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A Guide to Gardening with Native Plants

RESIZEDBy Dean Nernberg

Defining Native Plants

When it comes to choosing plants for your backyard, the options are seemingly endless. As homeowners become more ecologically aware and environmentally responsible, many are turning to native plants as a way to add beauty to their backyards while still being mindful of Mother Nature.

What Are Native Plants?

Native plants are species that evolved and grow naturally in a particular region or ecosystem; in other words, humans did not introduce them to the environment. They are also often referred to as indigenous species.

Native plants are compatible with local environmental conditions; as such, they usually require less maintenance and can survive with natural precipitation levels. This means significantly less irrigation or watering may be required once plants have become established, given the proper conditions and parameters.

Plants native to your region or area will also naturally support local wildlife, such as birds, insects and pollinators (e.g. bees and butterflies). In addition, by using the native species, you can help conserve natural flora and their local genetic traits.

It is important to remember all plants are native somewhere; that does not mean they will work well in your particular region. For example, a plant native to California will not be native to Québec or other parts of Canada.

When dealing with native plants, you will encounter two main types of species.

Non-ecoregional native species

These are species native to this continent, but not native to your specific ecoregion (e.g. a California poppy planted in Québec).

Ecoregional native species

These are species native to your particular ecoregion. They can be divided into two subcategories:

  • Non-local ecoregional native plant material: plants or seeds produced from species that are listed as native in your area, but that originated from outside your ecoregion (e.g. taking blue grama grass from Ontario and growing it in Saskatchewan, where it is also a native species); and
  • Local ecoregional native plant material: plants or seeds produced from species from your area (e.g. gaillardia growing in Alberta).
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