I like the idea of “native” plants and landscapes and absolutely love wildflowers; however, native doesn’t always mean easier, insect free or even desirable.   In fact, there are some widely held misconceptions that I’d like to dispel and some rules to follow when considering native plants and gardens.  All in all, going native is a good thing, a beautiful thing if you keep the following in mind:

Native, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “living or growing naturally in a particular region (indigenous)”.  This doesn’t automatically mean that a native species will make a good garden plant.  Some natives can be aggressive growers, so if planting in a small garden, this could become an issue.  Not all native plants are even attractive and some are potentially harmful and poisonous.  Additionally, you’ll often hear people say that native plants have fewer diseases and insect problems.  This is not necessarily the case.  It is true that most natives have fewer problems, but others are constantly plagued.  It is often assumed that native plants are well adapted and will grow and prosper with little assistance or intervention –  again, this is not true for all species.   Lastly, just because a plant is native does not automatically mean that it’s more desirable than a non-native species.  You’ve probably heard of or even come in close contact with Poison Ivy and/or Poison Sumac – both native species, but I doubt you want them growing in your yards.

Before selecting native plants, consider their natural habitat as they will obviously grow best when planted in a similar habitat.  For example, some species grow in wooded sites with little sun, so shade will be needed.  Others grow in open prairies and fields, so full sun will be needed.  The bottom line is do some research or reach out to Sweeney’s for assistance and advice.  Never collect plants and/or seeds from wild areas as this could potentially threaten the species and may even be illegal.  If purchasing the plants and/or seeds yourself, be sure to purchase from reputable nurseries or garden centers.   Again, Sweeney’s would love to work with you on your native landscape.

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day”.

Native American Proverb

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney