I'm in some gardening groups and every spring, there are so many questions about what plants are growing in gardens.
I realized many of the plants people were trying to identify are in my yard! Young plants often don't look like their adult versions.
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Identifying young spring plants in USDA Zone 5
These plants are just starting to grow in the spring and often look very different now than from when they are full-grown and in some cases flowering.
I'll share if this plant is a friend (keep) or a foe (get rid of it and why).
Sedum Autumn Joy
I LOVE sedum. Especially autumn joy sedum. It's a tall succulent and it is a beautiful green all summer then turns a beautiful pinkish-red in the fall. This happens just when other flowers are past their peak. It also survives a light frost and is a perennial that multiplies. The bonus is that it can easily be separated into more plants.
Here is a close up of this succulent. Obviously right after a rain.
It grows to a height of about 2 feet. It thrives in full sun and is also fine in a partially shady area.
This plant is one of my favorites and definitely a friend to your garden. If you'd like more info. on this one, take a look at this post (with lots more pictures). Autumn Joy Sedum - My Favorite Plant.
Garlic Mustard Weed
Obviously, just from the name alone, it's a weed. A few years ago, it became an issue in Wisconsin. It is very invasive. It doesn't help that it can grow in full sun or even full shade.
When it blooms it has tiny white flowers. Please, I'm begging, pull the plant before it seeds. You'll regret it if you don't. The seeds spread this plant like crazy. One of the biggest issues with this plant is it does something to the soil and will cause issues with native plants growing. The recommendation is to pull it, put it in a bag, and throw it in the garbage. Do NOT compost this - especially if there are seeds.
Garlic mustard weed is my second least favorite plant that I find in my garden. Definitely a foe. You can pull all the garlic out of your yard and if your neighbor doesn't, and it goes to seed, you start over. Hmmm. Maybe it's worth quietly doing some weeding at my neighbor's yard.
I feel like a bad person telling you this is the plant I despise. You see, it's Wisconsin's state flower. And, I live (and love living) in Wisconsin. This plant is a native to my state and it a friend of pollinators.
It's pretty and cute, I'll grant you that.
If it gets into your lawn, it spreads. It will take over your lawn and you can't get rid of these cute little evil devils. I'm not a fan of chemicals to treat my lawn but I did resort to using them last fall. Sadly, they looked droopy for a day and then fully recovered. They are back with a vengeance this spring. I don't recall them blooming other than in the spring. These are my foe and I can't stand them. Apologies to the school children who chose them in 1908 to be the state flower. My favorite description - creepy devil's weed.
From my least favorite to my favorite. I have Annabelle hosta's and they get cut down in the fall. This is what they look like in the spring. You can see the dried out stalks from last year.
Here's a close-up. Often people who have moved into a home in the winter have no idea what this plant is. I get so excited for them because they are going to LOVE it. This is definitely a garden friend!
Below is what an Annabelle hydrangea looks like. It's the perfect flower to dry and make fun things like hydrangea wreaths or to spray paint different colors!
I will confess that I did have too much of a good thing when I moved to my almost 100-year-old home a few years ago.
I think my house may have been the creepy house because of the overgrown vegetation. It's cute now!
If you want to see what a huge transformation (forced, because of a leaking basement), take a look at my post called Regrading my yard to prevent water in my basement.
I am learning to love hostas! They come in so many different shades of green and different sizes. My yard is very shady so I am having to learn to garden with shade versus the bright sun I've always had in the past. Hosta's are definitely a friend in my garden! As an aside, here are 31 shade plants for your garden.
They look like this when they are coming out of the ground. It's another one that gets a ton of questions from new homeowners wondering what this is.
For you non-gardeners, here is a baby hosta with the leaves opening. I had to split a bigger plant last year and this is a small one. All hostas are friends of mine!
Lily of the Valley
This is a friend in my yard but it is physically contained between my house and my cement driveway. I've heard from others it can be very invasive and very hard to get rid of, so it's a foe to many people.
It looks like this when it first pops up.
Then the leaves open up.
This is what this plant looks like when it's blooming. This plant was a staple in many old gardens because it blooms so early in the spring.
One of the reasons I love them is they smell divine. Plus, they are a spring bloomer. Yes, a friend in my yard but I understand why it's a foe in others.
Everyone LOVES peonies, right? They are big and beautiful! Many people don't realize you need to give them a big shake when you cut them to bring inside or you are bringing in ants. But they are sooooo beautiful!
I would think these are a friend to all! My only complaint is they bloom in the spring and then they are done! These are usually the first plant I cut down because they look dry and dead by the fall.
This is what peony looks like when they erupt out of the ground in the spring.
Then, a few days later, they look like this!
As I mentioned earlier, I'm learning to garden with a very shady yard. Ferns are my friend! One of my very generous friends gave me about two dozen ferns. The ferns didn't like being transplanted and didn't look so great at the end of the first summer. The next year, they did great.
This is what the ferns initially look like before they pop up. I think it's amazing how they grow within a few days!
And then when the fern fronds pop up, this is what they look like.
The little ferns above are called fiddleheads at this stage. I've actually eaten fiddleheads. They are delicious and taste kind of like ferns. Not sure if it's a specific type of fern you are supposed to eat, so unless you know for sure, don't try it!
But, I love my ferns and how they wave in the breeze. I'm looking forward to watching them grow this summer!
When I first moved into my home, in the spring there were a ton of these pretty variegated leaves springing up near my hostas. I had never seen them before and thought them pretty. They are pretty but are a quick spreader and also invasive. I yanked and pulled frequently. This weed was the reason I ended up putting down cardboard then mulching heavily on top.
Using cardboard as a weed barrier is a great way to prevent weeds in a chemical-free manner. Take a look at how I used cardboard as a weed barrier and how I got free mulch!
This plant is deceiving and is a real foe in your garden! Pull it when you see one so you don't get overwhelmed.
Spring plants - friend or foe conclusion
It is important to get to know and recognize plants that pop up in the spring. Some are pretty but invasive. By recognizing the foes in your garden, you will be able to preventatively remove them and have a much easier time maintaining your gardens.
I hope I've helped you with identifying spring plants! Pictures do make it much easier!
When the plant flowers, animals may eat the seeds and then poop out the seeds elsewhere. Birds also spread seeds. Some invasive plants are destroying the habitats of local native plants and chocking them out.
The simplest answer is that if a plant is growing where you don't want it to grow, it's a weed. A more specific answer would be that a number of plants are officially categorized as weeds. Look them up in posts like this or a plant app.
**Quick update! I added a post about a pretty blue flower that shows up in the early spring. Take a peek at my Siberian Squill post.
Have fun gardening everyone.