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Green Roof Plant Blog

Artemisia frigida

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Also known as Arctic Sage, this member of the Aster family is common in the Rocky Mountains and great plains of North America. Growing to approximately a foot tall, this plant is perfect for erosion control or simply as ground cover. It loves the sunshine and is considered drought tolerant. It is a woody-based perennial with an evergreen color, covered in silvery hairs, giving it an almost frosty appearance. Blooming in the summer months, the pale yellow flowers and fruit are rather discreet.

The arctic sage will spread rapidly in over-grazed lands, making some consider it as a weed. Although it was once valued by the Native Americans as they commonly used it to treat various ailments such as colds, wounds and headaches.

Photo Credit: James Sowerwine

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

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.




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. 

Thymus serpyllum - Wild Thyme

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Photo Credit:

Wild Thyme is a low, creeping herbaceous perennial. Only growing to about 4" tall, this evergreen shrub makes for great ground cover. Although native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, Thyme has been naturalized in most of North America. Spotted growing in between zones 4 and 8, the plant will flourish in full sun with average to well-drained soils. Soggy soils can make Wild Thyme susceptible to root rot. In early summer a sea of purple flowers appear. These clusters of flowers may range from lilac to magenta. Don't let the tiny appearance of these flowers fool you, they are strongly scented, giving off an herbal-like lemony scent. The flowers attract wild honeybees and butterflies. In Europe the Large Blue Butterfly relies on the presence of Wild Thyme because they feed almost exclusively on it.

The leaves are oval and slender, with a slight glossy appearance. The oil found within the leaves is an antiseptic, disinfectant, expectorant, and a diuretic. It is most commonly used to treat respiratory infections, but is also used to fight cramps & spasms, cuts & ulcers, headaches or weak digestion. Thyme is also a popular herb used in the culinary arts and may also be made into tea.Thyme is one of many valuable plants that is suitable for urban farming on bio-diverse non-irrigated extensive green roofs in less polluted areas.


Tulipa sylvestris

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Also known as the woodland or wild tulip, this fragrant, sunshine yellow flower was first recorded in Europe.  Easily naturalized in fields, it can be found mostly in the north eastern United States in hardiness zones 3-9.  Growing anywhere from 4-12", this tulip is comfortable in full sun or partial shade and grows best in well drained soils.  Blooming in mid to late spring, the wild tulip has the ability to clone itself by underground stolons, running horizontally and popping up several feet away.  These runners help this bulbous perennial to spread easily over any landscape. Ironically these woodland tulips have been slowly disappearing in the wild.


Viola sororia Willd.

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 

The common blue violet is a low growing herbaceous perennial, native to Eastern North America.  Clusters of showy purple, blue or white flowers bloom throughout the summer. These flowers often attract butterflies. The foliage is a bright green, with serrated leaves resembling the shape of a heart.  It enjoys sunshine and grows best in between hardy zones 3 and 7. Easiest when grown in average, well-drained soils.  This plant may be sowed now, any time between November and March. If favorable growing conditions, this little violet has the potential to spread rapidly.

The violet was viewed as a symbol of love and fertility by the Ancient Greeks along with modesty and innocence by the Romans. The flowers and young leaves of this plant are edible, but described as bland tasting, although they are rather rich in vitamins A and C.    

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