Harnessing nature's power: Why planting native matters

Harnessing nature's power: Why planting native matters

Does it really matter what types of flowers you plant in the front yard?

Well, that depends on if you like wasting water.

It seems too simple, but it really does make a difference! Plants that are native to Texas are suited for this climate and soil condition. Once established, the plants require less watering (which saves you money on your water bill) and don't need chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides to thrive. And when used in the correct conditions, native plants also require little maintenance, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office.

So, what exactly are native plants?

Native plants are local and occur naturally without human help in a given area. There are different types, including flowers, shrubs, trees, grasses, and vines. On the other hand, non-native plants are species that originated somewhere other than its current location and have been introduced to the area where it now lives.

There are other benefits to establishing native plants. Compared to plants not native to the area, native plants can better withstand drought conditions and tend to be more resistant to attack by insects and diseases, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office.

Though cactus and other succulents are native to Texas, there are lots of options when it comes to planting native. Black-eyed Susans, Bluebonnets, Indian blankets, and Purple cornflowers are all native flowers in Texas. Gulf muhly and Little bluestem are native grasses and Esperanza and Texas lantana are native shrubs. Drummond red maple and Sweetbay magnolia are native trees and Crossvine and the Passion flower are native vines.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center has a database that allows you to search through more than 25,000 native plants by how much light they require, their soil moisture condition requirements, their bloom characteristics and more.

"Native landscapes provide habitats for wildlife and encourage the presence of native insects and microorganisms; these native organisms benefit plants by keeping them healthy without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Your native landscape will be an economical, ecological and beautiful entity that reconnects you to the natural world," according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center. "You can incorporate native plants into an existing landscape or start completely from scratch. First, you'll want to assess your property's environmental conditions (shady or sunny, adequate or poor drainage, soil types, irrigation, etc.), inventory existing native plants, and establish your own landscape needs based on how you use your yard. The results are well worth the time you spend analyzing and matching species to site conditions and personal preference."

Planting native also helps preserve biodiversity, which helps nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals, according to the National Audubon Society. The U.S. lost a staggering 150 million acres of habitat and farmland to urban sprawl, and highly manicured lawns carpet more than 40 million acres, according to the National Audubon Society.

"Unfortunately, most of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants not only sever the food web, but many have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas," according to the National Audubon Society. "Landscaping choices have meaningful effects on the populations of birds and the insects they need to survive. The bottom line is this—homeowners, landscapers, and local policymakers can benefit birds and other wildlife by simply selecting native plants when making their landscaping decisions."