Why celebrate native plants when the exotic ones in the local nursery are so pretty? A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction. Exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature. Native plants are part of an ecosystem that is more sustainable and supports local wildlife too.

A New Way to Celebrate Mother’s Day

If you don’t know what to give Mom for Mother’s Day and you don’t want to give her more flowers that will wilt and fade away in a week, consider the gift of some native plants like Black-eyed Susans (the state flower of Maryland) or the butterfly weed, which will attract butterflies to the garden.  If you want to go big, you can give a whole tree, like the Eastern red bud.  Using native plants in the garden saves water, reduces the use of fertilizers, restores natural habitats, reduces erosion, and preserves biodiversity.  What great reasons to plant native!  You can even pick local plants that will attract birds too!


Why Celebrate Native Plants?

Doll’s Eye Plant

Are you spending countless hours fertilizing, watering, and maintaining your landscape plants? Once you replace your non-native plants with native plants, you can kiss those gruesome afternoons goodbye (and say hello to a greener planet and greener wallet).

Native plants will change the way you look at landscaping.  Native plants generally require less water than non-native plants. Since native plants are adapted to the typical amount of rain that an area receives, they usually don’t need irrigation. Native plants also develop deep root systems that allow them to store water for long periods like August in the DMV and survive here.

We should celebrate native plants because they have adapted to their ecosystem’s soil. So whether they’ve adapted to poor soils or fertile soils, they can survive off the soil’s available nutrients without the help of fertilizers.

Not only does this save you time and cash, but it’s also a great benefit for the environment. Fertilizers pollute stormwater runoff, resulting in toxic waterways for fish and other aquatic organisms.  Similarly, native plants require few or no pesticides!  After years of adaptation, native plants have developed their own natural defense against the area’s insects, diseases, and fungi.

By planting native plants in the landscape, you are enhancing the natural habitat of local wildlife. Birds, pollinators, chipmunks –– all sorts of animals rely on native plants for fruit, nuts, nectar, seeds, and shelter.  When you grow native plants, you’re preserving the natural connections shared between the organisms in your yard. The organisms in an ecosystem depend on each other for survival, and your native plants play a vital role by providing food and shelter for insects and wildlife.  Here are some suggested native plants that thrive in the DMV. 

Popular Native Plants

Cardinal flowerAccording to the Maryland Extension Program, some popular native groundcover and ferns include the Christmas fern, sensitive fern and lady fern, and the moss phlox, pussy toes and wild ginger.  If you want to plant a tree that is native to the DMV, you can consider the blackgum, the white oak, or my favorite, the Eastern redbud.  Wildflowers give you lots of choices from the black-eyed Susan to the cardinal flower, the butterfly weed and the blue wood aster, among others.  I was surprised to see that I can get my fill of hydrangeas, which I associate with Nantucket, if I choose the smooth hydrangea!  Other shrubs include the inkberry or winterberry holly, the fetterbrush, the red chokeberry or the sweet pepperbush.  To see all the plants, trees, shrubs and flowers that the Maryland Extension Program recommends, just click here

Local Gardens that Sell Native Plants

If this persuades you to celebrate native plants, then the next question is where to buy them!

One place to check out is Lauren’s Garden Service in Ellicott City, which specializes in native plants.  Lauren’s Garden Service embraces permaculture practices in all aspects of our gardening and landscaping.  These practices include plant selection,  fertilizing and soil enhancement, planting and weeding techniques and other installation and maintenance practices.  She can even help with deer resistant plants!

Nature by Design is very conveniently located in Alexandria!

In DC, you might visit Sangha.The Earth Sangha operates a volunteer-based ecological restoration program for the greater Washington, DC, region. The program is designed to  conserve and restore the native plant communities that are essential to the region’s ecological health. At the heart of the program is their Wild Plant Nursery, the region’s most comprehensive source of native plants propagated from local, wild seed. In addition to local-ecotype native plant propagation, they help stabilize streams, control invasive alien plants, and restore forests, meadows, and wetlands. The DC-area restoration work attracts over 600 volunteers annually, and has reached about 50 sites, nearly all of them on public lands.

Another resource to check out is the Maryland Native Plant Society.  That group maintains a list of nurseries and local sales where you can find that perfect native plant!

If all of this sounds great and you want a big yard filled with native plants but your current yard or condo balcony isn’t big enough for your dreams, then just give us a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at lise@lisehowe.com.  We will be glad to help you find that perfect new garden of Eden!


View All Local Resources Posts