Native plants are a great choice for homeowners because they can save you time and money in the long run. Because native plants adapt to their surrounding environment, they are hardy, long-lasting choices for your landscaping projects. Rather than buying exotic species, native landscaping is an environmentally-friendly choice to ensure a beautiful habitat but also create landscapes that are responsible and beneficial to the surrounding area. Your garden can be more than a garden – it can be an ecosystem that brings you joy and helps maintain the environment!
In addition, the more native plants and grasses your yard has, the less space you will be required to mow – and the less time and energy you will spend mowing every other weekend.
What is a native plant?
Plants that originate from an area are native to it. If plants existed in Minnesota during the time of the Public Land Survey (1847-1907), they are generally considered native. Native plants can include native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, vines, mosses, ferns, evergreen trees, and more.
Benefits of using native plants for landscaping
There are many benefits to using native plants in your yard. Here are a few:
- Easy maintenance. There will be less mulch, watering, and pruning required long-term.
- Cheaper. Native plants last a long time and flourish in the natural habitat, overall costing less for maintenance than exotic plants.
- Attract butterflies and insects, rather than require pest control. Native plants typically provide nectar and nourishment for visiting butterflies, while plants from a garden store may need pest control sprays to protect them from species that could destroy them.
- Create refuge for wildlife. Many different species find native plants to be a refuge and place of safety.
- Will not threaten to overtake a natural habitat. Exotic plants can grow out of control, while native plants know their place, so to say, in nature.
- Can help prevent erosion. The deep root systems of wildflowers and grasses can do this because they spread far and wide.
What are some plants that are native to Minnesota?
There are hundreds of lovely native wildflowers, ferns, trees, grasses, etc. in the state of Minnesota. Some examples include the prairie onion, wild red columbine, jack in the pulpit, butterfly milkweed, grass-leaved goldenrod, and white ash. This helpful PDF from the U of M lists native plants along with their ideal growing conditions, size, and notes about their appearance.
Where to find native plants
You can find native plants and seeds at many local nurseries and landscaping companies. For a list of native plant suppliers in central Minnesota, check this list from the Minnesota DNR.
Don’t choose plants taken from the wild, as these can struggle to survive after being transplanted.
Choose seeds from a source as close to the spot where you will plant as possible.
It may take a few years for native plants to reach their ideally lovely-looking stage, establish strong roots, and flower.
Before planting native plants, make sure there aren’t dangerous weeds or exotic plants nearby that will steal their nourishment. Properly prepare your soil and consult a local gardening expert on best practices.
Even though native plants are easier to care for than other exotic plants, they will still need some protection and care. Especially to begin with, do mulch around them and protect them from weeds. Over time they will need less care, but it’s important to establish a healthy environment from the get-go.
For more information, we recommend Lynn Steiner’s book “Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota”
Prairie grass photo credit: Flickr, Cariliv
Flower photo credit: Flickr, Charles de Mille-Isles