild Seed Project and am eagerly awaiting their arrival. That being said, I won’t plant the seeds until after the winter solstice, due to this plant’s requirement of a period of cold weather in order for the seeds to germinate. I am using the winter sowing method, described further on in this blog post linked here about growing milkweed, although I plan to slightly modify this method by bringing the plants into our greenhouse once they sprout to help them have more growing time. I will then transplant the young plants to the front yard once all danger of frost is passed, which is typically Memorial Day weekend here in eastern Connecticut. If you would like for us to grow some plantain-leaved pussytoes for your own home garden or yard, please subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with news about our spring 2021 plant sale.
About Sterling Organic Farm
Sterling Organic Farm is a USDA certified organic farm in Oneco, CT. We grow and arrange flowers for weddings, events and for everyday bouquets. Check out our flower CSA for the best deals on a weekly flower subscription. We grow a wide variety of organic vegetables available through our vegetable subscription CSA. Click here to learn more about our wedding flowers, and click here to learn more about our CSA shares. 2021 CSA shares are now available at a discount for a limited time.