Natives or Not?

Common milkweed Asclepias syriaca

We constantly hear how great native plants are for our landscapes. And this is true. With our sustainable landscape goals, native plants can thrive without human input of fertilizers, pesticides and maintenance. They are often resistant to local pests and have deep root systems that allow them to thrive without additional water as well as reduce runoff and erosion.

Native plants are rarely invasive, meaning they won’t out-compete surrounding vegetation and offer wildlife food and shelter, helping preserve biodiversity and enhance the ecosystem. Most are considered pollinator plants, something we are seriously concerned with in our sustainable landscapes.

That being said, there is also a place for non-natives. While it is a great idea to add natives to your landscape as you add or replace plants, there is certainly no reason to eliminate some of the beautiful plants native to other parts of the world. Unless they are invasive, of course.

As long as we do our research and understand how a plant will behave in the landscape, we can continue to enjoy some of the more exotic-looking plants that we love. For example, common milkweed is a prime butterfly plant. But if put into a typical home landscape, it will spread uncontrollably and can make a mess of the garden.

I, for one, don’t want to give up my hostas or Japanese maples, which are certainly not native. But I will add native Carolina sweetshrub and fothergilla to my landscape. It’s a matter of perspective and knowing your plants.

Purple coneflower  Echinacea purpurea