If you’ve been gardening for a while, you’ll have heard about the importance of using native plants in your garden. In fact, many gardeners only use native plants, forgoing any exotic or imported plant. This makes obvious sense when you live in an area that has more extreme weather like Arizona, for example. With its scorching sun and little annual rainfall, it just wouldn’t make sense to plant things like hydrangeas and hostas. But if you live in a milder climate, are native plants still important? The answer is yes.
Native plants are those that are native to your area, meaning they naturally grow there and are accustomed to your area’s growing conditions. Adapted plants are those that are not native, but they have successfully adapted to your area’s growing conditions. Every area or region has its own native/adapted plants. Now, don’t worry that I’m going to advise you to rip out your non-native garden and install all new plants. You can incorporate native plants little by little, or dedicate a new part of your garden to native or adapted plants. But let’s take first things first, starting with the reasons why planting natives are important.
• Because they are adapted to a region’s soil type and climate, they ultimately need less water and maintenance.
• They tend to thrive with less use of fertilizers and pesticides (although we know that feeding the soil is always important).
• They often attract birds and butterflies, providing food and shelter to a number of different species.
• They provide easy, low-maintenance beauty for the home gardener to have a gorgeous, functional landscape.
If you’re not sure which plants are native to your area, contact your local county extension office or consult with a trusted garden center that specializes in natives. Take a trip to a botanic garden or arboretum in your region to get ideas how these plants are used, or look for native plant garden tours in your city. You’ll quickly see that native and adapted plants are every bit as beautiful as the non-natives, and without all the fuss and muss!