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Green Roof Plant Blog

Sedum floriferum

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, August 22, 2013

Photo Credit: Jörg Breuning

Sedum floriferum is a perennial which serves as a fantastic ground cover. A slightly darker green foliage, the spongy succulent leaves retain water easily, making this sedum drought tolerant. It will grow approximately four to six inches high. Enjoying full sun, this plant will thrive best in hardiness zones three through nine. It will produce bright yellow, star-shaped flowers in late spring or early summer. Little care should be needed for this independent stonecrop. It invites many nectar-attracted species including butterflies and honey bees. This sedum is easily spread by root cuttings.

Eragrostis spectabilis

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, August 08, 2013

Photo Credit: Illinois Wildflowers

A part of the Poaceae family,  this ornamental grass is loved by a variety of bird species. Growing approximately 1-2 feet tall, the Purple Love Grass makes for fantastic ground cover. Blooming July to August, it forms a purplish-red haze if looking from a far. The flowers usually lose color and brown by October, leaving the flat, coarse leaves in a tangled disarray. Enjoying full sun exposure, this native plant is relatively low maintenance. Very drought resistant and accepting of most soil types, it grown best in hardiness zones 5-9. This grass will spread by self-seeding (resembling miniature tumbleweeds) or by stems taking root along the ground at the nodes.Eragrostis spectabilis prefers semi-intensive green roofs and can survive without artificial irrigation.

Photo Credit: Prairie Moon Nursery

Koeleria macrantha

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Photo Credit: Prairie Moon Nursery

Also known as June Grass, this plant is native to North America, Europe and Asia. This perennial is more of a 'cool-season' grass, although it still appreciates full sun exposure. Blooming in late spring, the silvery-pale green flowers blow in the summer breezes. This plant will possible go dormant in the summer months if the heat becomes too intense, but in cooler climates will thrive until the autumn months. The shallow root system will allow this grass to become about one to two feet high. It will tolerate dry soils and drought along with air pollution. Growing best in hardiness zones 3 through 9, and this ornamental grass will self-seed itself in optimum growing conditions. Growing mainly in clumps, it is a relatively low-maintenance plant.

Photo Credit: Kelly D. Norris, 2011

Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Located North of Chicago, nestled on the Wisconsin-Illinois border, is a wholesale container nursery called Intrinsic Perennial Gardens. Started in 1992, they specialize mainly in one gallon perennials, including ferns, grasses, shrubs, vines and green roof plants.

A Family owned and operated company, Brent Horvath is the current owner of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens. But the family business stretches way back into the 1970s, when his father, Lajos, created Intrinsic Landscaping and his mother, Trudy, ran Flowers by Intrinsic. In 2002, Jörg Breuning introduced modern green roof technology to Brent and his brother, Kurt, of Intrinsic Landscaping. Working together, our companies created the green roof on the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. Not only is Brent the president of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens, he has recently shared with us a list of his top picks of native plants which would specifically flourish on green roofs. Also in the line to appear on bookshelves in the fall is a book by Brent on Sedum, published by Timber Press.

Geum x Sea Breeze   Photo credit: Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

Intrinsic Perennial Gardens strives to grow the best ornamental plants as naturally as possible. Their unique operation allows them to breed and introduce new plants into the trade. They offer over 900 varieties of species, 50 of which have been selected, bred and introduced into their nursery. They propagate around 80% of their own material. Approximately a third is done by seed, a third by cuttings and a third by division. Included on their 23 acre farm is a one acre field specifically for plug production. 

Geum triflorum

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, July 11, 2013

Photo courtesy of Kirk Prairie 2008

Also known as Prairie Smoke or the Old Man's Whiskers, this herbaceous perennial is one of the first to show it's true colors in the spring. Blooming a bold red, this wildflower is a native to northern America. Residing mainly on prairie fields, Geum triflorum loves the sunshine, and is also known to be drought tolerant. A wildflower of the Rosaceae (rose) family, it flourishes in hardiness zones 3-9, and is quite the attraction for bees and butterflies. Growing anywhere from six inches to a foot and a half tall, the fern-like leaves make way for the plume-tipped fruits. Bowing like they just finished a spectacular show, these bulbs will eventually transform into feathery seed tails, in hopes of spreading their seeds. This feathery appearance has also been mistaken as a cloud of smoke.

Prairie Smokes was highlighted as a favorite native green roof plant by Brent Horvath, the owner of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Northern Illinois. 


Allium schoenoprasum - Wild Chives

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, June 21, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

Chives growing on the Bronx County Courthouse, June 2013
Photocredit: Jörg Breuning - Green Roof Technology

Wild Chives are a favorite in the culinary world, used as flavoring and toppings for so many dishes. This perennial is the smallest species of edible onions, deriving from the same family as leeks, shallots, garlic and other onions. It's native land is vast, covering North America, Europe and Asia. But it grows best in full sun within the hardiness zones 4-8. Growing from small bulbs underground, the tubular stalks are extremely fragrant. The bulbs tend to grow closer together forming clusters. Usually growing to around a foot tall, they produce lavender flowers in the summer that look similar to pom-poms and are great for attracting bees.

Sedum album Variety Coral Carpet

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, June 06, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

Photo Credit: Emory Knoll Farms

This sedum, a herbaceous perennial, is a staple green roof plant. Growing best in zones 3-9, this succulent is drought tolerant and loves residing in full sun. Small rounded succulent leaves start as a slamon color changing to a bright green and then eventually a rich red color in winter. They bloom small white flowers in early summer. Easily propagated, plant parts that have been cut and spread out will take root with little effort. Growing about 4-6 inches high, this sedum spreads fairly well, creating sufficient ground cover for extensive green roofs.

Photo Credit: Deeproot Plant Database

The coral carpet variety attracts butterflies and seems to be a favorite of pigeons. Jörg and I recently visited ABC's Carpet warehouse in the Brox, complete with green roof space. The pigeons have been pulling apart the coral carpet, leaving small cuttings behind. This isn't necessarily a bad habit, considering these small plant parts will root themselves, creating even more ground cover.

Petrorhagia saxifraga

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, May 23, 2013


Also known as the Tunic Flower, this low-growing plant will make a lovely addition to any green roof. The flower stems shoot up from the dense grass-like foliage, reaching almost a foot in height and displaying gorgeous white or pale pink flowers. Blooming throughout the summer, this plant loves full exposure to the sun. A hardy perennial that is drought tolerant and can withstand harsher temperatures or poor soil. It grows best in hardiness zones four through seven. The tunic flower has relatively shallow root systems, allowing them to be effective for ground cover. Although native to Eurasia, it has been naturalized in northeast America.




Digitalis purpurea

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

Photo Credit: Plants4Less

Native and widespread through Europe, this herbaceous biennial is a potential plant for rooftops with a deeper growing media depth. A semi-intensive or intensive green roof would serve the Foxglove's fibrous root system well. Growing anywhere from 2-5 feet tall, they tolerate full sun, but prove to be more comfortable with some shade present during the day. Drought intolerant, the Foxglove thrives in hardiness zones 4-8.

If you're planting this biennial for the first time, it must be replanted for the first two years. They will not produce flowers or seeds within the first year of growth. Although, the seeds do have the ability to remain dormant for several years until conditions are favorable for establishment. The tall spirals of long bell-shaped flowers may be worth the wait though. These showy purple flavored flowers present themselves in clusters and their nectar is especially enjoyed by hummingbirds and bees.

Unfortunately there is one shortfall, all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and some animals if ingested because of a toxin called cardiac glycoside digitoxin. But, if extracted from the plant at exactly the right dosage, the Digitalis toxin can have positive effects such as a change in heart rate, strengthen muscle contractions of the heart and increase blood output. This makes this wildflower a crucial ingredient in some heart medicines. There is a very fine line between helping the heart beat stronger and a potential fatal dose that would lead to cardiac arrest. 

In this case beauty exceeds danger; despite the poisonous potential of this plant, it is often spotted in gardens around the world.


Opuntia aureispina

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Photo Credit: John Kameras

A part of the cacti family, the Opuntia aureispina is an endangered perennial endemic to Texas and parts of Mexico. This succulent enjoys full sun and tolerates drought well, flourishing best in hardiness zones 9 through 11. Also known as the Rio Grande Prickly Pear, this shrub has a light bluish-green tint to its flattened oval stems. These waxy stems are protected by bright orange, sharp spines ranging from 2-6 inches long. Come late spring to early summer, yellow flowers appear flaring an orangey-red color at the base. Growing anywhere from 2-4 feet tall, like most prickly pears, they form a dense cluster of plants. 

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