How to Grow a Native Plant Garden

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Native plant gardens are not only easy to grow but are also excellent choices for attracting wildlife.

In the not so distant past, wildlife managers planted non-indigenous plants for wildlife food sources. Many of these exotic species became nuisance plants because they would easily adapt to an area and out-compete indigenous species. Some exotic species of plants are extremely invasive, such as purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, and are threatening existing indigenous plant and animal communities with extinction.

Biologists and resource management professionals worldwide now recognize the benefit of using native plant species over exotics. Because of the work of these dedicated professionals in promoting indigenous plant species for use in landscaping, native plant gardens are gaining in popularity.

What are Native Plants?

Native plants have evolved within the regional landscape. These are plants that have always been in a particular area, environment, and habitat. Almost every region of the world has native plant species.

Although these plants can be used for ornamental purposes, they are not considered ornamentals by natural resource professionals. Ornamental plants, flowers, and trees are subject to genetic manipulation by horticulture professionals. Native plant species, if they are truly native, have not been subjected to genetic manipulation.

How to Find Native Plants

Be careful of where you obtain your native plant species. Many seed catalogues and nurseries will advertise plants and trees as native plants when they have actually been raised hundreds of miles away.

It is best to obtain local species for planting because these plants are well suited to a particular area. Local species have evolved in slightly different ways than plants hundreds of miles away and local plants maintain local integrity or help preserve, the gene pool of that area. Ask your government or university extension agents where to obtain authentic native plant species.

County conservation districts in the United States also know where to obtain native species through plant rescue programs or local greenhouses that specialize in native plants. Many of these agencies also sponsor native plant sales.

Attract Wildlife

Species of wildlife have evolved along with native plant species, so they naturally prefer these native species for their various needs. Native plants provide wildlife habitat requirements: food, shelter, nesting, and resting sources. Native plant species can be an important part of your wildlife management plan.

Virtually Maintenance Free

Plant native species in the correct soil, light, height and spatial conditions. Water approximately every two days, but if there are drought conditions water daily. Native species of plants are perennials, so once plants have established root systems they do not require regular watering regimes. Even under drought conditions, native plants have a tendency to grow back once drought conditions are over or during the following year’s growth cycle.

Native plants do not require pesticides or herbicides. They rarely encounter pest problems because they have evolved along with the area’s bugs and pests and have evolved strategies for combating these problems.

Once native plants have gone through their growth cycle, simply cut back and wait for spring to enjoy again.

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