Native plants naturally grow in specific regions throughout the world. They adapt to local climate conditions and develop a symbiotic relationship with wildlife.
Native plants, including trees, shrubs, and perennials, manage biodiversity, require less maintenance, provide food and shelter, and contribute to a healthy local ecosystem.
In contrast, non-native species disrupt local ecosystems and reduce biodiversity. Using native plants in your landscape contributes to a robust local ecosystem and is used in sustainable gardening practices.
Selecting the Right Native Plants
It’s always important to understand your property’s micro-climate. Micro-climates include entire sun areas, slopes, shady areas, and wetlands. You help the local ecosystem when you plant the right plants at the right spot and at the right time.
When you plant your new natives, whether a tree, shrub, or perennial, you want to group plants based on their watering needs … for example, if you plant native succulents in one area, include other plants that don’t need as much water.
Researching local species
Once you know your landscape’s micro-climates, you can buy native plants that will thrive in the different micro-climates found on your property.
AmericanNativePlants.com says not to dig up native plants you find in nature because it hurts nature’s local ecosystem. Most nurseries and independent garden centers near you sell natives bred to thrive in home landscapes.
The National Wildlife Federation has a website called Native Plant Finder (nwf.org/nativeplantfinder). You can find native plants that grow in your region and shop for those species on the website.
For example, you click on the “Find Native Plants” tab and put in your zip code; for this example, the zip code is 17578. Here are the native plants found in south central Pennsylvania:
- Fringetree (Chionanthus scrophulariales)
- Goldenrod (Solidago asterales)
- Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium asterales)
- Lupine (Lupinus fabales)
- Redbud (Cercis fabales)
- Tulip poplar (Liriodendron magnoliales).
How to Create a Local Ecosystem
You want to provide for each part of an ecosystem—the elements which feed and reproduce living organisms. An organic vegetable garden, for instance, will include soil, compost, mulch, vegetable plants, and a drip irrigation system to water it.
Then, birds, butterflies, and bees visit the flowers to pollinate the vegetable plants that enable those plants to produce fruit. All parts of the system work together in a local ecosystem.
What are local ecosystems and habitats?
If you search for “creating a local ecosystem in my landscape,” the results include the word, habitat. Habitats and local ecosystems are not the same thing. An ecosystem is a complex web of organisms working together in harmony.
For example, a small pond in your backyard has aquatic plants, water, and frogs. Each element of that pond serves the other and works as one unit—the plants filter pollutants and allow the frogs to hide from predators.
The frogs also need the water to swim and live. And the frogs provide entertainment and eat insects.
Conversely, habitat is a broader term. Habitat is one element of the ecosystem, such as a lilypad living in a pond—and its needs and benefits to the ecosystem.
To create a local ecosystem in your yard, you need to provide the right conditions (soil, moisture, and fertilizer) for the plant, which feeds the birds and pollinators that visit it.
Mimicking natural ecosystems
Biomimicry or ecosystem mimicking is not new, but it’s increasingly becoming popular among sustainable gardening enthusiasts.
Essentially, you’re looking at nature’s diversity in plants and layering. And biomimicry creates a growing local ecosystem in your garden and landscaped areas.
The blog (PolyTunnel Gardening) at FirstTunnels.co.uk says that you allow certain plants to thrive and weaker species to die out naturally. For example, zucchini and summer squash are aggressive in the garden. Planting it near smaller plants, say an eggplant, will overshadow and kill the eggplant.
Mint is another aggressive native plant. It’s hard to get out of the garden once you plant it, and many expert gardeners recommend keeping any plant in the mint family in containers so it won’t spread.
Vertical diversity: trees and shrubs
Don’t forget trees and shrubs that benefit your local ecosystem. You want to stick as close to native trees and shrubs as possible in sustainable landscaping.
Here are examples of native trees and shrubs. Always check to see if any of these plants are native to your area:
- Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
- Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
- Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
- Serviceberry (Amelanchier)
- Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
- Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata).
Supporting Wildlife with Native Plants
As you know, the Monarch butterfly has been in the news due to its decreased numbers and honeybee colony collapse due to using neonicotinoids in pesticides.
You can help fragile pollinators by adding native plants into your local ecosystem to attract monarch butterflies and keep honeybee colonies thriving.
Essential food sources
According to the University of Michigan, native plants form the base of a food chain through photosynthesis, where plants absorb sunlight to make food for themselves, providing food and a place to live for insects, birds, and other beneficial critters.
Attracting pollinators and birds
You can attract pollinators and birds to your landscape by growing food sources for them. For example, chickadees and goldfinches love seeds from sunflowers. Bumblebees and honeybees pollinate sunflowers to provide seeds for the birds.
So, when you provide food and water sources to the local ecosystem, pollinators, birds, and other creatures will benefit and thrive in your landscape.
Conserving Water and Resources
When you use native trees, shrubs, and flowers in your landscaping, you’ll notice they stand up better during drought and hot summer days.
Adaptability to climate
Native plants have adapted to the changing climate of your area, and because of that, they can survive hot, dry summer days. For example, cacti and succulents do well in southwestern states that don’t receive a lot of rain during the summer.
Sustainable gardening practices
Native plants in your local ecosystem are part of sustainable gardening practices. Native plants don’t need as much water and maintenance as non-natives. For example, swamp milkweed is a monarch butterfly staple and a native plant that does well in a landscape.
How Brinly Lawn Care and Garden Products Help You with Native Plants and Local Ecosystem Harmony
Brinly’s lawn care and garden products are the perfect tools to help you cultivate native plants that boost your property’s local ecosystem. For instance, our spike/plug aerators pull plugs of soil up and out of the ground so your yard can breathe and take in more nutrients.
And if you don’t have a lawn tractor to hitch up a spike/plug aerator, no worries. At Brinly, we’ve developed an 18” push spike aerator with 3D galvanized steel tines. Here are its features:
- Enhanced aeration
- New galvanized steel 3D stars
- Includes weight tray
- Adjustable handle
- Transport mode
- Simple storage.
Buy your next Brinly lawn care and garden products online. If you have any questions about your Brinly lawn and garden product, contact our customer service today by dialing 877-728-8224 or filling out our contact form.
AmericanNativePlants.com, Choosing Native Plants for Your Landscape.
Blog.FirstTunnels.co.uk, How to Mimic Nature in Your Garden.
Canr.MSU.edu, Ecosystem Services.
NWF.org/NativePlantFinder, Bring Your Garden to Life.