Recently, a reader inquired as to whether native plants were actually better than non-native plants. This is a great question. At the same time, I do not believe the answer is as easy as a resounding ‘yes.’
Native plants have adapted throughout many years to a particular environment. There are numerous benefits to using native plants. Plants adapted to our environment tend to grow quite well in our semi-arid conditions. They can typically withstand our extreme temperature swings and tolerate our clay soils. Other benefits of utilizing native plants in our landscape include a food source and potential shelter for wildlife. Native plants usually thrive with minimal care. bit.ly/3EbhWAi.
With that said, there are many plants native to other geographical locations that do quite well here. However, if I were going to choose between two similar plants – one native and one non-native – I would definitely lean towards the native species. As we discussed last week, there are other factors to consider, such as understanding our individual microclimates. All in all, one of the most crucial aspects of successful gardening is finding the right plant for the right place.
Plant diversity is another aspect of creating a sustainable landscape. Using a wide variety of plants can help reduce pest and disease issues, as well as provide more seasonal interest.
Xeriscaping principles will help you incorporate native plants and conserve resources while maintaining a beautiful yard. Colorado State University Extension has a number of fact sheets you can reference on their website at bit.ly/3JFpI6E.
There are multiple considerations for creating a xeriscape. First, an overall plan is helpful. You can divide your yard into water usage zones, such as high, moderate and low. High-usage zones are typically located near a patio, for example, and will receive regular supplemental watering. On the other end of the spectrum are low-water usage areas that only receive natural rainfall.
On the CSU Extension website, you can find design principles and steps, as well as lists of water wise plants ranging from annuals, ground cover and ornamental grasses to shrubs and trees.
Another excellent resource for utilizing native plants that includes a couple of landscape designs is the Low-Water Native Plants for Colorado Gardens. This planting guide is a collaboration of multiple local organizations, such as the Colorado Native Plant Society, the Butterfly Pavilion and the Denver Botanical Gardens. bit.ly/3uDt9GM.
Arianna Kelley Rawlsky has a MS in horticulture and is the director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticulture education and therapy to the community. For more information: PeopleAndPlantsTogether@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.