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Five reasons to fill your yard with native plants

A detail shot of the purple flowers of milkweed.
Milkweed (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Looking to make some changes in your yard? If planting new plants is on your to-do list, consider including native plants in your landscaping. Using native plants in yards and gardens is a growing trend, and it benefits the environment.

Native plants are the grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees that grow naturally in the region in which they evolved. Our native plants here in Will County are well adapted to our climate and soil. They thrive here because they are meant to grow here.

Why native plants instead of the ones we have traditionally included in your yards? There are plenty of good reasons to use them. If the reasons below convince you to give native gardening a go, consult with a reputable garden center or nursery that specializes in native landscaping.

Before you get started, you can research native plants local to you through the National Audubon Society’s Native Plants Database. You can filter plants in the database based on a number of criteria, including type of plant and the type of birds you want your landscaping to attract.

They require less water

Native plants don’t need to be watered as much as other plants because of their deep root systems that can store water. This stored water can then be used by the plants during dry spells in the growing season. Another benefit of their water-holding capacity is that they help prevent flooding and stormwater runoff because they take in moisture during heavy rains.

When you consider how much water Americans use to water their lawns and gardens, the benefit really comes into view. A typical American family uses 320 gallons of water a day, and about 30% of that is for outdoor use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than half the water used outdoors is poured on our lawns and gardens to keep them green and lush. Even replacing a small part of your lawn or landscaped beds with native plants that do not need regular watering can have a positive impact on water consumption.

They don’t require much care

If you love to garden but don’t have as much time to spend on it as you’d like, native plants are perfect for you. Plants that are native to northern Illinois are meant to grow here, so they don’t need a lot of TLC to grow and thrive. Native plants don’t require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides, plus they are less prone to disease than other plants. And you don’t have to mow them, which can be a real time saver.

Reducing our use of fertilizers and pesticides, in particular, is a real benefit of native plants because we use a lot of them in the United States, and when we do the runoff from them enters our waterways, where it can be harmful to plant and animal life. Because native plants require little by way of chemical maintenance, they are less likely to contribute to this type of pollution than non-native plants.

They help clean our air

Planting native plants in place of grass can help reduce air pollution in a few ways. First, native plants can remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their deep root systems. They also contribute to cleaner air because they don’t require mowing and trimming. Gas-powered lawn mowers and garden tools create 5% of the air pollution in the United States, according to the EPA. When you replace part of your lawn with native plants, you are reducing air pollution because you are mowing less space.

On a global scale, these effects on air quality and air pollution can also contribute to preventing climate change, the EPA reports. By holding carbon dioxide, native plantings serve as carbon sinks and keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Plus the reduction in the use of gas-powered lawn equipment lessens the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

They benefit our local wildlife

If you want to attract birds and other wildlife to your yard, going native in your yard is a good place to start. These native plants are the flowers, shrubs and grasses that are meant to grow here, so it’s no surprise that they provide food and shelter for our native animal species.

Native plants will provide the nectar that is essential for so many of our pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths and even hummingbirds. And having a yard all abuzz with insect activity means there’s lots to eat for birds and other wildlife that rely on insects as a main insect source. Even furry mammals might be more likely to pay your yard a visit because native landscaping can provide them spots to take shelter from the weather and even predators.

They’re oh so pretty

If the science isn’t enough to convince you to add some native landscaping to your yard, we will appeal to your sense of aesthetics. Native plants will add beauty to your yard. They bloom in every color of the rainbow, and if you plan carefully, you can have pops of color in your yard from early spring to late fall.

What’s your favorite color? Yellow? There’s a native plant for that. Red? Yellow? Purple? Pink? White? There’s native plants for those too. Whether you like a monochrome look with blooms in shades of one color or a whole riot of color all over your yard, you can find native plants to accomplish your goal.

And remember that native plants aren’t just wildflowers. You can find dozens of native trees, shrubs and grasses that will add color and visual interest to your yard all year long.


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