Top 6 Benefits of Native Plants in Your Yard

If this entire website is dedicated to native plants, there must be something special about them. In fact, they are the foundation of a healthy ecosystem. Here are six benefits of native plants. I hope these encourage you to starting planting them in your own yard.

Why Use Native Plants in Your Yard?

1. Many native plants serve as host plants to caterpillars

One big “a ha” moment for me was when I learned that many butterflies and moths will only lay their eggs on very specific plants that they know their caterpillars will eat. These are called host plants. The most well-known host plant is probably milkweed. It is the only plant monarchs will lay their eggs on. However there are so many host plants beyond milkweed that are critical to our ecosystem.

With fewer native host plants to lay eggs on, there are fewer caterpillars. Without caterpillars, birds lose a major food source for their young. This study shows that caterpillars dominate the nestling diets in 16 out of 20 bird families.

This incredible dynamic is explained in Doug Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope (affiliate link) – a book I highly recommend you read. He calls native plants that serve as host plants “keystone plants” because they are so important for the ecosystem.

How it helps your yard:

  • More beautiful butterflies and moths visiting your yard to lay eggs.
  • More caterpillars in your yard = more birds visiting to eat them!

2. Most plant eating insects can only eat native plants

In addition to caterpillars, other insects rely on plants that they coevolved with to survive. According to Doug Tallamy, author of Nature’s Best Hope (a MUST read), “Ninety percent of the insects that eat plants can develop and reproduce only on the plants with which they share an evolutionary history.”

Often insects bodies have evolved to digest different chemical defenses in native plants. However that is not the case with non-native plants, which insects are unfamiliar with and can often be toxic to them. So, one of the big benefits of native plants is that insects can eat them! It goes against traditional thinking, but native plant gardeners want insects to eat their plants.

How it helps your yard:

  • Your plants will be serving as an important food source instead of just looking nice!

3. Native plants provide important food and shelter for other backyard wildlife

Flowering natives are an important nectar source for pollinators. Many native plants also provide berries, nuts, or seeds for birds and small mammals to enjoy. They are often timed exactly when the animals need them, such as berries and nuts during the winter when other food is hard to come by.

How it helps your yard:

  • Your yard can serve as a “habitat island”, offering a place of refuge for birds and other small mammals in a suburban environment.
  • You can strategically choose native plants that provide different food sources such as nectar and berries throughout the year.

4. Native plants typically require less water and maintenance

One of the biggest benefits of native plants for backyard gardeners is that they are often easier to grow than non-native plants! Native plants are adapted to the local climate, rainfall and temperatures. They are used to the soils in your area and tend to grow deep roots, requiring minimal watering once established.

How it helps your yard:

  • Native plants save you time and money!
  • You don’t have to use pesticides and fertilizer on native plants.
  • You can spend more time in your yard enjoying your plants and less time maintaining them.

5. Native plants provide biodiversity

If you look around most yards in your area, you may see the same limited palette of turf grass, trees and shrubs. Many of which are likely non-native species, and therefore unlikely supporting much insect and wildlife populations. Adding even just a few native plants to your yard helps to create biodiversity. According to Doug Tallamy, non-natives support 29 times fewer animals than do native ornamentals in a similarly landscaped yard.

How it helps your yard:

  • Native plants provide more interest in your yard and help it stand out among a sea of sameness
  • You should start to notice a greater diversity of insects, pollinators and birds that visit your yard

6. Native plants allow you to plant with a purpose

Once you start learning about native plants and their benefits, it is hard to stop. You have a real opportunity to help your local ecosystem by rethinking how you landscape and garden in your own yard. Each time you choose a new plant for your yard you now have the information and ability to choose plants that are helpful to your local ecosystem.

How it helps your yard:

  • By planting native plants, you can be the hero of your local ecosystem!

Ready to start planting natives in your yard?

Read our guide for finding native plants near you!

Check out these top 6 reasons you should be using native plants in your yard and garden!

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