Mar
01

Five Reasons Native Plants Will Like Your Garden

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There is so much being written about establishing a native garden. In some areas of the country, new developments are being landscaped using only native plants. Here is an article by Annie White , a research assistant, from The University of Vermont. It explains very well the benefits of having native plants.

A native plant, by definition, has existed for thousands of years in a particular region. Without the help of gardeners with watering cans, bags of fertilizer, and bales of straw mulch, these plants naturally adapted to the conditions around them.  A plant that is native to a particular region is naturally more tolerant of the local climate, rainfall trends, soils, insects, and diseases. These attributes can contribute to a lower-maintenance, longer-lasting, and environmentally friendly garden.  Here are five reasons why native plants will like your garden as much as you like them.

Native plants like your cold winter.  One of the cardinal rules of gardening is to select plants that are tolerant of your local climate.  For a perennial plant to reemerge every year, it must be tolerant of the date at which frost arrives in the fall, the cold winter temperatures, and when frosts end in the spring. The USDA’s hardiness zone map (planthardiness.ars.usda.gov) helps gardeners select plants suited to their climate, but there’s still a lot of trial-and-error when selecting non-native and hybrid plants. A safer investment is to choose native plants, which have already endured thousands of winters in your region. Native plants contribute to a beautiful and long-lasting landscape.

Native plants like your rainfall.  Rainfall is another important consideration when selecting plants for a garden. Selecting plants that are adapted to the amount of rainfall, and to the seasonal timing of rainfall, will be more successful and require less maintenance. A native plant naturally is adapted to your rainfall conditions and, once established, generally doesn’t require additional watering. This will decrease the maintenance needs of the garden and also help to conserve water. Just remember that a native plant still needs to be planted in an appropriate location, which is similar to where it grows naturally. For example, a native wetland shrub, such as Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) won’t be happy on a dry knoll in your landscape; it must be planted in a consistently wet location, such as a rain garden, swale or pond edge.

Native plants like your soil.  Soil characteristics are often overlooked by gardeners, but are very important to plants. Some plants struggle in clay soils, which tend to hold water, while others struggle in sandy soils, which dry out quickly. A plant that is native to your region and soil type will be tolerant of your soil conditions. Many native plants have strategies for coping with the soil conditions.  For example, native Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurpea) have long tap roots that break up the texture of clay soil and are long enough to avoid rotting from the clay’s moisture.

Native plants like your soil fertility.  For thousands of years before humans began gardening, native plants grew, flowered, and fruited without the help of fertilizers. It’s no different today.  In fact, the outcome of fertilizing native plants is often undesirable. It can result in tall plants with many leaves, but few flowers. The fertilized plants sometimes can’t support their own weight and will topple easily in a wind or rain storm. By planting native plants you can avoid fertilizers, save your time and money, and avoid potential water pollution from runoff.

Native plants like your insects.  Native plants have shared the landscape with insects for centuries. They are often an important food for beneficial insects, while they are less desirable to some of our exotic insect pests. For example, Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) is a nectar source for native bees and butterflies, but are left alone by the pesky Japanese beetle. Save your time, money and the environment by planting native plants and avoiding the use of insecticides.

All of these attributes make native plants valuable to the sustainability of your garden.  A landscape full of plants that are adapted to the local temperatures, rainfall, soils, fertility, and insects will be long-lasting and require fewer resources, and less of your time to maintain. You can sit back and enjoy your beautiful landscape and all the birds and butterflies it attracts.  For more information about what natives are best-suited for your region, visit the Plant Native

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