Selecting Plants for Extensive Green Roofs


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Selecting Plants for Extensive Green Roofs

  1. 1. Extension Bulletin E -3047 ­ July 2008 Selecting Plants forExtensive Green Roofs in the United States Kristin L. Getter, D. Bradley Rowe Michigan State University
  2. 2. Selecting Plant for Extensive Green Roofs in the United StatesWhat is a Green Roof? intent, expectations of aesthetics should be Green roofs, or vegetated roofs, are an addressed because many species havealternative roofing technology in which plant dormant periods when the green roof may notmaterial is established on the rooftop. They appear so green. For example, many nativeprovide numerous ecological and economic prairie grasses and perennials will normally drybenefits, including stormwater management, and brown in the summer. Although this is aenergy conservation, mitigation of the urban heat natural occurrence, some may find itisland effect, increased longevity of roofing unacceptable.membranes, and mitigation of noise and airpollution. Green roofs also help provide anaesthetically pleasing environment to work andlive in. Green roofs are categorized as intensiveor extensive systems. Intensive green roofs aresimilar to landscaping found at ground level, andrequire media depths greater than 6 inches andhave intense maintenance needs. By contrast,extensive green roofs use shallower mediadepths (less than 6 inches) and require minimalmaintenance. Because of the challenges ofselecting plants for shallow media, thispublication focuses on extensive green roofs. Figure 2. An extensive green roof during dormancy in East Lansing, Mich. Regardless of the desired aesthetic effect, climate and microclimate have a major impact on plant selection. In particular, average high and low temperatures, extreme hot and cold temperatures, irradiance levels, wind, and the amount and distribution of rainfall throughout the year will determine what species can survive in a specific area. Drought tolerance is important because high levels of solar radiation and low media moisture are usually the norm in shallow extensive systems. Likewise, microclimates onFigure 1. A 10.4-acre extensive green roof inDearborn, Mich. at the Ford Motor Co. River Rouge the roof must be considered. Roof slope andassembly plant. orientation may influence the intensity of the sun and media moisture content, surroundingConsiderations for Plant Selection structures may shade a portion of the roof, air Factors in selecting plant material are vents from heating and air conditioning units maydesign intent, aesthetic appeal, environmental dry the media, and chemical exhaust fromconditions, media composition and depth, industrial buildings may influence plant growth.installation methods and maintenance. Design Environmental conditions, especially the amountfactors that may influence plant selection include and distribution of rainfall and temperatureaccessibility to and use of the roof, stormwater extremes, will eliminate the use of certain speciesmanagement objectives, xeriscaping objectives or will dictate the need for irrigation. Althoughand thermal insulation objectives. Before aesthetic appeal is an important criterion on manyselecting species on the basis of the design roofs, survival and stress tolerance are the primary criteria.
  3. 3. Selecting Plant for Extensive Green Roofs in the United States Media composition and depth have a environments, coasts, limestone media or aridmajor impact on plant selection for green roof areas and are probably suitable for green The ideal extensive green roof medium In choosing which plants to use, considerconsists of a balance of lightweight, well-drained plant characteristics such as rate ofmaterials, possesses adequate water- and establishment, longevity, ground cover density,nutrient-holding capacity, and will not break down and disease and pest resistance. The idealover time. Shallow media depths found on species are long-lived and reseed themselves orextensive green roofs dry out fast and usually do spread vegetatively. Drought tolerance is one ofnot support woody species, deep-rooted grasses, the most limiting factors on extensive green roofand many annual or perennial flowering plants. systems because of their shallow media depthsConversely, shallow media often limit the growth and usual reliance on natural precipitation.of many undesirable weeds, and many desirable However, be careful to avoid drought-tolerantspecies are naturally found growing under these species that rely on deep taproots to obtainshallow conditions. moisture – this situation cannot exist on a shallow extensive roof. Succulent plants are well-adapted to the conditions often found on extensive green roofs because of their ability to limit transpiration and store excess water. Species such as Sedum, Delosperma, Euphorbia and Sempervivum are popular choices. Presented here are species suggestions taken from scientific literature, as well as grower recommendations.Figure 3. Typical extensive green roof medium. In addition, installation method mayinfluence plant choice. Plants can be establishedat ground level - grown as plugs or established ona blanket, mat or tray and then placed on the roofdirectly - or on the green roof medium via seed,plugs or cuttings. The availability of individualspecies in any of these forms may influence plantselection. In addition, the method of installationchosen may influence how much irrigation is Figure 4. Green roof established with plugs.required during initial plant establishment. Andthe long-term need of individual species forirrigation will also be an issue in plant selection.Plant Characteristics The variability of green roof designs andclimates in the United States. makes it impracticalto list every possible plant candidate for extensivegreen roofs. As a general rule, potentiallysuitable species can be found by looking at themicroclimate (media depth, solar levels, wateravailability, etc.) of the green roof in question andcomparing it to a plant’s native habitat. Somespecies have evolved in extreme conditions, such Figure 5. Green roof established with mountainous terrains, high altitude
  4. 4. Plants for Extensive Green Roofs in the United States** Grower Scientifically Media depth recomm- RecommendedBotanical name Common name tested State tested tested (inches) ended? regionz Notes y ReferencexAchillea tomentosa Western yarrow X OR 2-4 1 5Agastache foeniculum Blue giant hyssop X MI 4 2,4 9Allium cernuum Nodding wild onion X MI, WA 4,6 X MW 2 3, 8, 9Allium maximowiczii Ornamental onion X MWAllium schoenoprasum Ornamental onion X MW,NEAllium senescens Ornamental onion X MW, MA, SEAllium stellatum Prairie onion X MWAllium tanguticum Ornamental onion X MWAntennaria neglecta Pussytoes X MWAquilegia canadensis Red columbine X MWArctostaphylos uva ursi Kinnikinnick X MA, WA 5, 6 2 6, 8Artemisia tridentata Desert sage X NE 3Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly milkweed X MWAsclepias verticillata Whorled milkweed X MWAster ericoides Heath aster X MWAster laevis Smooth blue aster X MI 4 2,4 9Aster oblongifolius Aromatic aster X MWBouteloua curtipendula Side oat grama X MWBuchloe dactyloides Buffalo grass X MWCarex flacca Heath sedge X MI 4 3Carex pensylvanica Pennsylvania sedge X MW 2Carex radiata Fox sedge X MW 2Cerastium tomentosum Snow-in-summer X OR 2-4 1 5Chrysanthemum vulgare Ox-e ye daisy X MWConvallaria majalis European lily of the valley X MA 6 2 6Coreopsis lanceolata Lanceleaf coreopsis X MI 4 2,4 9Coreopsis palmata Tickseed X MWCoreopsis rosea Pink tickseed X MA 6 6Dalea purpurea Purple prairie clover X MI 4 X MW 4 9Danthonia spicata Poverty oatgrass X MA 6 6
  5. 5. Grower Scientifically Media depth recomm- RecommendedBotanical name Common name tested State tested tested (inches) ended? regionz Notes y ReferencexDelosperma congestum Ice plant X NEDelosperma cooperii Ice plant X OR 2-4 X NE 5Delosperma nubigenum Ice plant X NC, OR 2-6, 2-4 X MA, SE, NE 5,10Deschampsia flexuosa Wavy hairgrass X NE 3Dianthus deltoides Maiden pink X MA,SE 1Elymus elymoides Bottlebrush grass X NE 3Epimedium perralderianum Epimedium X MA 6 2 6Eragrostis spectabilis Purple lovegrass X MWEryngium yuccifolium Button eryngo 3 X MWEuphorbia myrsinites Myrtle spurge X MWFestuca glauca Blue fescue X OR 4 X NE 5Festuca ovina Sheep fescue X MA,SE, NE 1, 3Fragaria virginiana Wild strawberry X MI 4 X MW 2, 4 9Gaultheria procumbens Eastern teaberry X MA 6 2 6Geum triflorum Prairie smoke X MWGilia capitata Bluefield gilia X OR 2-4 1 5Heuchera americana American alumroot X MWHeuchera villosa Hairy alumroot X MA 6 2 6Jovibarba species Hens and chicks X MW, NEJuncus effusus Common rush X MI 4 2,4 9Koeleria macrantha Prairie Junegrass X MI 4 X MW 2,4 9Liatris aspera Tall blazing star X MI 4 2,4 9Lobelia siphilitica Great blue lobelia X MA 6 2 6Lupinus bicolor Miniature lupine X OR 2-4 1 5Lysimachia clethroides Gooseneck yellow loosestrife X MA 6 2 6Maianthemum canadense Canada mayflower X MA 6 2 6Monarda punctata Spotted beebalm X MI 4 2,4 9Muscari species Grape hyacinth X OR 2-4 1 5Nierembergia Cup flower X OR 2-4 5Oenothera macrocarpa Bigfruit evening primrose X MWOpuntia humifusa Prickly pear X MI 4 X MW, NE 3 9Pachysandra procumbens Allegheny spurge X MA 6 2 6
  6. 6. Grower Scientifically Media depth recomm- RecommendedBotanical name Common name tested State tested tested (inches) ended? regionz Notes y ReferencexPenstemon hirsutus Beardtongue X MWPetrorhagia saxifraga Saxifrage pink X PA 2-5 11Phedimus spurius Caucasian stonecrop X MA, MI 6, 1-4 2 1, 6, 9Potentilla anserma Cinquefoil X MI 4 X MW 2,4 9Potentilla neumaniana Cinquefoil X OR 2-4 1 5Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan X MI 4 2,4 9Ruellia humilis Wild petunia X MWSchizachyrium scoparium Little bluestem X MI, MN 4, 2-6 X MW 2,4 7, 9 MA, SE, MW, 1, 3, 5, 9Sedum acre Biting stonecrop X MI, OR 1-6, 2-4 X NESedum aizoon Stonecrop X NE 1, 3, 5, 9, 10,Sedum album White stonecrop X MI, NC, OR, PA 1-6, 2-6, 2-4, 1-6 X MW,NE,MA,SE 11Sedum anacampseros Stonecrop X NESedum cauticola Stonecrop X MI X MW, NE 4 2Sedum cyaneum Stonecrop X NESedum dasyphyllum Thick-leaved stonecrop X MI 1-3 1 1Sedum diffusum Stonecrop X MI 1-3 1 1Sedum divergens Cascade stonecrop X MI, OR 2-4 X MW 4 3, 5 MA,SE, MW, 9Sedum ellacombianum Orange stonecrop X MI 4 X NESedum ewersii Stonecrop X MI 1.5-4 X NE 1 2 MA, SE, MW, 2, 10Sedum floriferum Stonecrop X MI, NC 2-4, 2-4 X NESedum grisbachii Stonecrop X MW, NESedum hispanicum Spanish stonecrop X MI, OR 2-4, 2-4 X NE 1 1, 2Sedum hybridum Hybrid stonecrop X MA,SESedum japonicum Stonecrop X NE MA, SE, MW, 1, 4, 5, 9Sedum kamtschaticum Orange stonecrop X MI, OR 1-4, 2-4 X NESedum lydium Stonecrop X NESedum matrona Stonecrop X MA,SE 1Sedum middendorfianum Stonecrop X MI 1-3 X MW, NE 1,9Sedum oreganum Oregon stonecrop X OR 2-4 X MW,NE 3 5
  7. 7. Grower Scientifically Media depth recomm- RecommendedBotanical name Common name tested State tested tested (inches) ended? regionz Notes y ReferencexSedum pachyclados Stonecrop X MW,NESedum populifolium Stonecrop X NESedum pulchellum Birds claw sedum X MI 4 X MW,NE 2,3 3, 9 1, 2, 3, 5,Sedum reflexum Crooked stonecrop X MI, NC, OR 2-4, 2-6, 2-4 X MA,SE,MW 1 10Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ Stonecrop X MI 2-4 1 2Sedum sarmentosum Stringy stonecrop X MI 2-4 X NE 2Sedum sediforme Pale stonecrop X MI 2-4 X NE 1, 2 MA, MI, NC, MA, SE, MW, 2, 4, 5, 6, 10,Sedum sexangulare Tasteless stonecrop X 6, 2-4, 2-4, 1-5 X OR, PA NE 11Sedum sieboldii Stonecrop X MW, NESedum spathifolium Broadleaf stonecrop X OR 2-4 X MW 5Sedum spectabile Showy stonecrop X MW 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, MA, SE, MW,Sedum spurium Creeping sedum X MI, NC, OR 1-4, 2-4, 2-4 X 9, NE 10Sedum stefco Stonecrop X MI 2-4 X MA, SE, MW 2Sedum stenopetalum Narrow-petaled stonecrop X MI X MW 4 3Sedum tatarinowii Stonecrop X NESedum telephium Stonecrop X OR 2-4 X MW,NE 5Sedum ternatum Woodland stonecrop X MA 6 X MW, NE 2,3 6Sedum tetractinum Chinese sedum X NESedum urvillei Stonecrop X MI 4 3 MA,SE, MW,Sempervivum species Hens and chicks X NESempervivum tectorum Common houseleek X OR 2-4 1 5Sisyrinchium angustifolium Blue-eyed grass X MWSolidago nemoralis Gray goldenrod X MN 2-6 7Sporobolus heterolepsis Prairie dropseed X MI 4 X MW 2,4 9Talinum calycinum Fameflower X MI X MA,SE, NE 1, 3 3Tradescantia ohiensis Spiderwort X MI 4 9Viola pedata Birds-foot violet X MWZ :MA= Midatlantic, SE=Southeast, NE=Northeast, MW=MidwestY X : 1=accent plant, 2=suitable for shade, 3=native to U.S., 4=may need irrigation for survival. : See references (next page).**NOTE: Any species listed here may perform differently depending on the specific micro- and macro-environmental conditions of the roof.
  8. 8. Selecting Plants for Extensive Green Roofs in the United States Little has been published for species Other Resourcestested in southern portions of the United States. • Dunnett, N., and N. Kingsbury. 2004. Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls. Portland, Ore.: Timber Press,However, scientists in Singapore (likely Inc.comparable to a U.S. hardiness zone of 10 or • Snodgrass, E., and L. Snodgrass. 2006. Green Roof11) have found the following species to be Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide. Portland,thriving on a 2- to 4- inch deep roof: Aglaia Ore.: Timber Press, Inc.odorata, Aloe vera, Aptenia cordifolia, Callisia • The Green Roof Research Program at Michigan State University Web site:, Carpobrutus edulis, Delosperma • Green Roof for Healthy Cities Web site:lineare, Furcraea foetida, Ixora coccinea, tomentosa, Liriope muscari,Lonicera japonica, Murraya paniculata, ReferencesOphiopogon intermedius, Pandanus 1. Durhman, A.K., D.B. Rowe and C.L. Rugh. 2007.amaryllifolius, Portulaca grandiflora, Sanseveria Effect of substrate depth on initial coverage, andtrifasciata, Sedum acre, Sedum mexicanum, survival of 25 succulent green roof plant taxa. HortScience 42(3):588-595.Sedum nussbaumerianum, Sedum 2. Getter, K.L., and D.B. Rowe. 2008. Media Depthsarmentosum, Sedum sexangulare, Influences Sedum Green Roof Establishment. UrbanTradescantia pallida, Zephyranthes candida Ecosystems (in press).and Zephyranthes rosea. 3. Getter, K.L., and D.B. Rowe. 2008. Effect Of Solar Radiation Levels On Native And Non-Native Species . In addition, the following species are In Proc. of 6th North American Green Roofcurrently being tested in southern regions of the Conference: Greening Rooftops for SustainableUnited States. No results have yet been Communities, Baltimore, Md. April 30-May 2 2008.published, but they serve as a good starting Toronto: The Cardinal Group.point for extensive green roofs in these regions. 4. Gibbs , J., K. Luckett, V. Jost, S. Morgan, T. Yan and W. Retzlaff. 2006. Evaluating Performance of a GreenIn Florida, with 5 inches of media, the following Roof System with Different Growing Mediums, Sedumspecies are being tested: Gaillardia pulchella, Species and Fertilizer Treatments. In Proc. ofLiatris spicata, Sisyrinchium atlanticum, Midwest Regional Green Roof Symposium,Coreopsis grandiflora, Helianthus debilis, Edwardsville, Ill. June 30 2006. 5. Hauth, E., and T. Liptan. 2003. Plant survival findingsLicania michauxii, Phyla nodiflora, in the Pacific Northwest. In Proc. of 1 st NorthMuhlenbergia capillaris, Arachis glabrata and American Green Roof Conference: GreeningSalvia coccinea. In Texas, with 4 inches of Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, Chicago. Maymedium, the following species are being tested: 29-30, 2003. Toronto: The Cardinal Group.Bouteloua curtipendula, Bouteloua gracilus, 6. Licht, J., and J. Lundholm . 2006. Native Coastal Plants for Northeastern Extensive and Semi-intensiveBouteloua rigidisete, Carex texensis, Nassella Green Roof trays: Substrates, Fabrics, and Planttenuissima, Panicum hallii, Bignonia capreolata, Selection. In Proc. of 4 th North American Green RoofDalea greggii, Erigeron modestus, Hesperaloe Conference: Greening Rooftops for Sustainableparviflora, Manfreda maculosa, Salvia Communities, Boston, Mass. May 11-12, 2006. Toronto: The Cardinal Group.farinacea, Salvia greggii, Scutellaria wrightii, 7. MacDonagh, L.P., N.M. Hallyn and S. Rolph. 2006.Stemodia lanata and Tetraneuris scaposa. Midwestern USA Plant communities + Design = In California, a statewide effort to Bedrock Bluff Prairie Greenroofs. In Proc. of 4 th Northincrease energy efficiency of buildings is under American Green Roof Conference: Greeningway. The creators of that outreach campaign Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, Boston, Mass. May 11-12, 2006. Toronto: The Cardinal Group.suggest the following species may work on an 8. Martin, M.A., and T.M. Hinckley. 2007. Native Plantextensive green roof in the Los Angeles area: Performance On A Seattle Green Roof. In Proc. of 4 thAloe nobilis, Carex stricta, Carex testacea, North American Green Roof Conference: GreeningDelosperma alba, Delosperma cooperii, Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, Minneapolis, Minn. April 29-May 1, 2007. Toronto: The CardinalDudleya hassei, Dudleya pulverulenta, Group.Echinocactus grusonii, Kalanchoe beharensis, 9. Monterusso, M.A., D. B. Rowe and C.L. Rugh. 2005.Lampranthus deltoides, Lampranthus Establishment and persistence of Sedum spp. andproductus, Muhlenbergia rigens, Opuntia native taxa for green roof applications. HortSciencebasilaris, Opuntia violacea santarita, Sedum 40(2):391-396. 10. Moran, A., B. Hunt, G. Jennings . 2004. A Northsieboldii and Sedum spathulifolium. Carolina field study to evaluate green roof runoff quantity, runoff quality, and plant growth. In Proc. of
  9. 9. Selecting Plants for Extensive Green Roofs in the United States 2nd North American Green Roof Conference: 11. Nagase, A., and C. Thuring. 2006. Plant Responses Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, to drought on extensive green roofs: the effects of Portland, Ore. June 2-4, 2004. Toronto: The Cardinal temperature, substrate type and substrate depth. In: Group. Proc. of 4 th North American Green Roof Conference: Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, Boston, Mass. May 11-12, 2006. Toronto: The Cardinal Group. Allium cernuum Delosperma cooperii Delosperma congestum Carex flacca Sedum ewersiiSedum album & S. acre Sedum floriferum Sedum kamtschaticum Sedum pulchellum Sedum reflexum Sedum sarmentosum Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ Talinum calicinum Sedum sexangulare Sedum spurium Sedum urvillei MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, or family status. • Issued in furtherance of Extension work in agriculture and home economics, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thomas G. Coon, Extension director, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI 48824. • This information is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names do not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned. This bulletin becomes public property upon publication and may be printed verbatim with credit to MSU. Reprinting cannot be used to endorse or advertise a commercial product or company.