Audubon® American Sweet Flag
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Having a pond on your property is a wonderful way to encourage birds to visit your backyard, and American Sweet Flag is a fine choice for planting pondside. When planted at the edge of large ponds, it may serve as good nesting habitat for ducks and shorebirds; in smaller gardens, it’s simply a nice native plant that looks right at home by the water. At first glance, you might think the strappy foliage belongs to Cattail, but American Sweet Flag is smaller-growing than Cattail, and its leaves have a delightful spicy-citrus fragrance. Some scatter the foliage in cupboards to impart a fresh scent to their linens.
May Benefit & Attract: wrens, wood warblers
Take Birds Under Your Wing
New! Introducing our bird-friendly collection of Audubon® Native Plants & Trees
- Better for Birds, 100% Neonic-Free
- Not Available in non-native regions, states or counties (see Native Regions map)
Bower & Branch is proud to grow Audubon® Native Plants for Birds in partnership with the National Audubon Society to help birds and other wildlife thrive.
- The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow
- This bird-friendly native plant provides food and shelter for local and migrating birds and other wildlife
- Your purchase and planting of this native flora directly supports Audubon’s conservation mission and impact
- Learn how you can help birds in your home and community through Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- Audubon Native Plants & Trees are free of neonicotinoids and exclusively grown by Bower & Branch
Audubon® is a licensed and registered trademark of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-10
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Recommended by Our Growers
American Sweet Flag is a cool climate–loving species found most abundantly in Canada, the Upper Midwest, and New England. It occurs along lakes, ponds, and bogs, and can grow in up to one foot of water. American Sweet Flag was valued by native peoples for many purposes. The strong but pliable leaves were woven into mats, baskets, and thatched roofs, while the aromatic roots were used as perfume ad insect repellent. The roots were also ingested to treat a variety of disorders, including headaches, fatigue, heartburn, nausea, colds, and arthritis. Sweet Flag can induce vomiting and hallucinations as well, so please don’t eat it!
American Sweet Flag is often confused with a closely related Eurasian Sweet Flag that has naturalized in the U.S. The American form produces fertile seeds; the exotic variety does not, though it has still managed to spread widely throughout the eastern states and in isolated pockets in the West.
How to Grow
Constant moisture is a must for American Sweet Flag. It will even grow submerged in up to 12 inches of standing water. In dry conditions, it may survive, but the foliage will suffer. Give it a full sun position or one in very light shade. Sweet Flag expands steadily via sturdy rhizomes (rootlike underground stems); don’t place it near more delicate plants. In small water gardens, it could be grown in a container to control its spread. The foliage is evergreen and may not need to be cut back in spring, but if it does need a haircut, it will be a pleasant, aromatic task!
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