LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The buds on the native shrubs at Ken’s Gardens are just beginning to swell, hinting that spring is on its way. When it’s time to start gardening this spring, many environmentalists encourage planting Pennsylvania’s native species.
Native plants foster biodiversity, support pollinators and provide food and shelter for wildlife. According to the National Wildlife Federation, “A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.”
Unlike plants brought to Pennsylvania from other places, native flora are adapted to the local climate and can be easier to grow here, explains Jim Glick, co-owner of Ken’s Gardens.
Additionally, local wildlife has evolved alongside and adapted to native plants. “[Native plant species] are easily recognized by other insects and animals that live in this climate and area,” says Sallie Gregory, education coordinator for the Lancaster County Conservation District.
Gregory explains that these native plants can serve as food and shelter for local wildlife. They also play an important role in supporting pollinators.
“The big important thing is really the providing a pollinator source for bugs, butterflies, bees,” says Glick, “because they are the foundation of the ecosystem.” A U.S. Forest Service brochure says that non-native species may not provide enough nectar or pollen for pollinators, or they may be inedible to local caterpillars.
Another benefit of native plants is that they generally won’t become invasive, taking over an area and outcompeting other species for resources they need to survive, explains Gregory.
Native plants come in a variety of types including grasses, perennials, shrubs and trees. “You can make a very attractive landscape using just native plants,” says Glick.
Native plants also have a variety of bloom times, which Gregory says can be fun to consider when designing a garden.
A site landscaped with native plants may look more “natural” than spaces decorated with non-native plants, Glick notes. “Native plants don’t tend very well to the little green balls surrounded by oceans of mulch,” he says.
Gregory and Glick encourage gardeners interested in planting native plants to simply “give it a try” and “get started.”
“The next time you have a spot where you think you need a little something extra, go see if you can find a native plant that fits that spot,” says Glick.
For individuals looking for more information about local native plants, Gregory and Glick recommend the following resources:
- Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
- Homegrown National Park
- Penn State Extension Master Gardener Program
- Ken’s Gardens “Landscaping with Native Plants” brochure