Gardening with Native Plants
Planting a Beautiful, Low Maintenance Garden with Native Plants
Using native plants in the landscape and sustainable gardening are 2 hot topics, today. Gardening with Native Plants will provide you with lists of wildflowers and native plants as well as techniques and links to more information to get you started on the way to creating a beautiful and ecologically healthy garden.
Two of my favorite quotes are:
"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." - Frank Lloyd Wright and "A weed is no more than a flower in disguise." - James Russell Lowell
Those two quotes sum up how I feel about gardening with native plants. Many years ago we recognized the numerous benefits of using beautiful native plants in landscaping. It's so easy to do. Just follow the six steps to a beautiful, low maintenance, low cost, ecologically healthy, sustainable garden. The native plants in this lens grow in the Southeastern United States, but many are also native to other parts of the country. A visit to your state's native plant society will get you the information that you will need to plan and plant your own sustainable garden using local native plants.
We hope you enjoy the page and that it helps you garden better by using native plants.
Skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia) Photo by Y.L. Bordelon, All Rights Reserved
Why Garden with Natives?
Long-Tailed Skipper on Mistflower
- Native Plant Gardens are Low Maintenance
- Native plants evolved to grow in local conditions and to predictable sizes. They do not require watering (except when first transplanted), chemical pesticides or fertilizers, nor frequent cutting. They also do not require raking because leaves are a soil builder, weed suppressor and natural fertilizer.
- Using Native Plants Saves Money because naturescapes practically take care of themselves, so there are little or no maintenance costs.
- Replacing Lawns with Native Plants Conserves Water
- Did you know that at least 60% of water consumed on the West Coast, and 30% on the East Coast, goes to watering lawns? Also, U.S. News and World Report states that a 1000 sq. ft. lawn (for example, 20' x 50') requires 10,000 gallons of water per summer to maintain a "green" look.
Prothonotary in Sourwood
Naturescaping Helps Song Birds & Other Wildlife
Populations of all of our migratory song birds are declining at a rapid rate and there is no end in sight. Planting a naturescape and using native plants will help bring some populations back up by providing native habitat for food, nesting and shelter. So that our children and grandchildren will experience the beauty, sound, flight and enchantment of seeing birds, and the joy that comes from other creatures.
Hoover Fly on Salvia Coccinea
Bee on Sunflower
Planting Natives in Suburban Yards Helps Farmers and Homeowners
At least 80% of the fruits and vegetables that we eat depend on pollination by bees, butterflies and other insects to produce. Some of these pollinators are in serious decline, due in part, to the fragmenting of native habitats by urban sprawl. But, landscaping with native plants can help replace some of the lost habitat so these necessary insects can make a come back. Landscaping with native plants will also aid pollination if they are planted near food crops by giving the insects sustenance that they do not receive when pollinating a mono-culture crop.
Reducing Lawn Size Helps Reduce Synthetic Chemicals in the Environment as well as Negative Health Impacts caused by Air & Noise Pollution
Naturescaping eliminates chemical run-off because chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not required. Yale University studies indicate that the average suburban lawn uses 10 times more chemical pesticide per acre than farmland. Each year, 67,000,000 pounds of synthetic pesticides are used on U.S. lawns. Every time it rains those chemicals run-off into our waterways and wind up in the drinking water or in fish or plants eaten by people (or otherwise negatively impacting environmental health in some other way). Fertilizer run off will foul water supplies, create algae blooms and kill fish, etc.
Naturescaping also reduces both air and noise pollution because once it is established there is virtually no mechanized maintenance. Did you know that Lawnmowers emit 10-12 times as much pollution as a typical auto; string trimmers 21 times and blowers 34 times?
Landscaping with Native Plants Enhances Livability
An ecologically functional landscape offers so much more than a sterile, static monoculture landscape. It offers imagination and new experiences to our children, and beauty, color, sound and wonder to us all. It is cleaner, quieter and healthier, and may even increase property values.
Excellent Native Plant Books
These books are some of the best you can find about gardening with native plants. You won't go wrong with any of them.
Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines: A Guide to Using, Growing and Propagating
Betty Foust Smith
"Tree Planting Day" they called it
In Nebraska long ago.
Now we call it Arbor Day, and
Oh, I love it so!
I love to plant a growing thing--
A tree, a shrub, a vine--
And know it will for years and years
Keep growing there, a sign
To children who come after me
That someone thought of them,
And left behind a living friend
More precious than a gem.
Growing and Propagating Showy Native Woody Plants
Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata)
Six Easy Steps for Landscaping with Native Plants
Landscaping With Native Plants
- List the changes you'd like to make.
- Learn about plants that are native to your area.
- Sketch out a map showing the original plantings.
- Apply landscaping techniques to work up the plan.
- Choose the plants.
Step 1 - Change Your Paradigms Say No to Lawns
Labor intensive, manicured, exotic turf lawns became the rage during the late 1800's after Frank J. Scott's book, The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds became the bible for American homeowners. Today, food plants & native alternatives to exotic turf grass are replacing old-fashioned, large lawns.
Lawn Size can be Reduced in a number of ways. Our favorite way to chip away at our exotic turf lawn is by adding islands consisting of groups of flowering or fruiting native trees and shrubs.
White Bog Violet
Another way is by using native ground covers, ferns or mosses especially in shady areas where turf grass is hard to grow and cut. Planting wildflower meadow areas that only need to be cut once a year (in late winter) after they have set seed and the birds have finished with them is another alternative to a lawn. Replacing the traditional lawn in your backyard or side yard with a native bunch grass (such as poverty oat grass, Danthonia spicata or junegrass, Koeleria macrantha), low-growing, buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) or native flowering perennials is another low-maintenance way.
Monarch on Wild Aster
Step 2 - List the Changes you'd like to make
Do you want to:
~ add beds for flowers, perennials, shrubs, etc.?
~ screen out noise or obscure a view?
~ grow vegetables, fruits & herbs?
~ attract butterflies, birds & wildlife?
~ include a water feature?
~ design a low-maintenance landscape, reduce lawn size and replace it with easy-care natives, groundcovers and mulches?
Texas Star Hibiscus
Step 3 - Learn about plants that are native to your area
Contact or join local native plant societies & other organizations. Consult native plant books and guides. You can find a list of our favorites below. Visit native plant Internet sites. Some of our favorites are in the Plexo below. Feel free to add your own to the list. Visit Preserves, Arboretums, Wildlife Management Areas and other native habitats to see the plants in their natural surroundings and to get ideas about the plants that would be right for your property.
Step 4 - Sketch out a map showing the original plantings.
Map of Original Landscaping
Use tracing paper to experiment with changes you'd like to make. Be sure to start with a small project and work with one area at a time.
Step 5 - Apply Landscaping Techniques to work up a plan
Think about what kinds of activities your family likes to do and organize the yard according to how it will be used. Use nature as a guide & let animals work for you. Nature set up a wonderful cycle of producer, predator and prey. When we use pesticides and other chemicals we kill the good insects along with the bad and sometimes harm birds and other beneficial wildlife. Birds and animals can even help you till and fertilize the soil.
Take a look around your neighborhood for ideas on property that is similar to yours. By all means, make it Low Maintenance and be sure to incorporate drainage techniques that conserve rain / storm water on-site like ponds, rain gardens, barrels and or cisterns. Mosquito dunks are a great natural, organic mosquito killer. When dropped into standing water (100 gallons per dunk) will last for 30 days and are not harmful to pets, fish or wildlife.
Blazing Star, Liatris
Southern Magnolia Flower
Step 6 - Choose Plants
Native plants grown from local stock perform better in your yard. Our weather is hot and humid and native plants from the upper south usually melt away down here in South Louisiana. Notice what native plants grow in locations similar to yours and use them.
Choose plants that have colorful leaves, flowers, fruit or nuts during each season of the year. Also, be sure to get at least 3 of each of the smaller plants and plant in odd numbered groups. It looks better that way and if you are trying to attract birds or butterflies, they will be drawn to the larger mass of flowers or fruit. Choose plants that are multi-functional. Pick ones that have shade, food, soil enriching or wildlife attracting, or other properties.
Huckleberry, Wild Blueberry
Societies and Trees
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
Here in Louisiana, fall and winter are the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs. The weather is cool and there is usually plenty of moisture so the roots of the plants can develop while they are dormant. By spring the plant is established and ready to put out new leaves. But don't forget to water well during drought periods for the first year.
Most photos, stamps, postcards, posters and the items here are available at Naturally Native Creations
Native Plants List
There are thousands of beautiful, easy to grow, low maintenance native plants that can be grown in your garden. You'll find many of my favorites on this page. There is also a legend noting which plants attract butterflies, hummingbirds, pollinators or song birds and which provide food for humans and animals.
Some Favorite Easy to Grow Native Plants - Native Plants of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
To see photographs of most of the following plants and to learn more about gardening and landscaping with native plants, visit the Folsom Native Plant Society Website, Seasonal Blooming Guideor use some of the links below to find out if any of these plants are native in your area.
Legend for Plants:
B = Butterfly nectar source
Bh = Butterfly Host (larval food)
H = Hummingbird nectar source
P = Pollinator (Bees, etc.)
SB = Song & other Bird Food Source
F = Food for Humans & Mammals
Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis H
Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria & other Hollies SB
Wax Myrtle, Myricacerifera morellancerifera SB
Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis B
Devil's Walking Stick, Aralia spinosa SB, P
Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida SB
Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis P, SB, F
Fringetree, Grancy Graybeard Chioanthus virginicus P, SB
Mayhaw, Crataegus opaca Bh, P, SB, F
Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii Bh, P, SB
~ Chickasaw Plum, Prunus angustifolia Bh, P, SB, F
~ Mexican Plum, Prunus Mexicana Bh, P, SB, F
~ Pawpaw, Asimina triloba Bh, F
~ Dwarf Pawpaw, Asimina parviflora Bh, F
Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia B, H
Sassafras albidum Bh, SB, F
Serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea P, SB, F
Silver-bell, Halesia diptera H, SB
Snowbell, Styrax americanus P
Southern Crabapple, Malus angustifolia P, SB, F
Sumac, Rhus spp. SB
Tree Huckleberry, Vaccinium arboretum SB, Bh
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana H, SB
Native Pink Azalea
Azaleas B, H, P
~ Honeysuckle - Rhododendron canescens
~ Florida - Rhododendron austrinum
~ Swamp or Summer Azalea -
R. viscosum, formerly R. serrulatum
Florida Anise / Star-bush, Illicium floridanum P
Groundsel Bush, Baccharis halimifolia P, SB
St. John's Wort, Hypericum Family P, B
~ St. John's Wort, H. sphaerocarpum
~ St. Andrew's Cross, H. hypericoides
Yucca spp. B, Bh, H, P, F
American Beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana P, SB
Wild Blueberry / Huckleberry Elliot's Blueberry Vaccinium elliottii Bh, H, SB, F
Coral Bean / Mamou, Erythrina herbacea B, H, SB
Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens B, P, SB
Roses B, P, SB, F
~ Carolina Rose, Rosa carolina
~ Swamp Rose, Rosa palustris
Silky Camellia, Stewartia malacodendron (rare) P
Strawberry Bush, Euonymous americanus SB
Sweet Shrub / Carolina Allspice Calycanthus floridus P, F
Turk's Cap / Sultan's Turban
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii B, H, P, SB
Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum B, P, SB
Sweetspire, Itea virginica B, P, SB
~ Leather Flower, Clematis crispa
~ Virgin's Bower, Clematis virginiana
Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata H, P
Yellow Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens B, H, P
Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens B, H, SB
Morning Glory B, H
~ Cypress Vine, Ipomoea quamoclit
~ Red Morning Glory, Ipomoea coccinea, I. hederifolia
Passion Flower / Maypop, Passiflora incarnate B, Bh, P, F
Yellow Passion Vine, Passiflora lutea B, Bh, P
Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans H (Spreads rapidly)
Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia SB
Wild Grape / Muscadine, Vitis rotundifolia SB, F
Lyre-leaf Sage, Salvia Lyrata B, H, P
Elephant Foot, Elephantopus tomentosus B, P
Self-Heal, Prunella vulgaris B, P
Little Brown Jugs, Hexastylis arifolia
Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens SB
Primrose-leaved Violet, Viola primulifolia B, Bh
Wild Blue Violets
Late Winter / Early Spring Blooms:
Butterweed, Senecio glabellus B, P
Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus B
Wild Violets, Viola langloisii B, Bh, P, F
Early Blue Violet, Viola palmata B, Bh, P
Birdsfoot Violet, Viola pedata B, Bh, P
Viola primulifolia B, Bh, P
Gardening with Native Plants of the South
The Louisiana Iris
Sharp-sepal Beard-tongue, Penstemon tenuis B, H
Lemon Mint, Monarda citriodora B, H, F
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa B, H, F
Bluestar, Amsonia tabernaemontana
Longleaf Milkweed, Asclepias longifolia B, Bh, P
Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa B, Bh, P
Spider Milkweed, Asclepias viridis B, Bh, P
Candy Root, Polygala nana P
Drumhead Candyroot, Polygala cruciata P
Mouse-ear Coreopsis, Coreopsis auriculata B, P
Lance-leaved Coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata B, P
Garden Coreopsis, Coreopsis tinctoria B, P
Gaura / Beeblossom, Gaura lindheimeri B, P
Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica B, H, P
Giant Blue Iris, Iris giganticaerulea B, H, P
Southern Blue Flag, Iris virginiana B, H, P
Zig-zag-stemmed Iris, Iris brevicaulis B, H, P
Meadow Beauty, Rhexia alifanus P
Meadow Beauty, Rhexia mariana P
Meadow Beauty, Rhexia virginiana P
Ladies Tresses, Spiranthes spp. P
Obedient Plant, Physostegia virginiana B, H, P
Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata B, P
Downy Phlox, Phlox Pilosa B, P
Evening Primrose, Oenothera Biennis B, P
Mexican Primrose, Oenothera speciosa B, P
Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa B, P, F
Rough Skullcap, Scutellaria integrifolia B, H
Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana B, P
Stokes Aster, Stokesia laevis B, P
Wake Robin / Red Trillium, Trillium foetidissimum
White Indigo, Baptisia alba B, Bh, P, SB
Wild Petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis B, H, P
Violet Wild Petunia, Ruellia nudiflora B, H, P
Bumblebee on Liatris
Bumblebee on Baluina
Fall Aster, Aster ericoides
Purple Aster, Aster praealtus B, P
Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum B, P
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum B, P
Mist Flower, Eupatorium coelestinum B, P
Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum
Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta B, Bh, P, SB
Orange Coneflower, R. fulgida B, P, SB
Giant Coneflower, R.maxima B, P, SB
False Foxglove, Agalinis fasciculate B, Bh, P
Goldenrod, Common, Solidago altissima B, P
Sweet Goldenrod, Solidago odora B, P
Elm-leaf Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa B, P
Pineland Hibiscus, Hibiscus aculeatus B, H, P
Poppy Mallow, Callirhoe papaver B, Bh, P
Texas Star Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus B, H, P
Crimson-eyed Rosemallow,Hibiscus moscheutos B, Bh, H, P
Spotted Horsemint, Monarda punctata B, P
Ironweed, Vernonia altissima B, Bh, P
Jewel Weed, Impatiens capensis B, H, P
Liatris - Gayfeather, Liatris spicata B, P
Blazing Star, Liatris pycnostachya B, P
Button Blazing Star, Liatris squarrosa B, P
Carolina Lily, Lilium michauxii
Southern Swamp Lily, Crinum americanum
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis B, H, P
Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica B, H, P
Monkey Flower, Mimulus alatus, M. ringens B, Bh, P
Whiteleaf Mountainmint, Pycnanthemum albescens, B, P
Mountainmint, P. tenuifolium B P
Azure Blue Sage, Salvia azurea B, H, P
Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccinea B, H, P
Partridge Pea, Cassia fasciculate B, P, SB
Sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale B, P
Sunflowers - Ashy Sunflower, Helianthus mollis B, P
Narrow-leaved Sunflower, H. angustifolius B, P, SB
Jerusalem Artichoke, H. Tuberosus B, SB, F
Famous Fruits Quote
Famous fruits imported from the East or South and sold in our markets ... do not concern me so much as many an unnoticed wild berry whose beauty annually lends a new charm to some wild walk or which I have found to be palatable to an outdoor taste. We cultivate imported shrubs in our front yards for the beauty of their berries, while at least equally beautiful berries grow unregarded by us in the surrounding fields.
Henry David Thoreau, Wild Fruits
More Information About Landscaping with Native Plants
There is a wealth of information available about using native plants in the landscape and sustainable gardening. Here are some of the best sources.
There are also green products which will aid in making your landscape more sustainable and healthy.
Sources of Native Plants
Nurseries and stores where native plants can be purchased. Always make sure that the plants are grown in the nursery, not collected in the wild.
- Mizell Farms of Folsom, LA
Specializing in butterfly, hummingbird, and native plants
- Coyote Creek Herbs and Useful Natives
St. Francisville, LA
- LSU Hilltop Arboretum — Louisiana State University
Hilltop Arboretum of Baton Rouge, LA
- NPIN: Suppliers - Prairie Basse
Bill Fontenot's Nursery of Carencro, LA from Native Plant Suppliers listing from LBJ Wildflower Center.
- Native Plant Sources by State
NATIVE PLANT NURSERIES - Kentucky to Montana
- Native Ventures
Allen Native Ventures - Nature Books, Tours, Seeds, Photos and more
Compost Pile Part I Video
Compost Pile Part 2 Video
Sustainable and Organic Gardening Products
Here are some more things that will help you garden with the balance of nature in mind. Soil polymers really help you conserve water, especially in flower pots and they keep your plants healthier, too.
Native plants, mulching and rain gardens will help conserve water, but fruits and vegetables may need additional watering. Here are some products that will help conserve water.
Sustainable Gardening - Making a Rain Barrel Video
Controlling Slugs Organically Video
Native Plant and Wildflower Books and Gifts
These are some of our favorite books about gardening with native plants. We've also included some of our own Naturally Native creations, including jewelry, hats, shirts, cards, mugs and more, on Zazzle, CafePress and Etsy.
More Great Native Plant Gardening Books
Books to help you identify and use native plants.
How to Get Your Lawn Off Grass
A wonderful how-to move toward sustainability and conservation. Basically to Plant more edibles and less exotic turf grass.
Other Great Books for Native Plant Gardening in the South
Allen, Charles, Phd. Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of Louisiana.
Many other great books about Louisiana's native plants can be found at Allens Ventures.
Brown, Clare. Wildflowers of Louisiana and Adjoining States.
Fontenot, William R. Native Gardening in the South.
Miley, Betty. Geaux Native! In Your Louisiana Yard.
© 2008 Yvonne L. B.