I love native plants. I garden for beauty and wildlife and nothing supports healthy habitats better than native plants.
So what are native plants? They are beautiful, resilient plants that naturally occur in an area.
Having evolved over millennia with native wildlife, they naturally support them best. A native white oak supports 557 species of butterflies and moths while a non-native gingko tree supports just five.
So if you want to support bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects that help control pests, native plants are the way to go.
They also support larger wildlife such as birds with their seeds, fruit, shelter, and places to raise young. Again, native plants evolved with them, so they naturally provide what they need.
According to conservationist, author, and entomologist Doug Tallamy who penned the bestsellers “Bringing Nature Home” and “Nature’s Best Hope,” native plants support 29 times more wildlife diversity than non-native plants.
Well adapted to our soil and climate, native plants are resilient with a capital “R.” They’ve persisted through many hot, dry, wet, and cold years, surviving all previous climate change that has occurred, positioning them well to adapt to future changes.
Adapting over eons makes you tough. Native plants have fewer pest and disease issues and some have deep roots which make them drought resistant. That means less watering, fewer chemicals, and a healthier landscape.
Did I mention how beautiful they are? There is a nasty rumor out there that native plants are weedy. Bosh and balderdash.
Native coral honeysuckle trumpets red/yellow/orange flowers that welcome hummingbirds. Threadleaf coreopsis wafts a riot of petite yellow daisies in a drift of lacy foliage.
Don’t get me started on native trees and shrubs. I love ninebark’s white pompoms, the red dangling fruit of chokeberry, the deep maroon flowers of Carolina allspice (native from our South), skinny willow oak leaves, and the giant leaves of pawpaws.
How can you find out what native plants might work in your landscape?
My favorite native plant reference, “Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping,” has color photos and plant profiles. Download it for free.
Where do you find native plants? Visit your favorite garden center. Native plants are becoming more common. If they’re not there, ask. Nurseries grow and buy based on client interest.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to include some native plants in your landscape to add beauty, invite wildlife and support a healthy ecosystem.
By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.