Greenspace: Pick native plants for biodiversity

Jim Hillibish

Each year, I seem to latch onto a gardening theme, usually by accident. This season, I’m doing it on purpose.

I’m interested in native Ohio plants and adapting them to our gardens. This started with a discussion I had with some gardeners. They are concerned that the infusion of weeds from the South is crowding out our native plants.

A native plant is one that grows without any help from humans, in the wilds. The problem is that warm-weather weeds from the South are appearing here and causing great stress in our native woodlands.

These include creepers and wild garlic and mustard. They literally are carpeting some areas, pushing out the wild flowers and even our own weeds.

It’s not a solution, but it makes me feel good to grow native landscape plants. It’s not all tree hugging. The plants are well acclimated and often need much less care, especially watering. They transplant well, with minimal shock.

When you purchase landscape plants, ask to see the native ones. Often, you’ll have your choice of native or ones grown outside your area. The native trees, bushes and shrubs have a much higher success rate. That will add value to your layout at minimal work.

Many of these look best in the informal landscapes so popular today. The biodiversity thing is fun, and something to brag about with your gardening pals.

Four-season interest is another consideration. Many native plants offer color in the growing season and nice patterns in winter.

Jim Hillibish writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at

Benefits of using native plants:

- Low maintenance: Native plants evolved to grow in local conditions and to predictable sizes.

- Public health (lowers cancer rates): Traditional landscaping uses large amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, some of which are suspected carcinogens.

- Saves you money: The cost of maintaining a naturescape is less than that of a traditional landscape because a landscape comprising native plants essentially takes care of itself.

- Water: The amount of water dedicated to landscaping harms the environment, kills fish and returns polluted water to our streams and rivers. It also costs you -- on irrigation system installation and maintenance, and on your water bill.

- Native species: Using native plants encourages birds and insects to visit your garden, completing the ecological picture.