Local Plants: Gardening with Native Plants

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

| May/June 2006

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.

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