Most New York green roof installers look towards Europe for green roof plant varieties. Europe has the largest green roof industry and has spent many years testing different plants.
Typically a New York green roof installer will specify a selection of sedum native to the high mountains and wild places across Europe, including the Balkan Mountains and the Carpathians.
Sedum are a mostly succulent low laying plant that like the bright sun and dry conditions of green roofs. Sedum can be found all over the world where rugged, well drained conditions exist.
They are often called stonecrop because they like to grow in the cracks of stones.
As a New York green contractor I too looked towards Europe for information on how to build the perfect Gotham green roof.
Eco Brooklyn is an ecological landscape designer and as such only designs and plants New York gardens with native species. The green roof has been our one exception, the original presumption being that there are not enough native plants to make an interesting green roof landscape. Or at least we didn’t know enough to try.
But as my experience and confidence expanded I started to research native species of sedum. I did a lot of testing on the Eco Brooklyn Green Show House roof. Some plants survived, others didn’t. What I learned is that the typical sedum suggestions for a shallow (extensive) New York green roof is extremely limited.
This is when we realized the opportunity to become a Green Roof Installer specializing in native plant green roofs.
For example we currently have three thriving Butterfly plants on the Eco Brooklyn Show House roof. In three inches of soil! Without watering them!
Butterfly plants on Eco Brooklyn's Show House green roof
Or how about our lambs ear, which is also a NY native. It is very happy on the Show House green roof.
Native Plant Lambs Ear is a good choice for New York green roofs
Another cool New York native is the Eastern Prickly Pear cactus, the only native cactus in northeast North America. It loves being on our roof, although you may not love it once it’s spines get into your skin. They are painful! I hear their fruit is good, although I have not braved the spines.
The Eastern Prickly Pear loves sandy dry soil, so a green roof is great for them.
And for those who don’t know, there are actually over 50 sedum native to North America. The only places in North America that do NOT have a native sedum are the far North of Canada and North Dakota! Not sure why. Even Greenland and Alaska have sedum.
Those 50 or so sedum fall into 18 genera. Here is the full North America genera list from the USDA web site:
Check out this cool map showing all sedum in the USA.
We have a nice little Sedum Glaucophyllum (aka Cliff Stonecrop) in the Show House back yard. It is very happy perched amoung some stones.
Although actually native to Maryland and Virginia we deemed it acceptable to use it in our Brooklyn native garden.
Based on our experimentation and research we feel confident enough to plant green roofs in New York with only native plants. This is groundbreaking and merges two very important ecological traditions – green roof installations and native habitat creation.
A native habitat at the top of the concrete jungle offers protection and rest for animals in a very special way distinct from the more crowded lower gardens. Native plant green roof installations are crucial in building a city that offers homes for more than rats, pigeons and people.
If you have a roof you would like to turn green or know of somebody who does please give us a call! We are New York green roof installers specializing in native plant wildlife habitats and feel the more we are able to build the better the world will be!