The Benefits of Native Plants

calydorea_coelestina1-300x225Today, people everywhere are discovering the benefits of “going native,”and native plant sources are becoming more numerous. Natives, after all, offer many of the benefits of exotic cultivars without the exhaustive requirements. By establishing native plants in your yard, you will decrease water dependence, reduce the need for fertilizer and pest control, and create a renewed sense of place for birds, other wildlife, and you.

There are many benefits to going native, whether practiced in place of or in addition to traditional landscaping. Compared to lawns, manicured shrubbery or bark-mulch covered beds, naturescapes are tremendously low in maintenance. Native plants grow well together (they evolved growing along side one another) and to predictable sizes. They do not need watering (except during establishment), nor do they require chemical fertilizers or any of the commercial biocides – herbicides, insecticides, fungicides – they are adapted to local conditions and to local “bugs”.

While the cost of installing a naturescape may be comparable to that of installing a lawn with a couple of shrub beds, the cost of maintaining a naturescape is dramatically less. Since naturescapes effectively take care of themselves, there is little or no maintenance and hence little or no maintenance cost. It is staggering to learn that 60% of water consumed on the West Coast, and 30% on the East Coast, goes to watering lawns. U.S. News and World Report states that a 1000 sq. ft. lawn (for example, 20′ x 50′) requires 10,000 gallons of water per summer to maintain a “green” look.Naturescapes do not require permanent irrigation and hence to not contribute to wasteful and costly water practices of the past.

Land that is cleared for buildings or roads displaces countless organisms. Developments become further isolated from natural land by virtue of being landscaped with “reliable” cultivars, which do nothing to contribute to or restore environmental health. Using native plants closes the circle, helps restore a previously fragmented ecosystem, and offers a welcome place for birds and wildlife.