There are many benefits to adding native plants to your landscaping – The Oakland Press

There aren’t many circumstances in which you can have a win-win-win situation, but when it comes to native plants, this is exactly what you get.

Native plants are beneficial for several reasons:

  • They require less practical maintenance
  • They use less water
  • They attract cheap insects
  • You look beautiful
  • They improve the natural environments

Butterfly milkweed, shown here, works well in drier, sunnier garden beds, while marsh milkweed is ideal for damp areas. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Whether you are a seasoned grower or a first-time gardener, native plants will help you meet your “green fingers” goals.

Drew Lathin, of Creating Sustainable Landscapes, LLC in Novi, said to know the conditions of your garden first and then visit a local nursery.

“There are a number of them,” he said. “They have plants that are native to the area and they can help you determine what types of plants you need.”

Many home gardeners want lush, flowering gardens with lots of color. Native plants can make a great display while also helping to grow insect and bird populations, said Jay Blair, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture employee with the Natural Resources Conservation Service who is now a volunteer and advisor to the Oakland Conservation District. The highbush cranberry, for example, blooms in spring, which is a pretty sight. After that, they produce bright red berries that can be a source of food for some during the winter months.

Blair also likes cardinal wildflowers and says they’re good for more humid gardens, and sun hats that look great and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Asters and goldenrod are wonderful additions to sparking interest in early fall.

Like annual ornamental plants and perennials, native plants do well in certain conditions such as shade, sun, wetness, and drought. When planted in the optimal environment, native plants will thrive with very little practical care from home gardeners or in need of fertilizer or additional water.

“Native plants have developed in our climate,” says Lathin. “It’s a lot easier to care for the right plant when it’s in the right place.”

In addition, he suggested choosing at least three different types of plants that bloom throughout the season so that you always have something interesting to look at.

A native plant garden also provides food and shelter for insects, birds and amphibians all year round. The vast majority of insects only eat native plants, Lathin said, so one wants to “plant bedbug food”.

Milkweed is a good example. There are 11 types of milkweed native to Michigan, he said, that are the food for the monarch caterpillar and nearly three dozen other beneficial insects. Marsh milkweed is ideal for damp areas, and butterfly milkweed works well for drier, sunnier garden beds.

There are 11 species of milkweed native to Michigan that are food for the monarch caterpillar and nearly three dozen other beneficial insects. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

When the native plant population is strong, it builds a healthy insect population that feeds birds, frogs, toads, bats, and other surrounding animals.

“It cascades the food chain,” Lathin said.

Every garden area is different, but Lathin said columbine, alum root, and blue-stemmed goldenrod are great native plants for Michigan’s shady spots, while popular black-eyed susans, echinacea, nodding onions, and wild bergamot are perfect for gardens in full sun.

To build a native garden, start small and keep it simple, Lathin suggested. Work with what you already have and incorporate seven plants of one species into your landscape as opposed to one plant of seven different species. He also said to plant tightly. This prevents weeds from growing and when you put in mulch you only have to do it once.

Blair said you can continue to replace non-native plants with native varieties if time and finances allow. He added that native perennials are easy to care for because they grow back with very little effort each year. All they need is to be pruned in autumn or spring, depending on the plant.

Over time, you will find that they mow less and water less while promoting wildlife and improving soil conditions. Plus, you’ll be more connected to nature, enjoy watching the birds and insects fly in their shops, and neighbors will notice the improvement in the curb, whether you’ve planted in a garden bed, large patio pots, around trees, or in window boxes . With just a small initial investment, your home will come alive in no time and should serve you well for years to come.

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