North Dakota Planting Guide: Best Regional Flora Picks

Gardening in North Dakota isn’t for the faint-hearted. With a growing season that’s squeezed into just about 130 days between frosts, it’s like trying to run a marathon in sprint time. The weather swings from bone-chilling winters to sun-soaked summers, leaving gardeners with a tight schedule to get their plants in the ground, growing, and harvested. So, how do you make the most of this brief window and turn your garden into a thriving spot that can stand up to North Dakota’s tough conditions? Let’s dive into some practical tips and strategies to help you beat the clock and grow a garden that’s as resilient as it is beautiful -and be sure to read to the end for our top 7 North Dakota native plants for your planter beds!

Choosing Native Plants: Your First Step to Thriving Gardens in North Dakota’s Climate

Every best practice about landscaping typically recommends sticking with native plants. The benefits are numerous. 

Native plants have the best odds of survival since they’re well-suited for the local climate and soil conditions. Native plants also encourage biodiversity, which can be a boon to the environment. 

In addition to choosing native plants, you must also work with the rhythm of North Dakota’s growing season and unique traits. The growing season in ND is approximately 130 days and typically runs from mid-May to the latter days of September. 

What period is the growing season in ND?

As the year comes to a wintery close, it’s vital to start thinking about how your garden will look next year. Planning ensures you can order your seeds early, clean your gardening tools, and avoid a last-minute rush or missing out on your preferred floral picks. 

But when is the ideal time to start planting new seeds? How long is the growing season? And which regions and planting zones are more fertile in ND? 

We answer all these questions below. 

What is the duration of the growing season in ND?  

The growing season in ND lasts for an average of 130 days. The ND Water Commission defines the growing season as “the period of each year during which the temperature of cultivated vegetation remains high enough to allow for plant growth.” 

This period is the difference between the date of the last frost and the date of the first frost. This period often varies slightly across different cities within ND. 

The last frost date is often between the 9th and 12th of May, and the first is typically between the 17th and the 25th of September. So, based on these dates, the growing season in ND lasts about 130 days, on average.

What is the best zone for planting in ND?

Planting guide blog images
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According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) map, ND is in zones 3 and 4 based on the Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM). The higher the number, the warmer the location. 

The PHZM is a general guide to help gardeners grow plants with the best chance of success within a location. In ND, each zone is somewhat similar, considering the temperature difference is roughly 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

We say all these because knowing your zone helps determine the type of plants to prioritize and when to begin indoor planting. 

That said other factors like light, garden soil moisture, humidity, duration of exposure to cold, and more. Moreover, you may stay in a certain zone but experience a localized microclimate different from the whole area. 

So, the answer to this question is that it depends on what you intend to plant. Trees with thick tree trunks, like common juniper and Tatarian honeysuckle, thrive in zone three, while trees like sugar maple and Virginia creeper grow best in zone four. 

When should seeds be planted in North Dakota?

Again, this is one of those questions where the answer is, “It depends.” It depends on the plant or tree in question. For example, you may start planting beets indoors if you’re in zone 4. But you must wait till mid-May in zone 3. The zone will also determine when to transplant the indoor plants and the best time for harvest. 

Furthermore, the seed packets also contain instructions on when to plant each seed. The pack may state how many weeks before the last frost you can begin planting indoors. 

In the “Best plants and planting calendar in North Dakota” section, we provide 15-17 vegetable plants you can grow in ND with additional details on when to start planting them indoors and when to transplant them. 

Gardening strategy in ND

Some of the strategies you can adopt for a high yield on your gardening investments include:

1. Buy nursery stock from trusted sources

The number one strategy for a higher return on your time, effort, and financial investment is buying nursery stock with the right hardiness zone tag. 

The primary benefit is that you have a plant well adapted to ND’s climate. That’s why it’s imperative to only buy your seeds from a trusted source like a nursery dealer or horticulturist. 

Our experts at Cityscapes Landscaping can help you choose and select the best plants and flowers for your garden. 

2. Choose plants with a lower band hardiness score that matches your zone

On many plant tags, you should see a range like 3-5 or 4-8 or something similar. For example, someone in Langdon or Cando with a zone rating of 3b can plant a tree with a 3-7 hardiness rating. 

However, it would be unwise to plant a tree with a hardiness rating of 5-8 because the tree survives in much warmer climes. So, pay attention to the plant tags and ensure the lower band matches the hardiness rating of your zone. 

3. Water plants in the morning

The morning is the best time to water your plants. This may not necessarily apply to only gardens in ND, but it’s worth mentioning. 

Watering in the morning gives the plants enough time to dry off during the day. Moreover, only a smaller fraction of the water gets absorbed by the plants when you irrigate during the day or when there’s high wind. 

It’s also worth mentioning that you should target the roots rather than the leaves. 

4. Mulch well

The state of North Dakota, with 17 inches of precipitation each year, ranks high amongst the driest states in the United States. About 2-3 inches of organic mulch should suffice. 

This means you may have to supply the bulk of the water your plants need when they’re in the open. With a drier climate, plans are also more likely to lose moisture. 

Mulching can help achieve two things. One, it can trap moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps prevent soil splashing on the plants, which may transfer diseases from the former to the latter. 

5. Improve workability of the soil

There are two ways to do this: the first is using organic matter like unmilled sphagnum moss, and the other is turning the soil over after harvest. 

Good workability improves soil drainage and generally facilitates more efficient water use. 

6. Avoid working the soil when it is too wet

You may feel the urge to start working or tilling the soil when it’s too wet, especially if the last frost comes later than expected. However, doing so can destroy the soil structure. It’ll make the soil compact, which significantly reduces its drainage characteristics. 

North Dakota Native Plants in Planter Bed
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7. Get the soil tested

This step is especially crucial if you’re venturing into gardening for the first time or if previous attempts haven’t quite turned out as hoped. Ensuring that the soil in your garden is well-suited for the plants you intend to grow can make all the difference. Conducting soil tests to check for pH levels, organic matter content, and especially nitrogen levels is vital, as high nitrogen can adversely affect crop performance.

For those in North Dakota, the NDSU Extension Service offers an invaluable resource through their Soil Testing Lab, part of the Department of Plant Pathology. These comprehensive soil tests provide essential insights into your soil’s health, guiding you to adjust your gardening strategies effectively. Whether you’re a homeowner looking to cultivate a lush garden or a farmer aiming for a bountiful harvest, leveraging these tests can help you tailor your planting and maintenance practices for the best possible outcomes

8. Don’t start seeding early

Seeding early means you have to transplant early, which may not lead to optimum results. For example, if you plant tomatoes and other warm-season crops early, you’ll have to transplant them when the last frost hasn’t gone. 

While this is not set in stone, mid-April is a good date to start seeding. As always, monitor local weather updates to make more informed decisions. 

9. Harden off seedlings before full transplant

Plants grown indoors are often softer and more tender than those outside. It is vital to harden these plants before exposing them to the harsh rigors of the garden. 

The idea is to gradually expose them to the outdoors. So each day, you may place them outdoors for 1 hour. You can do this for about 7-10 days. However, put them away from direct wind and the sun. 

10. Use companion planting

Companion planting has many benefits, including pollination, pest control, optimal space use, and superior crop performance. The idea is to plant crops that are “friends” closer so they can complement each other. 

For example, corn and beans can be “direct seeded” in the same hole. The tendrils from the bean can wrap around the corn stalk. 

Best plants and planting calendar in ND

Wondering when is the right time to plant in North Dakota? The table below summarizes some of the best plants and important details you need to know about them. 

March Planting

During a mild spring in North Dakota, the second-half of March is a great time to plant oregano and thyme.

April Planting

Begin tomatoes, eggplants, and other pepper plants indoors

You can begin beets, broccoli, Brussels

sprouts, cabbage, marigolds, kohlrabi, Swish chard, kale, onions, peas,

peppers, spinach and tomatoes indoors, but plant sweet potatoes outside.

May Planting

Early May, you can start planting spinach, peas, lettuce, kale,

cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, Brussels sprouts, and beets.

You may also begin to plant vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots, and spinach outside.

June Planting

Transfer your tomatoes, peppers, spinach, peas, lettuce, kale, cauliflower,

cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and

Beets to the outdoors. Remember to introduce them to the outside gradually. 

In Zone for, the time is ripe to start planting beans indoors and placing Brussels

sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, onions,

peppers and tomatoes outdoors. You can start planting corn, squash, and cucumbers inside.

July Planting

Plant beans, cucumbers and carrots outdoors if you’re in zone 3.

Do the same in 4, but you can add corn and squash to the list. However, start carrots, lettuce, kale, and spinach inside. 

August Planting

In zone 4, you can begin the cycle again for some plants, such as beets, spinach, kale, carrots, and lettuce.  

Best ND native plants for your flower beds

Some of the best native plants for your garden are:

1. White yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

White yarrow Achillea millefolium
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The white snakeroot plant grows to about 5 feet tall. It requires partial sun to grow and well-drained soil with medium moisture. This plant is well known to attract birds and butterflies.

4. Prairie onion (Allium stellatum)

4. Prairie onion Allium stellatum
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After 3 white flowers, we are due for a splash of color. Introducing the beautiful prairie onion. Also known as the autumn onion, the prairie onion can grow to about 2 feet tall and one-foot spread. It’s popular for being very attractive to pollinators. It can grow under full or partial sun but requires sandy or loamy soil.

5. Meadow anemone (Anemone canadensis)

North Dakota Planting Guide Best Regional Flora Picks Cityscape
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The meadow anemone can grow under shade or partially in the sun. It requires more than medium water and thrives in moist and well-drained soil. Aside from the water needs, this plant is easy to tend to. 

6. False aster (Boltonia asteroides)

False aster Boltonia asteroides
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Also known as the white doll’s daisy, the false aster plant is a beautiful flower that’ll bring so much color and warmth to your garden. It has very low to medium moisture needs and grows well in well-drained soil.

7. Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

Arrowleaf balsamroot Balsamorhiza sagittata
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This plant is also low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. You’ll need soil with acidic to neutral pH to grow this flower. Additionally, it blossoms well in full sun. Its other names include Oregon sunflower and spring sunflower. 

Takeaway: Beautiful gardens with native flowers and productive vegetable yield

In this North Dakota planting guide, we’ve provided useful information on maximizing the growing season, which lasts about 130 days. We also shared a few strategies you can add to your gardening to increase crop yield. 

Some of these strategies include hardening off seedlings before transplanting them, buying nursery stocks from trusted sources, avoiding seeding too early, watering the plants early in the day, and much more. 

We also shared a cheat sheet calendar that provides when to plant certain vegetables, whether in zone 3 or 4. Lastly, we shared some beautiful native flowers you can add to your garden from an aesthetic and sustainability perspective. 

We are sure you’ll have a more productive growing season when you adopt the above strategies and insights. 

Are you unsure what to do with your outdoor space? The experts at Cityscapes Landscaping can transform your front yard from barren land to lush grass and beautiful planter beds. Check out our planter bed services today!