How to Add Native Plants to Your Garden

Black Eyed Susans

Homeowners across Northeast Ohio are discovering just how detrimental lawns and the upkeep of exotic plants is to the environment. Lawns and non-native plants require constant care and in the case of annuals, repurchasing and replanting year after year. It’s wasteful, expensive and detrimental to wildlife who encounter reduced availability of the native species upon which they feed.

Whether you decide to convert your entire yard into a wildlife habitat, or simply turn over a corner of your property to native plantings, there are plenty of excellent reasons to do so.

The Benefits of Planting Native Plant Species in Your Yard

Here are some benefits of incorporating native plants into your landscape: 

  • They are more adapted to thrive in their local environment.
  • They use less fertilizer and water.
  • They are more drought resistant
  • They are less prone to disease and can better withstand invasives and pests.
  • They help filter pollutants from the soil and water.
  • The can help control erosion.
  • They are low maintenance (i.e., will come back year after year with little to no assistance).
  • They provide food and habitats for birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Ready to get started growing native plants in your yard this year? Here is a short list of some of the most popular plants native to our area:

Sun-loving natives:

  • Bee Balm – The nectar of these showy purple flowers attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, plus you can make tea from the leaves!
  • Black-Eyed Susan – These bright yellow daisy-like flowers with the black center bloom all summer and add a sunny pop of color to any landscape (see header image).
  • Butterfly Weed – As its name suggests, the bright orange flowers of this plant are loved by butterflies, especially monarchs. Does well in dry soil.
  • Gayfeather or Blazing Star – The dramatic purple and white flower spires add colorful height and interest to your garden while feeding all the nectar-lovers.

Shade-loving natives:

  • Blue Flag Iris – Great for wet, shady areas, these rich and dramatic blue-violet flowers attract many different kinds of pollinators.
  • Columbine – Available in a variety of colors with a unique and delicate bell-shaped center, this plant likes shady areas that don’t get too wet.
  • Turtlehead – These unusually-shaped blue or white flowers (yes, they look a bit like the head of a turtle), thrive in damp, shaded areas and attract butterflies.
  • Wild Wood Aster – This plant forms masses of delicate, daisy-like flowers enjoyed by butterflies. Does well in shaded areas that are not too wet.

These are just a few of the species that were once common in Ohio and will beautify your property while fostering pollinator species and reducing your annual maintenance. For a more comprehensive lists of native perennials, visit our article on creating a pollinator garden. For truly comprehensive lists of all of Ohio’s native plants, you can view the documents compiled by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Starting Seeds with Cold Stratification

Many native perennials have ingenious mechanisms to keep from sprouting too early. They often have a harder seed casing than annual seeds and if you will be planting them in the spring, you may need to take the extra step of “cold stratification” to get them to germinate properly. This is because in nature native perennial seeds would go through a period of cold, freezing temperatures before sprouting in spring. They will not germinate without that cold period. (Without this safeguard, they might accidentally sprout in fall or during a warm spell in early or mid-winter.)

Your seeds should come with instructions on whether cold stratification is needed for the species you are planting. (This extra step is only needed if you are planting in spring. If you are doing fall outdoor planting, the seeds will be cold stratified naturally.)

There are a variety of methods to cold stratify your seeds, but the easiest is to soak your seeds in water for an hour or two, and then wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel (not too wet, you don’t want them to get moldy) seal them in a Ziploc baggie, write the date on the bag and store in your refrigerator for about 4-5 weeks. After that length of time, they should be ready to plant.

This is the general process for cold stratification, but always defer to the instructions that came with your specific plant species, which may need different time lengths or conditions.

Where to Find Native Plants and Seeds

Although once difficult to find and purchase, over the past few years, there has been an increasing interest in native planting, so many garden centers have begun offering a selection of seeds and plants native to the Northeast Ohio region. If your local garden center doesn’t carry what you are looking for, locally you can purchase many native plants from Genius Loci in Elyria. And for purchasing online, American Meadows sells a wide variety of native plants and wildflowers.

Want to learn more? The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio hosts a variety of hikes and programs to educate the public on appreciating and conserving our native plants.

 

More Articles for a Healthy Yard and Home

Wildlife-Friendly Fall Yard Cleanup

Wildlife-Friendly Fall Yard Cleanup

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more
Composting 101

Composting 101

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more
Turf Grass Care

Turf Grass Care

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more
What is a Pollinator Garden?

What is a Pollinator Garden?

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more
Know Your Grass

Know Your Grass

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more
Sustainable Design for Your Yard

Sustainable Design for Your Yard

Take cues from nature. Even if you choose not to convert your home habitat to a completely naturalized landscape, such as a prairie or woodland, there are ways to design home landscapes that make spaces more environmentally healthy and family friendly.

read more
Understanding Your Soil

Understanding Your Soil

Yards are at the forefront of local environmental stewardship. Because residential land use is the most dominant land use in urban communities, we have the power to create a healthy landscape with high functioning ecosystems.

read more
What is a Rain Garden?

What is a Rain Garden?

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more
Conduct a Lawn Assessment

Conduct a Lawn Assessment

Before any landscape program begins, assess the current conditions of your home landscape. This assessment will help you to identify and prioritize future projects and allow you to appreciate all the positive changes you’ve made.

read more