By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Native plants are a great choice for the home landscape
By Tim Daly
Gwinnett County Extension Agent

The state of Georgia is one of the most botanically diverse states. Close to 3,000 species of plants are native to Georgia, ranging from small wildflowers to large trees. These plants have many advantages and tend to be more resistant to environmental extremes and pests. If planted in the proper site and given minimal care, they will flourish and beautify the home landscape.

Georgia has so many native plants due to its diverse geography and environmental conditions, such as wet, moist, dry, upland or bottomland areas. There are mountains in the north, the piedmont in the central part of the state, the coastal plains, and the Georgia coast. Gwinnett County is located in the piedmont, a region of highly weathered soil that has some of the best growing conditions in the state.

Native plants have evolved over time into our area and are adapted to the climate. Many of them are familiar. Native trees include tulip poplars, live oaks and loblolly pines. Sweet shrubs, winterberry holly, red buckeyes, and blueberries are among the native shrubs. Coreopsis, coneflowers and several species of trilliums are some of the wildflowers that are native to our state. Many native ferns grow in the forested areas of our state. 

A native plant community, if incorporated into the landscape and given minimal care, will be low maintenance and self-sufficient over time. In many communities across our region there is a growing interest in preserving these native plant areas, often referred to as “green spaces.”

Using native plants in the landscape of your home is ecologically sound and environmentally friendly. There are several types of native plants. Trees and shrubs, such as tulip trees, loblolly pines, winterberry hollies and red buckeyes, can be combined to create wonderful seasonal interest. The many native ferns, herbaceous flowering plants and grasses can be used in a variety of ways. They are drought, heat, insect and disease resistant, and are easy to maintain when planted properly.

The use of native plants is an important component of various environmentally friendly landscape management systems such as xeriscaping and integrated pest management. A native plant usually requires less maintenance, but this does not mean it needs none. It needs to be grown in an environment to which it is adapted to. If the plant material is adapted to shaded forests with moist organic matter, like most ferns are, then the plant will not perform well planted in a hot, sunny, dry location. In choosing the appropriate plant material for the area, consider your particular site and location.

Native plants provide diverse food, shelter and support for butterflies, birds, mammals, reptiles, and other types of wildlife. Birds are attracted to plants with edible berries such as the ones found on many species of hollies. Pollinators, such as honey bees, are attracted to many of the native flowering plants. Here, while pollinating the plants, they find nectar, a source of nourishment.

Native plants are a good choice for the home landscape. They are hardy, attractive and easy to maintain. Consider planting some in your landscape.

Timothy Daly is Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent with Gwinnett County Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu or http://www.gwinnettextension.com