Native plants are unique. They are built to withstand the local conditions and made to succeed. They are region-specific and have adapted and naturalized over time. In Texas, they can withstand the extreme heat conditions and have evolved to flourish with minimal watering. They are low maintenance and built to succeed in our environment. Life depends on them, which bring pollinators, other beneficial insects, birds, and wildlife to the area. They are the backbone of a successful and productive ecosystem.
Even within their naturally occurring region, native plants generally adapt to more localized growing conditions. This adaptation is known as an “ecotype .” An ecotype is a subset of a species that possess genetic adaptations to local growing conditions. Some ecotypic adaptions are visible, such as shape, size, or color. While other adaptations are not visible to our eyes, they are adaptions to deal with specific soil makeups, drought tolerance, or even temperature sensitivity.
Unfortunately, most of the landscape plants available in nurseries are foreign. These plants can cause issues within our soil food web, introduce foreign pests to our regions, and outcompete and kill native species.
Why include native plants
Biodiversity. Including natives in your garden help impact the natural areas near your home. Cross-pollination between your garden and wild plants may disperse seeds or berries into natural areas. They help benefit wild plant populations.
Support Pollinators. Natives are the best way to create a thriving ecosystem for pollinators. They attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. Increasing the pollinator and beneficial insect population in our garden helps decrease our need for insecticides or pesticides. These plants are a nectar source for pollinators.
Birds. Natives provide food and shelter for native bird species. From nuts and berries to insects, it is impossible to deny the direct link between native plants and native birds.
Low Maintenance. Once established, these plants will require less maintenance than other species.
Water Conservation. Because they adapt to local growing conditions, they usually require less water, and this trait helps preserve one of our most precious and most scarce resources.
Help the climate. Using native plants in landscaping can help reduce noise and carbon pollution from lawnmowers and other lawn maintenance tools. Many natives, especially trees, actually store carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases.
Native plants use less fertilizer. Excess fertilizers often pollute our waterways, and this pollution harms aquatic life and, even worse, can end up in our drinking water.
Where to buy natives
Do not take native plants from the wild as tempting as it may be. Doing so disrupts the ecosystem and threatens their population. Purchase from a local nursery. A good nursery will have an entire section for natives and even have knowledgeable employees to help guide your decision-making process. If your favorite nursery doesn’t stock native plants, it’s time to find a new favorite nursery.
How to use natives
Incorporating natives into your garden is up to you, but here are a few suggestions.
Use natives to create a border.
Naturalize a large area with aggressive natives like sunflowers or asters.
Create a rain garden. The deep roots of native plants stabilize and hold soil.
Replace non-natives with native plants.
Reduce the size of your useless lawn by adding a bed of native plants.
Create a pollinator garden.
Educating yourself on natives is the next level of gardening. Talk to experts and seek out knowledge to just look at the resources available on this site that talk about native plants. Once you have the information put it into action.