Plant native plants, practice benevolent neglect | Home & Garden

JESSICA DAMIANO Associated Press

Picture this: you walk into your garden and the beds are full of flowers that thrive on benevolent neglect.

They rarely need to be watered, and they don’t need a lot of fertilizer either. You’ll also feel like Snow White when birds, bees and butterflies gather around you, eating seeds and collecting pollen.

It feels like a dream, but it doesn’t have to be. If your idea of ​​the perfect garden includes abundant plants that thrive with little human intervention while also attracting and supporting all manner of pollinators, you can make it a reality by planting native plants.

The first step is to attract pollinators, which are necessary for the production of flowers, fruits and vegetables. The best way to attract them is to use plants that support them.

Our native insects and birds have evolved alongside our native plants, allowing them to naturally recognize them as food. Non-native species — exotic plants from Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe, and to some extent from distant regions of the US — are simply not recognized as a food source by native pollinators. Planting them creates food deserts for native bees, birds, bats, butterflies, moths and beetles, all of which are necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

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Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology at the University of Delaware and author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Timber Press, 2007), noted that non-native plant species can disrupt the food chain leading to ecosystem collapse to lead.

“Plant selection is important,” he said. “The plants we use to landscape our lots should depend on how much life can live there.”

If you think about it, our lives depend entirely on insects: without them, there would be no flowering plants, which would degrade the food web for vital animals. Birds, for example, rely on plants for food and disperse their seeds while keeping populations of harmful insects in check.

Insects support plants that provide oxygen, purify our water, fix carbon and add to the soil to enrich it. This builds topsoil and prevents flooding. Without them, the biosphere — the living part of the Earth that includes soil — would rot due to the loss of insect decomposers, and humans just couldn’t survive, says Tallamy.

Native plants not only provide food and habitat for insects and other wildlife, but are also perfectly adapted to growing in your area – so they don’t require a lot of maintenance.

That means less watering, less fertilizing, less effort. They’ve grown pretty wild by the side of the road, thank you, and will do the same in your yard.

The good news is that we can choose what to plant in our own gardens, so let’s decide to plant more natives. Start your journey with the help of the following resources:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center: Select your state, growing conditions, desired plant attributes and view database results of eligible native plants. Browse recommended plant species by state.

The Biota of North America Program: Click on your state and the search will generate a list of native plants that can be drilled down to the county level.

The Xerces Society: View and print condition sheets of recommended native plants that are attractive to pollinators and for small plantings such as B. are suitable in home gardens.

Audubon Native Plants Database: Enter your zip code for a list of the best native plants to attract specific birds in your area.

Your county co-op office should also be able to point you in the right direction; Visit Guilford County at


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