Native Plants: Why you should consider them for your gardens and landscaping.
Photo from prairieanursery.com with permission
1. Start small with a few plants and a small area. Mix native and domestic plants if it helps achieve a desired result.
2. Start with plants or, at the most, a preplanned plant garden. Native plants that have been started by others are easy to grow, provide an immediate result, and a high chance of success. A few plants will produce many more in a short time either from divisions or seeds. Preplanned gardens like the butterfly garden (right above) are available for various soil types, growth height, moisture conditions, special purposes and light levels, and include a planting plan.
3. Work with a reputable source that provides good supporting resources. Prairie Nursery in Westfield, Wisconsin is one such source. See the links below for more resources.
4. Some good plants to start with: Grasses – prairie dropseed and little bluestem, especially the cultivar blue heaven (right below). Forbs – butterfly weed, prairie or Ohio spiderwort, red milkweed, cardinal flower, giant blue lobelia, and purple prairie clover.
5. Recognize that native plant seeds have many built in mechanisms to delay germination until conditions are likely to produce a thriving plant. Because of this, native plant seeds usually require some sort of conditioning process, called stratification, to encourage/assure germination. This is one good reason for starting with plants.
6. Also note that native plants evolved in a very diverse prairie where competition from other plants was intense. As a result, some native plants have developed aggressive competitive patterns (see at the bottom of the page) and can become invasive. Good resources will provide warnings of the worst offenders, Fireweed being a good example. Although Fireweed is beautiful (state flower of Alaska) don’t ever plant it as you will not be able to control it.
7. Starting a native prairie and all the diversity it entails is a more complex process that takes time and effort to produce good results, but the result is well worth the effort. Again, good resources will provide detailed instructions and seed mixtures for such a project.
Based in Greenville Wisconsin, Sustain Greenville is a volunteer organization that promotes eco-friendly activities that support a sustainable environment. We sponsor the Sustain Greenville Farmers’ Market and several recycling and educational events. You are invited and encouraged to get involved and participate!