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Selecting Native Plants

 

There is a push in the gardening world to use more native plants and for good reasons - they add beauty to flowerbeds, attract wildlife and because they are tailor made for the area's growing conditions they require little care.

 

Here are some tips to get you started in selecting native plants for your garden.

What are Native Plants?

Native plants are those that have evolved in a region over thousands of years, adapting to the changing environment. Having thrived in the areas' climate, soil conditions, moisture levels and survived competition from other species, these plants are highly resistant to drought, insects, and disease, which makes them some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden. In North America, plants that were here prior to European settlement are considered native varieties.

Why Native Plants?

Consider plants native to your region as being custom made for your garden. Since they have evolved under your local conditions, they are the most likely to thrive with the least amount of care. Native plants will require less insect control and fertilizer, which means using fewer chemicals in your garden.

Native plants also provide food and shelter for wildlife, so they are a great way to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to your garden. By using native plants in my garden's design, I am helping to create natural habitat, which is continually being threatened by urban expansion, large-scale farming, and the introduction of chemicals into the environment.

Selecting Plants

As with other plants, it is best to choose native plants that fit the soil, light, and moisture conditions of your site. For example, if you have full sun, average soil, and limited rainfall, choose plants best suited for those areas.

A good source for information about species of plants that are native to your area is your local cooperative extension. Many states have native plant associations as well. Another place to check is with knowledgeable staff at your local nursery. Once you know what varieties are native to your area, you may find mail order sources for seed. While some natives grow easily from seed, I find that I can get quicker results by choosing container grown plants.

Although it may be tempting to just dig plant material from roadsides or woods, this will only deplete already dwindling native colonies. In practical terms, the survival rate of wild-collected plants is much lower than those that have been purchased at a nursery.

Here is a short list of North American Native plants to consider for your garden.

Bee Balm, Monarda didyma
Blanket Flower, Gaillardia aristata
Blazing Star, Liatris aspera
Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa
California Poppy, Eschscholtzia californica
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Flame Azalea, Rhododendron calendulaceum
Jack in the Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium maculatum
Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum
New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae
Possumhaw, Ilex decidua
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Red Columbine, Aquilegia Formosa
Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus alba
Santa Fe Phlox, Phlox nana
Sedge, Carex praticola
Showy Fleabane, Erigeron speciosus
Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
Tickseed, Coreopsis verticillata
White Trillium, Trillium ovatum
Wild Ginger, Asarum caudatum
Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata
Yarrow, Achillea millifolium
Yellow Giant Hyssop, Agastache nepetoides