By Tiffany Breed: MCMGA member
You hear a lot of talk in the gardening world about native Texas plants. But what exactly is a native plant and why would we want to plant them? A native plant is one that existed here without human introduction. There are many plants that were living here and doing great before settlers started bringing plants over from Europe and other places. There are many reasons to consider using these plants in our landscaping.
Native plants do not need as much water as many of the cultivars that come from other areas of the world. This is because they have grown in our climate for many years and are used to our hot summers and periods of drought. You will see many of the natives used in xeriscaping. After going through the drought last summer, I think we can all agree that having plants in our landscape that can make it through such harsh times is a definite plus!
By choosing native grasses, we can reduce the amount of mowing we do in the summer. Bermuda grass is a native and will make a good lawn that wears well under traffic and it uses less water than others. It’s growth habit is such that is doe s not require mowing as frequently as some others. In contrast, St. Augustine is a beautiful grass that is a water hog, doesn’t do well under stressful conditions like last summer, and needs to be mowed frequently for its best performance.
Habitat for Wildlife:
The animals that are indigenous to our area use the native plants for nesting materials and food sources. Wildlife will eat the seeds from our native flowers. Birds use the native grasses and other plants to build their nests. Pollinators use many natives as a source of food and a place to lay their eggs. This creates an ecosystem which needs many native plants to stay in balance. By adding natives to our gardens, we help to propagate this environment.
Native plants help to prevent erosion. Many times, you will see in highway projects, they will use native grasses to help with the erosion of the soil on the hills. Natives are a great choice because they do not need a lot of supple-mental water, so they will do well in an area that is not irrigated regularly. This would work in your yard as well.
Save Money on Fertilizers and Pesticides:
Native plants have adapted well to our climate and soils. Because of this, they tend to do well without a lot of care. They do not need a lot of fertilizer to make them produce well. Many natives are also resistant to a lot of the pests we have locally. Less pesticide and less fertilizer are good for the environment and also mean money in your pocket!
Many plants that have been introduced from other parts of the world become invasive in our area. This is because the natural system of checks and balances (insects, disease, wildlife, and weather) that may exist in their native climate that keep their growth and spread in check do not exist here, so they grow like wildfire.
Next time you are considering plants to add to your landscape, take a look at some of the natives and consider adding them. You will find a variety of plants available that will have the above benefits and will look great in your yard!
You can find many native Texas plants at garden centers in Montgomery county and also at our MCMGA plant sales.