Local Plants: Gardening with Native Plants

Native trees, flowers and shrubs are a gardener’s best friends.

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Native plants—trees, flowers and shrubs that grew in North America before European settlers arrived—are ideally suited to your local soil, temperature and water conditions. Non-native plants may have trouble surviving in some climates, or they may spread unchecked, choking out other foliage, because they have no natural enemies.

Benefits of native plants

• They’re low maintenance. Once established, they require little additional water and few or no fertilizers or pesticides.
• They’re less prone to disease because they’ve evolved to withstand the local weather, insects and fungi.
• Drought, heat and severe cold are less damaging to plants that have evolved to thrive under your local conditions.
• They’re naturally suited to attract, feed and shelter birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
• Xeriscaping—landscaping with drought-tolerant plants in dry climates—is best accomplished with local species.

Planting tips

• Match a native plant to its natural growing conditions: sun-loving varieties for sunny areas, shade lovers in shade.
• Know the soil and water conditions the plant prefers. Planting a native cactus in soggy clay will yield unhappy results.
• When you first put your plant in the ground, don’t forget to water. After the first growing season, water only as needed.

For a list of native plants for your area, contact your local Agricultural Extension Service or your area native-plant society. Many local and state governments offer native species at discounted prices. Also check the Center for Invasive Plant Management.

Reprinted by permission of the Partnership for Advancing Technology (PATH), a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.