Photo: Why gardening with native plants is the best

Gardening with flowers, shrubs and trees native to your area has many advantages:

1. Native plants need less water: Using plants adapted to your local climate means less watering, especially in drought-prone areas and during heat waves.

2. Native plants don't need special treatments: Species adapted to native insects and soils generally don't need pesticides and fertilizers to protect and feed them.

3. Native plants are best for local bees and butterflies: Birds use native plants for food (seeds and berries) and shelter. Native plants also attract insects, which pollinate flowers and are an important food source for birds. Butterflies rely on specific native plants to lay their eggs — some of their caterpillars will only eat certain plants.

4. Native plants discourage invasive species: Gardening with native plants can prevent the introduction and spread of invasive plant species. Many invasives have been intentionally introduced. Unfortunately, the same characteristics that make a low-maintenance garden plant — hardy, fast-growing and easy to care for — often allow that plant to take over natural areas and replace native vegetation.

5. Native gardens are unique: Most people buy the same types of flowers and shrubs no matter where they live. This makes it easier for big box retailers to uniformly stock their shelves, but often ends up making gardens across the country look the same. Choosing native plants celebrates your area's unique landscape.

6. Native plants are handy: Native plants can be used in virtually any style of garden, from a formal, modern landscape to a country cottage garden. In many parts of the country, you can even replace your lawn with native grasses that hardly ever need to be mowed!

How to get started:

• Go for a walk and see what grows in nearby natural areas.
• Grab a wildflower guide or take photos and do some detective work online.
• Local conservation and horticultural groups often have helpful tips and resources.
• Visit a local nursery that specializes in native plants. To find one close to you, check out the North American Native Plant Society's list. If your local garden centres don't carry native plants, ask them to start stocking them next spring.

Remember, native plants aren't only the best for you and your garden, they're BFFs for all of the butterflies, bees and birds that visit your yard.

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