Gardening With Native Plants

Whenever I speak about backyard habitats and their importance for insects, people frequently comment that they have a butterfly bush and see many butterflies on them, so why go to the trouble of planting native plants?

While a butterfly bush, an alien plant, attracts adult butterflies, it is not a host plant for even one species of butterfly. So, where do the butterflies come from that frequent butterfly bushes? They must be coming from nearby native plants because without host plants to lay their eggs on there will be no adult butterflies.

Bird watchers should also welcome native plants to their yards because birds feed many insects to their young, acting as a natural pest control. It’s a win-win situation for all.

One reward for property owners who plant native plants—besides seeing plenty of insects and birds in their yards—is that native plants can tolerate droughts and wet phases better than alien plants. Once they’re established, they only require watering during prolonged dry spells.

It is important to provide a constant bloom from spring to fall because insects need nectar throughout their lifespan.

I highly recommend Douglas W. Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home” to learn about the connection between native plants and insects and the effects of alien plants on our wildlife. The book also has lists of plants sorted by region and plants that attract certain butterflies. Other resources are the National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation.