Native plants are among the best of the new plants being introduced currently. These plants have been growing in North America on prairies, in the woods and deserts for hundreds of years. Many native plants are already recognized as beautiful landscape accent plants and are popular with American gardeners.
Very common natives are the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), ButterflyWeed (Asclepias tuberosa), Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). Plants that are pollinator magnets, although not all are native, are Lavender, Rosemary, Salvia, Sage, Sunflower, Redbud, Catnip, Penstemon, Lamb’s Ear, Verbena, Aster, Oregano, and Yarrow.
Once established, native plants can be easier to maintain. They require less water, and have fewer pests and disease problems. Many natives have deep root systems that prevent water fun off and soil erosion, and which enable them to withstand drought. Their growth brings beneficial soil micro organisms and earthworms which enhance the soil. Most note worthy are the flowers of native plants. Not only lovely to the eye, but important for attracting bees and other valuable pollinators. As a wonderful source of nectar, pollen and seeds, native plants provide food for butterflies, insects, birds and other animals.
Before choosing plants for your garden find out what plants are native to your region, and then try to reproduce their growing conditions i.e. soil, water, light, temperature, and soil fertility. Does the plant like full sun, partial sun, or shade? Does it require constant moisture or prefer periods of drought? Does the plant like rich, fertile soil or does it grow better in a soil with lower fertility?
Native plants can be started from seed or purchased from a local plant nursery or from a mail-order specialty nursery. Digging plants from the wild is not recommended and might be illegal. State and federal laws protect some native plant species that are threatened or endangered. Collecting seed must be done carefully. Removing too much seed could reduce or destroy a wild plant population.
There are excellent sources for help in finding the best native plants for your garden. Locally, the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of California Native Plant Society, Jim Brugger, President, is eager to answer questions and provide suggestions. www.cnps.org The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has an extensive database of commercially available native plants that can be searched for recommendations by state. The National Garden Bureau has members who sell North American plant natives in retail stores, online, and wholesale.
Choosing the right native plant for your garden will not only create a beautiful landscape full of life and song, but will preserve a piece of our environmental heritage. It is never too late to go native!
(partial reprint from the National Gardener, Summer 2016, Native Plants for the Home, Garden, and Landscape by Janis Kieft, Botanical Interests for ngb.org. )