Native Plant Gardening

Native plants provide a valuable resource to local pollinators, benefit the local ecosystem, and produce gorgeous blooms that make the garden shine. If you would like to see more bees, butterflies, and birds in the garden, plant for them, and you will be rewarded.

Why a Native Garden?

Besides providing food to the local wildlife, native plant gardening is an important choice because it replaces plants that may be invasive, have higher pesticide needs, and are a detriment to the soil. Native gardens use less water and assist in the prevention of erosion. Native plants have spent thousands of years adapting to the local climate, and in turn, the region needs them to thrive. They are generally easier to care for and require fewer resources, which makes them a better choice for the gardener.

There are many beautiful flowers to choose from when planting a garden. When you choose native species, you choose the local environment, pollinators, and ecosystem. What you plant makes a difference!

Getting Started

Before you scatter seeds, do some research as to what native plants are essential in your region. Are there particular species of butterflies that frequent the area? Is there a type of bee that needs extra help? How can you best help the native wildlife in the region? While most native plants are great, some are more beneficial than others. Learn the local insects and birds’ needs and cater to them for the best results and blooms.

Top 10 East Coast Native Plants

Phlox – The three main types are Garden Phlox, Creeping Phlox, and Woodland Phlox. All three feature brilliantly colored clusters of flowers and a sweet fragrance. Pollinators love them and they grow fast.

Azalea – Featuring spectacularly showy flowers in Spring, Azaleas are a dramatic addition to the garden and one that the pollinators adore. Azaleas are widespread around the world, with quite a few species being native to North America, including Sweet Azalea, Dwarf Azalea, Piedmont Azalea, Swamp Azalea, and Flame Azalea.

Aster – A fall-blooming flower, Asters are important to all pollinators but especially to the Monarch butterfly. Asters produce prolific daisy-like flowers in shades of purple, pink, blue, and white.

Viburnum – Birds love the berries that the Viburnum produces in abundance in the fall. If you want to see more bluebirds, waxwings, thrushes, and cardinals, plant a Viburnum. In the Spring, they bloom large, showy flowers for the pollinators. During all seasons, their large shrubby branches provide a haven for butterfly and moth larvae. Every garden should have at least one Viburnum! Nannyberry is the most popular variety. However, Blackhaw and Highbush Cranberry are also great choices.

Milkweed – Monarchs love the milkweed, and just for that reason, we should all plant a patch. Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed are the three native to the East Coast. Their blooms are vibrant and stunning, and their importance to the survival of Monarch butterflies cannot be understated. They bloom in late summer/fall, giving a beautiful show while most other flowers are fading away.

Bee Balm – These unusually shaped blooms, resembling ragged pom poms, are a favorite with hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. The brightly colored flowers have a sweet, spicy fragrance. Scarlet Beebalm, Wild Bergamot, Spotted Beebalm, and Purple Bergamot are four that are native to the East Coast.

Bluestems – Big and Little Bluestem are native grasses that grow easily and are drought-tolerant. Many species of songbirds prefer it for safety cover and nesting. The seeds are also a popular food. Deer and other grass-eating mammals don’t particularly like it, which makes it a safe, undisturbed place for delicate nestlings.

Virginia Creeper – This vigorous climber can grow up to 20′ per year. It prefers growing upwards instead of outwards and is perfect if you are looking for a native vine to cover a wall, arbor, or fence. In the fall, the leaves change from deep green to deep red or mauve. Throughout the fall and winter, birds will enjoy the berries.

The importance of native plants goes well beyond just one garden. It is a movement that we all need to embrace for the health of our soil, local ecosystems, and pollinators. Even growing one or two of these plants makes a difference. As a bonus, they are all quite beautiful and will add brilliant aesthetics to your garden while pushing out invasive species.

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