Wild About Texas – October, 2007
When native plants are used in carefully selected places in the garden (i.e., locations that closely resemble where they are found growing on their own), the following advantages may be enjoyed by the garden, its caretaker, and the greater landscape:
1. Soil amendment and fertilizer reduction. Standard horticultural practice is to compost the soil, fertilize and top with mulch. This is not necessary or advisable in all cases for Texas natives. Bluebonnets and blackfoot daisies, for example, typically grow in soils poor in organic matter and may rot in rich soils.
2. Water conservation. Once established, species appropriately selected for your site will generally be more drought-tolerant than non-native species.
3. Disease and pest resistance. Although insects and pathogens can prey on natives, indigenous plants are typically more resistant and more likely to survive such assaults than their non-native counterparts.
4. Stymie invasive species. The risk of introducing a new non-native species to an area is eliminated.
5. Wildlife resources. Native plants provide superior food and shelter for wildlife.
6. Native plants are “new.” Gardeners are always looking for something novel for their landscapes. There is a profusion of garden-worthy natives that have not yet been adequately explored for horticultural use.
7. Information for the future. The more we use natives in our gardens, the more we learn about how to grow them successfully.
8. Connection with the natural world. With each plant we get to know in the garden, we gain a new friend. When we see these “friends” growing in the wild, we will better understand them and appreciate them.
9. Gesture of regard. Human nature has instilled upon us the tendency to collect that which we admire. Nowhere is this truer than with the gardener. The simple act of tending a native plant allows us to express our reverence for it.
10. Regional identity/sense of place/natural heritage. When we use natives in our gardens, we say “this is how we make our gardens here; these are the plants that tell us we are home.”
For more information about native plants and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, go to www.wildflower.org.
About the author: Andrea DeLong-Amaya is Director of Horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.