Photo Credit: Chuck Kime - Orange Butterfly Milkweed
In the coming weeks, many homeowners will head to the nearest nursery or garden center to pick up a rainbow of non-native annuals to spruce up that landscaping, along with chemical weed killers and pesticides to maintain them. Millions of bags of chemically-treated potting soil will fill plant containers too. But, what if there are better, safer options that simplify everything for us? What is the value to a homeowner, gardener, or landscaper of choosing natives over non-natives? We packed this month’s blog post full of helpful information and recommendations for you to simplify and spend MORE time enjoying your outdoor space this year...and every year to come!
1.) It won’t be necessary to buy chemical fertilizers anymore.
Instead of purchasing chemical fertilizers, use a mixture of organic compost (your own or
purchased) and your existing soil. Given native plants are historically found in our region, this is the original growing medium to which they are best accustomed.
Tip: Here are 2 colorful, full sun native plants that are known to tolerate poor soil conditions:
Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
Mexican Hat Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera)
2.) You are hoping for an abundance of edibles from your vegetable and/or fruit garden
Many of the plants in your fruit and vegetable gardens (we’ll call them “edibles”) require pollination by bees, birds, and butterflies (among other important pollinators) to produce fruits, nuts, and
vegetables. Planting native species nearby that feed and support these important workers will help
your edible garden to thrive. And, of course, you can always enjoy the benefits of planting edibles
that are natives too.
Tip: Attract plenty of pollinators with these native varieties:
Orange Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Common Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Photo Credit: Donnie King - Gloriosa Daisy
3.) Native plants require less effort and expense than non-natives.
Non-natives often do not grow into nearly as strong or healthy plants simply because they are not
well-adapted to thrive under local conditions. Therefore, more work and products (often unsafe)
are required to maintain, feed, and protect them. Choosing native perennial plants can cut down on the need to purchase new plants as they return to their glory in your garden year after year.
Tip: Try these hardy perennial wildflower varieties:
Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea pupurea)
Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
4.) Air pollution is reduced when native plants are used.
Native plants absorb and store excess carbon from the air. They also eliminate the need to mow or use other gas-guzzling equipment, which decreases pollution and saves you the cost of fuel.
5.) You’ll use less water and resources.
Did you know that lawns didn’t exist until they became a “fashionable” landscaping trend in 18th
century Europe? Obviously, it’s a trend that is still deeply culturally ingrained and its history is a
fascinating one. But, on a large scale, lawns have become problematic. Maintaining turf grass
requires pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides and A LOT of water. Aside from the expense, mowing,
bagging and edging your lawn takes up precious time. Replacing portions of your lawn with native
plants (including native grasses) will lessen your water usage, save you time, and save you money.
Tip: This native wildflower variety prefers dry conditions:
Clasping Coneflower (Rudbeckia complexicaulis)
Photo credit: Fritz Flohr Reynolds - Blue Wild Indigo
6.) Native plants can stop erosion.
The root systems of native plants drive themselves deeper into the soil. Fun fact: Some Midwestern
native prairie plants have root systems 15 feet deep! This breaks up the soil density and allows the
nutrient rich soil to store more water. So water run-off is much less likely to occur. In areas that are
prone to flooding, the right kinds of native plants can reduce the amount of water that collects.
Tip: Try this stunning native wildflower in wet areas. It can tolerate occasional flooding:
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
7.) Native plants can help reduce wildlife conflicts with people.
For you animal lovers who love to watch wildlife, you can probably already see the benefit that
native plants provide. However, there is an upside for those who prefer to keep wildlife at a distance. Hear us out!
The “pest” control industry has marketed their products and services in a way that preys on our fears
that animals and insects are “out for us” and that we must utilize their
products and services to “destroy them” before they destroy our gardens and landscapes. Our
thoughtless reaction is to wage war with them for the sake of “manicured landscaping”. We spray
dangerous concoctions all over our properties with the misguided hope of making as inhospitable
an environment as possible.
Meanwhile, countless species of wildlife and beneficial insects are at risk of extinction. When their
food sources are scarce, they will venture into areas where they are not wanted for a means to survive. When an abundance is provided in areas you dedicate to them, it actually reduces their
conflict with you. Plant a variety of native plants to support, feed, and shelter native wildlife of
all kinds. Every living organism has an important job to do in the natural world, so creating a more
natural place for them to thrive brings balance back into their environment and peace of mind for
Tip: Here are some great wildlife-sustaining varieties of native wildflowers:
Wild Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
Blue Wild Indigo (Baptista australis)
Photo credit: Pieterv H. - Wild American Columbine
8.) Plants that are native to your area are perfectly adapted to varying weather conditions.
Have you ever feverishly covered your plants during a Spring cold snap? Do you bring your
containers indoors during the chilly nights and colder seasons? None of that is necessary if you use
Tip: Here are a few varieties of native wildflowers that have strong, sturdy stems:
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Gloriosa Daisy (Rudbeckia hirta)
Common Evening Primrose (Oenthera biennis)
9.) You want joy in your life? Let the hummingbirds entertain you! These birds are such
characters, it’s no wonder they are so well-loved. Native plants are necessary to support
Hummingbirds are migratory birds that travel thousands of miles north when the weather is
warmer. Usually, hummingbird season lasts roughly from mid-April to mid-October. An incredibly
strong will and survival instinct exists in these tiny birds. They have inspired generations and
generations of people who recognize the incredible odds these birds must overcome in order to
migrate and survive. Hummingbirds will undoubtedly entertain you with their acrobatics and
antics, if you provide a little TLC for them.
Tip 1: Hang a clean hummingbird feeder with homemade nectar: 2 cups of clean, filtered water + ½
c. sugar. No need to boil. Please do not use store bought nectars or nectars that have any coloring
or dye. Dyes are extremely harmful.
Tip 2: Hummingbirds also need natural sources of nectar. Here are 2 native wildflowers that supply it:
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Wild American Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
If you want to find out more about your area's native plants, visit this link from the National Wildlife Federation to search by zip code.
A special note:
Green Haven Livingwww.greenhavenliving.org is hosting a special Mother’s Day event on May 9th, 2021 called Celebrating Mother’s. This is a great opportunity to shop 3 local businesses in one location, as Scioto Gardens and Sunbear Studio & Gallery are joining us! You will find a broad selection of gifts — decor, home goods, facial and body products, jewelry (markdowns galore!), native plants, and local art. Click here to learn more!
Read our post: What kind of a world will we leave behind?
We'd love to see you at our store in Westerville, OH!
Founder of Green Haven Living, a Veteran of the United States Air Force, former Human Resources professional, and Environmentalist.