With spring gardening upon us, consider adding native plants to your garden and landscaping

From Rachel Nix
Kentucky building

Did you know you can support Kentucky’s ecosystem by adding native plants to your garden and landscape?

Native plants mitigate the effects of global warming by storing more carbon than their non-native counterparts. Climate change is caused by the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When native plants store carbon in their roots and soil, they are helping the environment for everyone!

Don’t you have a green thumb? Native plants offer you great benefits. They are already used to the region, which makes them easier to breed. That means less watering, better resistance to local weather, and less work for you!

Native Kentucky plants also help the birds, animals, and pollinators in your area that depend on them for a natural source of food. The world needs more bees! Bees pollinate a third of the world’s food supply so that they can grow well and cleanly.

Plants from the area have already adapted to defend themselves against common fungi, diseases, and insects that could kill them. This means there is no need for pesticides that could potentially pollute your environment and harm other plants.

Common native plants from Kentucky

Dropseed Native Plant Nursery is one of many Kentucky nurseries working to plant more native plants in Kentucky. The website has an extensive list of plants native to Kentucky, including additional information on native plants that attract butterflies, birds, and bees, and are resistant to common pests such as deer.

Whether you’re creating a rain garden, wetland, prairie, or traditional garden, the options are endless. Also includes edible plants for growing nuts, fruits, herbs, flowers, and vegetables in your Kentucky garden.

Here are some great options to get started:

Spicebush

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is an attractive shrub of the laurel family that blooms with yellow flowers in early spring. You can use its aromatic leaves and twigs to make tea. In addition, the tree’s red berries are a food source for birds and butterflies, and a host to Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars, which feed on the leaves.

Milkweed

Milkweed (Asclepias) makes your garden a destination for monarch butterflies who only eat milkweed and other butterflies. With several native wildflower species (marsh milkweed, butterfly weed, vertebrate milkweed, tropical milkweed, and common milkweed), you are sure to find one with brightly colored flowers in your favorite shade.

Peacock peacock

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) gives you a taste of the tropics here in Kentucky! Its fruits taste like a mix of banana and mango, and it is the largest edible fruit native to the United States. Be sure to plant two! The papaya needs two different types of tree for cross-pollination to produce fruit.

Now is the time to start planning your yard and landscaping!

Check your local kindergartens to see what is available.

Avoid invasive plants

According to the Kentucky Native Plant Society, invasive plants are non-regional plant species that disrupt plant communities or ecosystems.

Invasive plants are bullies in the environment that grow and spread rapidly to aggressively overtake other plants. When they threaten other species, they degrade water quality, increase soil erosion, degrade wildlife habitats and reduce plant diversity.

The Kentucky Invasive Plant Council has a list of exotic plants that are considered a threat to Kentucky’s ecosystem and an annual Least Wanted Plant that has been shown to be invasive. One of the least sought after plants of the past is the honeysuckle, which displaces less vigorous plant species by creating dense groves. Mimosa or silk tree – which shades the native vegetation; and burning bush – which quickly dominated native species.

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