From the EGT’s Sustainable Landscaping Series, “The Ecological Benefits of the Not So Perfect Yard”
Bad Habit #3: Planting Non-native Plants
Plants that have been introduced to an area from other regions of the county, other countries, or even continents are known as exotic, or alien, because they are not native to that area. While many gardeners don’t give the origin of the plants that they purchase much thought, their source is actually quite important. This is because native plants co-evolved with insects that they can support which is critical for maintaining the food web. Non-natives do not, so they do not feed the butterflies, moths and bees, and other wildlife the way natives will.
Also, native plants have adapted for the local environment. Non-native plants have not. Thus, they require additional inputs, such as fertilizer, water, … to make a good showing. This can lead to excess fertilizer runoff and water pollution, expensive and wasteful irrigation, and other costs. This makes them worse for the local environments.
Some have also become invasive because they do not have the insects, disease, predators, and other natural controls in their new home that would prevent them from becoming invasive in their natural habitat.
KICK THE HABIT Plant natives (TO YOUR SPECIFIC AREA) to support the local food web, that are adapted to the local environment and require fewer inputs.
To learn more about plants that are local to our area check the New Jersey Native Plant Society website for their list of plants page. The page contains lists from the USDA Plants Database which is the most comprehensive and up-to-date source for native plant information. It also contains lists of native trees and vascular plants by county. Another useful tool is the lists of natives for various garden conditions or purposes such as deep shade, dry shade, wet sites, deer resistant… And finally, don’t forget to check out their lists of invasive plants.