These native South Carolina plants are great for gardening

A local effort to bloom more native plants hopes to inspire people to choose homegrown buds because they’re good for the environment and easy to care for.

COLUMBIA, SC — A local effort to promote native plants in the Midlands is urging gardeners to choose homegrown buds over exotic ones. It turns out, native plants are good for the environment and easier to care for.

The Midlands Chapter of the South Carolina Native Plant Society is on a mission to promote local blooms ahead of spring gardening. “We’re trying to help people understand that they’re doing themselves a favor by choosing plants that require less maintenance, and also do the environment a favor and help out the birds and the butterflies,” explained the president of the chapter, Bob Askins.

An example of a native plant, displayed at the Robert Mills House in Columbia, is the white redbud tree. Askins explained the tree helps feed animals and plants better than exotic ones.

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“The caterpillars cannot eat Asian plants,” said Askins. “They have to have native plants to grow. The same thing is true for many butterflies and native bees; they co-evolved with the plants here.”

Keith Mearns, director of grounds for Historic Columbia, is pushing native plant efforts too. Mearns replaced much of the gardens at the historic Robert Mills House with east coast blooms.

“The mission is to show people what you can do with native plant selections. That they can fulfill a role in your garden, they’re really robust and really simple to deal with but they also support our native eco-system better than the exotics do,” said Mearns.

Not all exotic plants are bad, but Askins said some can pose a serious problem – like the infamous Bradford Pear Tree.

“We call those invasive plants and the problems with those is they can crowd out the native species, so it makes it difficult for the plants and animals that rely on those plants,” Askins said.

To help promote native plants in the Midlands, Historic Columbia and the Native Plant Society are hosting a plant sale on March 25 and 26 at the Robert Mills House. Here are the details:

-Robert Mills House: 1616 Blanding Street, Columbia South Carolina 29201

– Friday sale is 3 pm – 6 pm

– Saturday sale is 9 am – 4 pm

– Volunteers will have educational gardening demonstrations on how to prune and propagate plants.

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