Whether you’re a garden novice or an experienced green thumb, planting native plants can benefit the environment and your home. They thrive with the local soil and climate conditions, and require less supplemental water and pest control chemicals.
Adding native wildflowers and grasses to your landscape is easy and enjoyable. Plants with varying blooming seasons provide color throughout spring, summer and fall.
Planting native trees, shrubs, berries, and grasses is the single best thing you can do to attract birds. Many bird species have lost their habitats to invasive plants, which not only sever the food chain but also crowd out the insects that birds rely on for sustenance.
Native plants are well adapted to the climate, soil conditions, and light of your region. They often produce abundant seeds for the birds, and they support them by reviving the insect populations on which 97% of land birds depend.
Sparrows love thickets, such as blackberry or tall grasses like broomsedge and bermudagrass, and they are also drawn to native perennials such as asters and thistle. Goldfinches adore daisies, whose seeds they scatter far and wide, while chickadees and tufted titmice are enticed by native berry plants, including elderberries, serviceberries, and goldenrod.
Butterflies flit through the landscape, collecting pollen on their proboscises to help plants reproduce. They can be an amazing sight, especially when you’ve planted native flowers that bloom for long periods of time.
Try woodland wildflowers such as twinleaf, whose green foliage emerges before the trees leaf out and then produces an impressive display of individually borne, white flowers in spring and summer. Or consider yellow lady’s slipper (Cyclamen repandum), a spring flower that requires patience to watch as it grows, but that rewards you with its lovely flowering and lush groundcover-like foliage.
Planting native plants can also reduce the need for pesticides in your garden, because these local species have adapted to one another and have developed natural defenses against local insects. This allows you to enjoy your garden without the use of chemical sprays.
Attracts Beneficial Insects
A diversity of plant heights, shapes and colors provides a rich landscape for pollinators. Look for native ground covers, perennials, shrubs and vines. Visit local nurseries and botanical gardens for inspiration.
Many native plants host predatory insects that prey on vegetable pests. Adding them to the garden creates a buffer that prevents the bad bugs from moving in on the crop zone.
Plants with shallow exposed nectaries, such as flowers in the aster family and umbellifer families like carrot, dill, parsley and ammi (Bishop’s lace), attract a variety of beneficial insects. Consider interplanting dill or cilantro, and allowing them to flower, to keep parasitic wasps on patrol. This is called “biological control” and is the best way to prevent vegetable insect infestations. BIRBs or islands planted around vegetable beds are another way to encourage beneficial insect diversity.
With their brightly colored blooms packed with pollen, native plants entice bees to your garden. The plants also provide a more natural food source for native bees than exotic flowers and shrubs.
Unlike many non-native landscape plants that require constant watering and fertilizer, native species are adapted to the local environmental conditions. This saves time, money and resources.
Native plant cultivars are available at most garden centers, nurseries and big box stores. Look for those with the most eco-friendly features, such as drought tolerant, deer resistant and low maintenance.
Try a few native perennial herbs such as catmint and lilyturf, or add heat- and drought tolerant grasses and prairie plants to your sunny garden. A mix of flowering plants adds color and blooms from spring through fall. Groupings of pollen-rich flowers are more attractive to bees and improve cross-pollination.
Attracts Other Wildlife
Native plants attract local wildlife because they provide diverse food sources (like nuts, berries, and seeds), habitats, and pollinators. They also do much of the same work as lawns in cleaning our air, but they are better at it because of their deep roots and ability to absorb and retain water.
Natives grow well without excessive fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that damage the environment. They will even self-seed in the right conditions. You can help this process by deadheading spent flowers and sharing extra seed with your gardening friends.
To find native wildflowers, shrubs and trees that are suited to your climate and soils, consult an online native plant database or visit your state’s cooperative extension service. You can also ask for assistance from your local native plant society, which will connect you with fellow lovers of local plants and horticulture.