Book Review: Native Plants for Prairie Gardens

By June Flanagan

· Publisher: Fifth House Books, (2005)

· Paperback: 208 pages

· ISBN-10: 1391894856

· Dimensions: 9” X 9”

· Price: $33.21 (; $10.91 (used, on

Note: This review is adapted and expanded from the one I posted to Amazon after purchasing the book in 2017.

The title is a bit misleading. I was expecting more of a field guide to plants suitable for gardening. Instead, the book is more about acquiring, planting and growing the native species. It contains very few pictures – mostly text. I probably would have called the book “Gardening with Native Prairie Plants” because what you get is a well thought out treatise on that topic.

The book starts with definitions of prairie, then lists the plants for various uses in the garden (colour, xeriscaping, shade, winter interest, etc.). The chapter on acquiring native plants differentiates between garden center sources (true native plants vs cultivars) and gathering your own seed – including a section on storing your seeds.

The author talks about adding organic matter to help your gardens, and this may be necessary for her region, but in southern Ontario my experience has been that adding organic matter only makes your plants tall and “leggy” and prone to falling over. They are quite capable of finding all the nutrients they need with their deep roots.

There is a chapter on plant propagation that is quite good, but if you are serious about this aspect, I highly recommend you also get The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest (see my book review from Nov 24, 2023).

In the final chapter (which is slightly more than half the book) the author identifies a number of wildflowers, grasses and woody plants, and includes a table on the blooming period of the plants. Each plant is well described, with one (albeit very good) photo of each plant, and lots of interesting information. The area the book covers is the upper Midwest of the US and the southern Prairie provinces in Canada – all points west of Lake Michigan and Ontario and although most of the plants listed are not native to my southern Great Lakes region, a few are. But that is not the strength of this little book. What I liked about the book is contained in the first half – the parts about using the plants in your garden.

If you are in the southern Great Lakes region, this book may not offer enough for you, but it’s a great read and I believe it was worth adding to my collection.

Happy Native Plant Gardening.

© The Native Plant Gardener 2024