Native Plants: Gardening With the Earth

     When it comes to gardening, one of the best things you can do for Mother Earth is to ‘go native.’ 

     Choosing plants that are indigenous to one’s local area is much better for the environment than planting exotic species.  Plants that are found naturally in a region have evolved over many millennia to grow well there.  Thus, these plants are well-adapted to average local temperatures, rainfall, and soil conditions.  And these plants do not depend for their success on extra watering and fertilizing efforts. 

     With adequate supplies of clean, fresh water becoming a concern in many places, it makes sense to plant species that do not require large amounts of it to survive.  And inorganic fertilizers are known to harm soil and water.

     Another problem with exotic plants is that they may become invasive.  When introduced into an area where they did not evolve along with other flora and fauna, there may be no way to keep their growth in check.  Kudzu, for example, was introduced to the southeast from Asia in the 1880s for erosion control.  The plant now covers millions of acres.  Salt cedar, introduced to the southwest, reduces native seed germination by adding salt to the soil.  Thus, salt cedar is replacing native trees that provide food for area wildlife.  Unfortunately, there are many more such examples of invasive species that have altered the ecology of an area where they have been introduced. 

      ‘Going native’ offers many environmental benefits.  Replacing a traditional lawn with native trees, shrubs, and other plants not only saves a great deal of water and fertilizer, but landscaping with native plants also preserves biodiversity.  Restored native plant  communities provide habitat to local wildlife.  “Birds, animals, butterflies, and pollinators have co-evolved along with native plants in the region,” writes Terrie Schultz on  “Native plants produce flowers, berries, pollen, and nectar that local wildlife need for food, and provide shelter and a place for wildlife to reproduce,” explains Schultz.  And native plants are more resistant to local insects and pest diseases than are exotics.   

     Planting native species is good for the gardener as well as the planet.  You can save time and money by focusing on native plants.  You will spend less time watering, mowing, edging, and amending the soil.  And you’ll save money when you don’t have to buy fertilizers and pesticides.  

     To get started with native plant gardening, you can check with nurseries in your area to see what they have to offer.  But since many nurseries are not especially oriented toward native plants, you might also want to visit the site  There you will find many resources, listed on a state by state basis.  You can learn which plants, native to your area, best suit your gardening needs. 

     Enjoy gardening for a healthier environment!–April Moore


photo from Beginner Gardening, HAPPY NEWS, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2007

photo from "Beginner Gardening," HAPPY NEWS, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2007




6 Responses to “Native Plants: Gardening With the Earth”

  1. Kathy Ferger Says:

    I just heard yesterday that Maryland passed a bill this session that will phase out the sale of invasive plants at garden stores/nurseries. I’m not a resident of Maryland, so I was unaware of that lobbying effort, but kudos to whomever was responsible for that victory!

  2. Diane Artz Furlong Says:

    Thanks for reminding us all of doing this, April. People don’t realize how lovely and hardy our native plants can be. Here is a link to the Virginia State Arboretum and Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, Virginia. The annual Garden Fair will be May 8-9. There are always many vendors there who have native plants for sale along with lots of good information.

  3. Tanya Bohlke Says:

    a wonderful and timely article. I also recommend as a resource Douglas Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home”.

  4. Priscilla Says:

    Great information, April – happy to have the plantnative website!

  5. Nicky Staunton Says:

    The Virginia Native Plant Society’s 13 chapters across Virginia have native plant sales in the spring, beginning 5/7/11. Native plants offered are propagated by members from their own plants. Our major mission is Conserving Wild Flowers in Wild Places. Landscaping with native plants is all that you say, April. Doug Tallamy’s message is important. Our native plants evolved with insects, birds, mammals and sustain the web of life. Information about our native plants can be accessed at our website along with announcements of the plant sales.

    The VNPS office is located at Blandy in Boyce and you can enjoy the native plant trail close by the Garden Fair vendors. The Piedmont Chapter and the “Flora of Virginia” will have a booth. Please stop by and talk “Natives.” A special way to celebrate both Earth Day and Mother’s Day.

  6. soil stabilization products company Says:

    Erosion is a massive issue in most warmer places. Tallgrass can help.

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