No matter how you feel about gardening – it’s a favourite past time, a burden or you fall somewhere in between – every garden, yard, balcony or hanging basket should include at least some native plants.
Why is this? And does it really hold up for those who spend hours a day nurturing their garden? Well, read on because the reasons behind this sentiment are pretty fascinating.
What are native plants?
Native plants include trees, flowers, grasses, etc. that are indigenous to a given area. They occur naturally and have adapted to local climate, soil conditions and diseases.
Why are they beneficial?
There are many reasons native plants are beneficial to not only your garden and home, but also your community and the wildlife surrounding it.
For your home
1. Beautify your garden with all the wonderful colours, sizes and shapes that local plant life has to offer.
2. Native plants require much less maintenance because they already know how to grow in your area. As mentioned above, they are accustomed to the climate, soil, insects and ‘pests’, as well as diseases that naturally occur where you live.
3. They have a long ‘shelf-life’ and will thrive for many decades while maintaining interest and appeal for most, if not all, of the seasons. For example, these plants will offer brilliant green leaves with interesting flowers throughout the spring and summer then offer yellow-orange-red fall colour, and shrubs and trees will change colour throughout the fall and often develop brightly coloured berries that persist into the winter.
4. Native species do not require chemical fertilizers or pesticides making them a healthier choice all around.
5. Last but certainly not least, native plants can provide storm water management because they slow down and absorb rainwater, reducing the quantity and velocity of storm water runoff all while improving water quality.
1. While most plants can provide some sort of food to local wildlife, native plants are the most beneficial. This is because they also support a wide variety of insects, and in turn, these insects provide a source of protein for many other animals, particularly birds. In fact, native plants are just as effective in attracting birds to your yard as bird feeders.
2. Some wildlife species are completely dependent on specific native plants to survive. If that native plant were to disappear, the wildlife it supports may disappear with it. Two examples of this include the Karner Blue butterfly which is now endangered because its larval host plant, the wild lupine, is increasingly rare, as well as the monarch butterfly caterpillar which is entirely dependent on milkweed for food.
3. Native plants attract native bees, which are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees. More than that, tomatoes can only be pollinated by native bees and crops such as squash, blueberries and alfalfa do better when pollinated by native bee species. Other crops, such as strawberries, and many other flowers and plants thrive with a diversity of pollinators, including various bee species, butterflies and hummingbirds – all of which are attracted to native plants.
These benefits are prompting more and more people to landscape their homes with native plants. By joining the movement, not only will you be providing a healthier garden for yourself (no or fewer pesticides and fertilizers) but you will also be aiding biodiversity and creating a much more sustainable landscape.
The North American Native Plant Society is a great resource to find native plant options and learn more about gardening with native species.