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American Native Plants or Bust

(Top Reasons to Convert to Natives)

The benefits from growing American native plants is compelling, whether you live in California or elsewhere. Read on to understand why you must choose local plants for your garden.

This list is not arranged by any order of importance. We think these are all excellent reasons and we could not agree on a prioritization. So here they are:

  1. You love your garden and want to be part of restoring the local ecology and helping the environment. Native plants will feed and bring native birds and insects to your garden. California has almost 1000 species of bees, many have just a single plant species as their food source. Once the bees are gone, that plant can no longer pollinate, and both the bees, and the plants will die out. By planting natives, you can help save local beneficial native insects as well as native plants.

    An orange dragonfly perches on a plant over my backyard pond

    Erysimum franciscanum (Franciscan Wallflower) is a cliff-hanger

  2. California native plants are beautiful, with variations in flower and foliage color that can create wonderfully satisfying landscapes. These plants have adapted to the exact climate, soil conditions, and water levels that are in your garden. They can flourish with much less maintenance, water, and pesticides than plants that are not adapted to the area. If water conservation is your target, then there is no better reason.

  3. Native plants enhance the health of the soil with the return of indigenous bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and other underground benefactors. The local soil ecology is just as important as ecology above the ground. Pesticides, cultivation, and fertilizer degrade and destroy local soil ecology. Native plants will help restore it.

    California poppies are beautiful and drought tolerant

    Fragaria chiloensis (Beach Strawberry) thrives on neglect

  4. Long term maintenance is low, that is, minimal pruning is needed since natives grow to their natural size and remain there, significantly reducing yard waste that goes into our landfills. Currently about 20% of California's landfill is garden waste.

  5. Natives that are drought tolerant plants rely on natural rainfall to grow and survive. This reduces the need for supplementary irrigation and helps water conservation.

  6. The reduced watering needs of natives in turn decrease energy consumption. Water pumping currently accounts for about 8 percent of California's energy use.

    Ceanothus provides food and shelter to birds and insects

  7. Native soil does not need to be tilled and cultivated before, during, or after planting. Cultivation and tilling can destroy intrasoil ecology.

    Dendromecon hardfordii (Island Bush Poppy) is a hardy plant with spectacular yellow flowers

  8. No amendments or fertilizers are needed during planting and after establishing the plants, reducing toxic and chemical waste in our watersheds from landscape runoffs. American native plants do well on natural compost and mulch from fallen leaves and other plant material. Fertilizers destroy local soil ecology as well. They change the soil makeup and can destroy delicate local microbes and beneficial bacteria, which in turn makes it harder for plants to survive long term.

  9. Native plants attract local insects and fauna. Native wildlife such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and small animals return to their habitat creating life and movement in your garden. This creates an engaging place to rest and enjoy. You may not know this, but a large fraction of American native plants are either extinct or on the endangered list and with them the herbivorous insects that depend on these plants for survival.

    The vista of a native garden near Berkeley

  10. The vista of a native garden that is reminiscent of wild spaces like the Yosemite Valley warms the heart and soul. It helps connect you with the place where you live, reduces your stress level, and provides a warm, interesting place for children to explore.

To further explore California native plants and water conservation, click here.

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