All of these lists are my opinion. There are plenty of excellent choices that are not mentioned. These lists are not ranked in any particular order.
Top 10 Apples for Minnesota
1) Honeycrisp- This U of M apple has become a national favorite. Our trees are all grown on dwarf rootstocks. They may take a year or two after transplant to fruit.
2) Honeygold- This nicely shaped tree is the perfect pollinator for 'Honeycrisp'. Its yellow fruit is best right off of the tree.
3) Haralson- Great cooking apple that produces heavy yields. This tree flowers late.
4) Fireside- Also well matched with 'Honeycrisp', this is an excellent multi-purpose apple. Our 'Firesides' are standard-sized trees.
5) Zestar- One of the newest U of M introductions to become really popular, Zestar is a great apple for fresh eating. It is an early bloomer.
6) Freedom- This spray-free apple tree out of New York produces heavy crops of mildly tart fruits that keep well if kept cold.
7) Sweet Sixteen- We added this U of M tree due to popular demand. It takes a few years to get going and then produces fruit each year.
8) Red Regent- We have this apple because everyone who has it loves it. It bears tasty fruit, that stores well, at a young age.
9) State Fair- This heavy producer offers fruit with superb texture and versatile taste. It works well with 'Zestar' as a pollinator.
10) Wealthy- These trees fruit so heavily at the nursery that they break if we don't stake them. They tend to bear every-other-year. 'Wealthy' offers great disease resistance and all-purpose fruit.
Top 10 Butterfly Plants
1) Butterfly Weed (Asclepias species)- This plant is a host for Monarch caterpillars and a nectar source for many adult butterflies.
2) Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)- Along with other members of the parsley and dill family, this plant is a host for Black Swallowtails.
3) Willow (Salix species)- These shrubs and trees play host to a variety of butterfly larvae.
4) Poplar (Populus species)- Quaking Aspen, Poplars and Cottonwoods are also the preferred diet of several species.
5) MN Strain Redbud (Cercis canadensis)- Legumes like this tree and Wisteria are the ideal hosts for Silver-Spotted Skippers.
6) Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)- All you have to do is walk by a patch of purple coneflowers and you will see butterflies.
7) New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)- These pink and purple beauties draw crowds of butterflies in late summer.
8) Blazing Star (Liatris species)- These easy-care prairie plants are a favorite of many gardeners and butterflies alike!
9) Stonecrop (Sedum species)- In late summer and fall these plants are covered with bees and butterflies.
10) Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)- These brightly-colored flowers are easy to grow and provide an excellent nectar source.
*Native grasses and wildflowers are always a good bet. Butterflies seem most attracted to white and pink blooms.
Top 10 Foliage Shrubs
1) Sem Ash Leaf Spirea
(Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem') Height: 3.4' Width: 3.5-4'
2) Shining Sensation Weigela
(Weigela florida 'Bokrashine') Height: 5-6' Width: 3-4'
3) Orange Rocket Barberry
(Berberis thunbergii 'Orange Rocket') Height: 4-5' Width: 1-2'
4) Tiger Eyes® Sumac
(Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') Height/Width: 6'
5) Amber Jubilee Ninebark
(Physocarpus opulifolius 'Jefam') Height: 5-6' Width: 4'
6) Redwing® American Cranberrybush
(Viburnum trilobum 'J.N. Select') Height: 8-10' Width: 6-8'
7) Magic Carpet Spirea
(Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet') Height: 18" Width: 2'
8) Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle
(Diervilla lonicera) Height: 4' Width: 3-4'
9) Summer Glow Tamarisk
(Tamarix ramosissima 'Summer Glow') Height: 8-10' Width: 6-8'
10) Little Devil Ninebark
(Physocarpus opulifolius 'Donna May') Height/Width: 3-4'
Top 10 Heat & Drought Tolerant
1) Stonecrop (Sedum spp.)- This incredibly tough, succulent plant is usually the first perennial to emerge in spring.
2) Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.)- Daylilies are incredibly tough plants that bloom over a long period- even in partial shade.
3) Russian Sage (Perovskia)- We water our plants at the Carver County Fair during the fair each year and that is it. They're HUGE!
4) Little Bluestem Grass (Schizachyrium scoparium)- This tough grass used to dominate the prairies of Minnesota.
5) Ornamental Onion (Allium spp.)- These lovely perennials have excellent texture. Deer, rabbits and rodents dis-like their oniony flavor.
6) Weigela (Weigela florida)- While they may die back a bit over the winter, they tolerate heat and drought beautifully .
7) Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa)- Deliciously fragrant flowers bloom against disease resistant foliage. These roses are also salt tolerant.
8) Sumac (Rhus spp.)- Varieties like 'Tiger Eyes' are stunning and they do not require irrigation at all.
9) Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera/sessilifolia)- Great disease resistance and good shade tolerance are other benefits.
10) Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)- If this tree can survive my neighbor's kids, it can survive anything!
There are many others, but these are some of my favorites!
Top 10 Low-Maintenance Perennials
1) Sedum (Stonecrop)
Tolerates temperature extremes & drought, emerges early
2) Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass) 'Karl Foerster'
Extremely adaptable and tolerant, great backdrop plant
3) Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
Tough and reliable late bloomer
4) Hemerocallis (Daylily)
Tolerates heat, drought and partial shade. Long bloom time.
5) Sempervivum (Hens & Chicks)
Tough and adaptable. "Babies" can be used to start new plants
6) Vinca minor (Periwinkle)
This lovely little groundcover is tough enough to grow beneath trees.
7) Lamium maculatum (Dead Nettle) 'Purple Dragon'
Blooms all summer in part to full shade with very little care
8) Lamiastrum (Golden Dead Nettle) 'Herman's Pride'
Forms a tidy globe of variegated foliage. Literally grows anywhere!
9) Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris) 'Caesar's Brother'
Plant in a moist location with part to full sun and forget about it
10) Phlox paniculata (Tall Garden Phlox) 'David'
This adaptable late bloomer has excellent mildew resistance
Top 10 Ornamental Trees
1) Redwing Cranberrybush Tree- 8-12'T x 6-8'W: Pruned into tree form, this lovely plant offers spring flowers, summer fruit and fall foliage.
2) Hydrangeas- 5-8'T x 5-10' W: Tolerant of partial shade, compact size ideal for small gardens. 'Quickfire' and 'Limelight' are my faves.
3) Ivory Silk Japanese Lilac- 25'T x 15'W: This narrow version of an old favorite, produces sweet smelling, white flowers after other lilacs are finished blooming. This tree does very well in exposed locations.
4) Crabapples- 6-30'T x 5-30' W: We grow great varieties with excellent disease resistance and fruit retention. My favorite is 'Royal Raindrops'. It's burgundy foliage is quite similar to that of Japanese maples. 'Rejoice' has attractive, ascending branches and rose colored blooms.
5) Bloomerang® Dwarf Korean Lilac- 7-8'T x 4-5': We have high hopes for this new, re-blooming variety.
6) MN Strain Redbud- 20-30'T x 20-25' W: This early blooming beauty tolerates partial shade. Because it is a legume, it is self feeding.
7) Dakota Pinnacle Birch- 30'T x 7-8' W: As you might imagine, NDSU's breeding program generates very hardy trees and this is one of them. Dark green foliage doesn't pale in the heat and turns gold in fall.
8) Shiloh Splash Birch- 8-12'T x 6-8'W: Superb, variegated foliage stays nice and clean all summer. Plant in a protected location.
9) Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn- 15-20'T & W: Interesting, lateral branching and lustrous foliage compliment creamy flowers and dusty rose fruits. Phenomenal food source for wildlife.
10) Burning Bush Tree- 10-12'T x 8-12'W: Good shade tolerance and overall hardiness, excellent fall color in full sun.
Top 10 Tips for Success
1) PROPER IRRIGATION- Water thoroughly and deeply, then
allow the soil to dry out for a few days to encourage root growth.
Don't rely on rain for moisture & water more when it is hot or windy.
2) MULCH- Mulch helps keep soil moisture and temperature consistent. It eliminates competition from weeds and prevents mower injuries.
3) BALANCED NUTRITION- Apply slow-release fertilizers early in the season or top dress the surrounding soil with compost. Use half-strength water-soluble fertilizers only as needed to give small plants a boost. Stop feeding altogether by mid to late July.
4) PROPER SITING- Give plants the amount of light and type of
soil that they need to flourish, based on the needs of their species.
5) PULL WEEDS!- They compete with plants and harbor insect
pests. They also block air flow, promoting fungal growth.
6) DEAD HEAD- Remove spent flowers and dried foliage.
7) DE-SUCKER- Prune off aggressive shoots that grow at the base
of trees as soon as you notice them and as low as you can cut them.
8) THIN OUT- Fast growing shrubs should be thinned out every 2-3 years by cutting out 1/3 of the oldest, thickest stems at their bases.
9) DIVIDE- Dig up and divide overgrown flowers in the spring.
10) HAVE FUN!- Gardening can be very relaxing. It is also great exercise! Make a hobby out of it and you will be richly rewarded.
Top 10 Small Shrubs
1) Spirea, 'Magic Carpet'- 1.5' T x 2' W: Multi-colored foliage and bright pink flowers look lovely together! Very easy to grow.
2) Weigela, 'Minuet'- 2-2.5' T x 2-3' W: Bronze-tinted foliage and re-blooming rose flowers are showy throughout the summer.
3) Potentilla, 'Dakota Sunspot'- This plant blooms from late spring until late fall. It is another winner from NDSU.
4) Barberry, 'Concorde'- 2' T x 3' W: This barberry has a very tidy shape and deep burgundy foliage. Its color compliments other plants.
5) Spruce, 'Blue Nest'- 1.5-2' T x 2-2.5' W: This tough little evergreen looks lovely- even in partial shade. Great steel-blue color.
6) Ninebark, 'Little Devil'- 3-4' T&W: Tons of tiny, burgundy leaves make a stunning backdrop for shell pink flower clusters.
7) Birchleaf Spirea, 'Tor'- 2-3' T&W: I just love the blue-green leaves on this spring bloomer. Fall foliage color is brilliant orange-red.
8) Weigela, 'My Monet'- 1-1.5' T x 1'+: Lovely pink, white and green variegation has great disease resistance. Protect from afternoon sun.
9) Chokeberry, Autumn Magic'- 3-5' T x 2-4' W: Great shade tolerance helps this plant fit in under the eaves. Persistent, edible fruit.
10) Forsythia, 'Gold Tide'- 2-2.5' T x 3-4' W: This plant has wonderful foliage texture and early spring bloom. Subtle fall color.