More than Flowers
Chicago Botanic Garden Concludes Largest Green Roof Plant Study in the United States
The Chicago Botanic Garden has released the results of the largest green roof plant study ever conducted in the U.S. Five years of research on the green roof of the Garden’s Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center has led to the publication of Plant Evaluation Notes highlighting the most extensive list of best plants for green roofs in Zone 5.
A diverse group of 216 herbaceous and woody taxa were evaluated in the extensive (growing depth of 3 to 6 inches) to semi-intensive (growing depth of 6 to 8 inches) green roof garden. Nine taxa received five-star excellent ratings for their overall performance and survivability, including Antennaria dioica, Calamintha nepeta, Juniperus chinensis var., sargentii ‘Viridis’, Phlox subulata ‘Apple Blossom’, Phlox subulata ‘Emerald Blue’, Phlox subulata ‘Snowflake’, Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’, Sporobolus heterolepis , and Sporobolus heterolepis ‘Tara’.
Top-rated plants consistently displayed good vigor and robust habits, superior ornamental qualities, disease resistance, heat and drought tolerance, and winter hardiness/ survivability throughout the evaluation period. Additionally, 69 taxa received four-star good ratings for their strong performances.
«Ultimately, the success of a green roof is due to the success of the plants growing on it,» said Richard Hawke, plant evaluation manager at the Chicago Botanic Garden. «Plant trials like the one undertaken here are crucial to increasing the knowledge about the best plants for green roof culture.»
The Plant Conservation Science Center is a 38,000-square-foot, LEED gold-rated research laboratory with two 8,000-square-foot gardens on the north and south sides of the building’s central clerestory. The Ellis Goodman Family Foundation Green Roof Garden South features regional and national native plants, many of which are not currently used as rooftop plants, while the Josephine P. & John J. Louis Foundation Green Roof Garden North features a mix of plants known as good green roof plants, plus native and exotic plants that have potential for green roof use.
«The sky’s the limit for plants we can grow on green roofs,» Hawke said. «We will continue to incorporate more taxa into our trials as the Garden further develops its recommended list of best plants for roof gardens.»