Cardinal flower is loaded with intense red flowers along tall stems reaching 4 inches tall

New research shows an increase of 1 in 3 people now purchasing native plants and gardening for wildlife. Why are natives so important?

Native plants are the core of the wildlife habitat garden. Even small-scale native plant gardens that incorporate blooming plants for multiple seasons are proven to increase pollinator abundance and diversity. Within days or even moments after native plants are introduced to a space, wildlife can appear. Research shows wildlife habitat gardens support 50% more wildlife than surrounding conventional landscapes.

Not only do natives support more local wildlife, but they are more suited to withstand the climate in North Carolina. For example, trees native to storm-prone regions are more likely to withstand high winds. North Carolina’s state bird, the cardinal -30% of its diet relies on insects these many native plants provide.

Why should they replace such trees and shrubs?

Plants such as ornamental pear, taxus, barberry, as considered exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world or were cultivated by humans into forms that don’t exist in nature do not support wildlife as well as native plants. Occasionally, they can even escape into the wild and become invasives that destroy natural habitats. Not only do they destroy and crowd out native plants, but they don’t support local wildlife.

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Replacing invasives with native plants reverses the dominance of non-beneficial plants in the landscape, a key contributor to habitat loss that has hurt many wildlife species. By doing so, you’ll cut down on the amount of water, pesticides, and fertilizers you use. Native plants are low-maintenance. They help the environment the most when planted in places that match their growing requirements. They will thrive in the soils, moisture, and weather of your region. That means less supplemental watering, which can be wasteful, and pest problems that require toxic chemicals. Native plants also assist in managing rainwater runoff and maintaining healthy soil as their root systems are deep and keep soil from being compacted. They also minimize further negative impacts on wildlife and pollution of local water resources.