by Carl Salsedo, Ph.D.
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Landscaping with native plants has many positive factors that relate to sustainable landscaping for water quality. Native plants save energy, they have evolved and adapted to local conditions. They are vigorous and hardy, able to survive winter cold and summer heat. Once established, they require little or no irrigation or fertilization. They are resistant to local pests and diseases. Thus, native plants suit today's interest in "low maintenance" gardening and landscaping.
Native plants stay put. They are members of a community that includes other plants, animals and microorganisms. A natural balance keeps each species in check, allowing it to thrive in suitable conditions but preventing it from running amok. Native species rarely become invasive unless a major disturbance disrupts the natural balance of the community.
Native plants support the local ecosystem. Native plants provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other desirable wildlife. Below ground they provide connections with the ecosystem supporting a wide range of microorganisms, insects and other creatures that inhabit this ecosystem. Remember it is the interaction among species that that contribute to biodiversity and a bio-diverse garden.
Native plants are interesting. The diversity of native plant includes interesting flowers and foliage. Native trees and shrubs provide a variety of heights, shapes, and textures in the sustainable landscape. Many provide winter interest with their bark or seedpods. Native plants also have historical and cultural interest. For example, Connecticut's state flower is the mountain laurel. Some of these plants played a significant role in Native American culture or in European exploration and settlement of the continent. Many species have value as food or medicine. Others have been used for rope and twine, fabrics and dyes, and other domestic purposes. Native plants provide the people of today with a tangible link to the past.