What is considered a ‘native plant’ and how does is contribute to sustainability? Some people in the US believe they’re plants that were growing on the continent before the arrival of Europeans or people from any other continents. But a broader definition accepted by others is any plant that grows naturally in an area without human interaction. Either way, a native plant is not an exotic plant that has been introduced to the area and has taken over and choked out other species, or one requires constant attention and resources to get it to grow.
On the whole, native plants require less care from us. They’re native to the area and have adapted to living off the native soil. The exception is when you first bring them into your garden as transplants. They do require care until they’re established, and after that they’re fine. Starting them from seeds means they’ll establish themselves as they grow.
Native plants are able to handle the area’s weather. They can survive extreme weather conditions such as hot dry summers and cold snowy winters. They have adapted to the normal amount of available groundwater or rainfall. In other words, you don’t have to constantly water these plants and that’s a relief to your water bill and less time spent in the garden.
Another benefit to planting local species is their ability to resist local pests and diseases. They thrive and are healthy, naturally. And for you this means cutting down and hopefully eliminating pesticide usage, which is, of course, better for everyone’s health and well being. And finally, natural plantings can help slow down erosion. This is particularly true for riverbanks, cliff tops, wetlands, ocean shores and your storm drains.
These reasons save us time, money, and frustration for sure, but there are also reasons to plant native that include the birds, bees and wildlife. They depend on native species for food and shelter, plus the chance to pollinate. In addition, the plants provide wildlife protection from predators. The plants and the wildlife help make up our ecosystem and make for a healthier, well-rounded environment.
When you include native plants and grasses in your garden, you have vegetation that is not invasive, but rather fits seamlessly in the landscape, looking perfectly at home. You are also contributing to diversity and preserving various species of vegetation and the animals that depend on it for their habitat.
These are all good reasons to “go native” with your plantings. Remember native plants when you plan your garden and keep in mind it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.