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Landscaping... native plants

Fast & Easy Info

  • Native plants are those that grow naturally in the region where they evolved. They are hardy because they have adapted to local growing conditions: climate, rainfall, soil quality, available sunshine, pests and predators. They benefit a landscape because, once they are established, they usually require very little in the way of pesticides and fertilizers and even water. They also attract a variety of birds, butterflies, insects and animals.
  • In North America , plant species are considered native if they were growing here prior to European settlement. Today, approximately 25% of flowering plants in North America are non-natives or alien species, most of European or Asian origin.
  • Native plants can help prevent the spread of alien or invasive species by helping to keep ecosystems diverse, healthy and intact.
  • Native plants also provide familiar sources of food and shelter for wildlife, especially as more and more development occurs and wildlife habitat is destroyed.
  • Overall, planting native species is a simple step we can take in our own yards to strengthen and rebuild our natural world.

Dollars & Sense Options

  • For a cheap source of native plants, join your local horticulture or native plant society. Swap plants with other members. Or, organize a plant swap in your neighborhood. Here's how, compliments of HGTV.

  • Your can also swap plants online.

  • To find a Native Plant Society in your region, contact the Native Plant Information Network.

  • To determine what natives to plant in your landscape, visit PlantNative.

For Your Shopping List:

It's impossible to recommend specific native plants to put on your shopping list. Since natives are particular to a region, you need to do some research to determine what's right for your yard. These books will help get you started.

In My House


When we moved onto our property 20 years ago, our landscape was, to put it mildly, a mess. Dense thickets of bamboo coveted the only sunny ground in the entire yard. English ivy wove a thick mat over every place else. There were no flowering bushes and just a few flowering plants. White oaks 130 years old towered over smaller, gangly mulberries. One catalpa dropped ugly seed pods almost all year long. Bright orange clay offered fierce resistance to our spades. This was not one's idea of paradise.

Two decades and a lot of elbow grease later, the yard is somewhat transformed, We've made and added enough compost to the soil that, at least where we plant, we can now easily dig in a shovel and not have it bounce back at us. We've planted a wide variety of plants so that we have flowers in the garden from March until late October. We choose mainly natives, many of which we get by swapping with friends who, like us, are members of our local horticulture club. I have a soft spot for a few non-natives, mainly azaleas, viburnum, and colorful annuals that I can cut and bring in to liven up the house.

Because I love flowers so much, I hate to admit that the flowers of some natives aren't nearly so show as their non-native counterparts. The truly native toadflower, for example, has a very tiny lavender flower compared to the much showier speckled flower of its cultivated cousin. In cases like these, I make a compromise, and grow both.

Like most gardeners I know, I plant, replant, design and redesign what's in my yard. I've come to realize that a landscape, like Nature, is never a finished piece of art. But you know what? It would lose its appeal if it were.

What Else?

Invasive species are those which spread from human settings like gardens and agricultural areas into the wild. Invasive species may reproduce uncontrollably, displacing and potentially eradicating natives and destroying biodiversity. English ivy is one of the most common invasive species, but there are many more. Invasives can be insects and animals as well as plants.

To find out what specific invasive species to avoid planting in your region, contact your local county extension agent. To learn how you can control invasive species in your landscape, read this excellent primer from The Nature Conservancy.


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Native Plants