Native plants are becoming more and more popular in landscape design. People are starting to appreciate the benefits these plants bring to the landscape and the environment. Look around you and you will find these wonderful plants.
In this section:
- Definition of Native Plants?
- Benefits of Native Vegetation
- Native Plants for Wildlife
- Examples of Native Gardens
- Resources for Native Landscaping
Definition of Native Plants
In Minnesota, plants are considered native if they occurred here at the time of the Public Land Survey (1847-1907), which was conducted prior to and during the early stages of European settlement. These plants are well adapted to Minnesota's soils, climate, and have developed complex relationships with native organisms.
Benefits of Native Vegetation
You'll hear it over and over again: "Native plant are great!" What exactly makes these plants so great?
- Most native plants are perennial so they don't need to be replaced year after year.
- Native plants have deep, extensive root systems that hold soil into place and prevent erosion. These roots are also responsible for pulling water down into the soil rather than letting it runoff the landscape.
- Native vegetation is low maintenance and doesn't require regular mowing, watering, mulching, fertilizing, or protection from frost.
- Native gardens provide food and shelter for native wildlife like butterflies, bees, and birds.
Native Plants for Wildlife
Native plants evolved right along side native wildlife. The relationships between many species can be very unique and specialized. As our landscapes have changed and native plant populations have declined, native wildlife has declined with it. You can use native plants to create valuable habitat for native wildlife which will help them survive and thrive!
If you want to garden for wildlife, be sure to provide the animals with their basic needs:
Sources of food for wildlife includes insects, plants, seeds, and even other animals. Planting a wide variety of native plants will create a diverse habitat that will attract a wide variety of insects and other wildlife. Leaving vegetation in place over the winter will provide seeds for birds over the winter.
Animals need water for drinking, bathing and reproduction. Putting out a bird bath, creating a puddling pool for butterflies, and planting a diverse mix of native plants can help wildlife meet their various water needs.
Wildlife needs cover for many reasons: nesting, hiding from predators, protection from the weather, and resting. Leaving vegetation over the winter will provide necessary habitat for animals year-round.
Examples of Native Gardening
Native gardening can happen in any shape or size. The spectrum ranges from one single plant to converting your entire property to prairie or woodlands. It isn't an "all or nothing" mindset, either. Every native plant will have a positive impact.
- Accent plants
- Buffer strips
- Butterfly gardens
- Planting native trees and shrubs
- Rain gardens
- Shoreline stabilization
Resources for Native Landscaping
- Blue Thumb - Planting for Clean Water
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Landscaping with Native Plants
- Realize Rain Gardens Rochester: Rain Garden Basics
- Realize Rain Gardens Rochester: Cost-Share Grant Information
- University of Minnesota - Extension: Native Plants for Sustainable Landscapes