Native Perennials are the pioneers of the natural world, indigenous to specific regions bringing colorful beauty and a host of benefits to the birds, pollinators, wildlife, and the environment. As more and more land in the U.S. becomes developed and degraded, with many home landscapes stripping down to large green lawns with little vegetation, it is becoming increasingly important to encourage the preservation of a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Native perennials are a vital part of that balance. Though what makes a perennial plant native? Most scientists define a native plant as having been inhabiting a region for thousands of years. This makes them the foundation of a region's biodiversity as an essential plant to most birds and wildlife in your area. In this article, we'll dive into the importance of changing our perceptions and practices to redefine beauty in the garden while simultaneously learning the importance of preserving the environment, one native flowering spirit at a time.
Why Native Perennials Matter: The Ecological Connection
Without Native Perennials, many of our beloved pollinators cannot survive, and you may be wondering, what makes them so vital to their existence?
- They are an essential food source! Insects, birds, and pollinators look to native plants as their primary food source. Roughly 90% of insects solely feed from native plants, and insects are prominent in a bird’s daily diet. Similar to pollinators, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies - the nectar from a native perennial plant is a vital nutrient source. It is safe to say that with fewer native perennials, the population of insects decreases; therefore, our bird, hummingbird, and butterfly population dwindles.
Even the smallest step of creating a Native Perennial garden becomes part of a larger collective effort to nurture biodiversity and rebuild bird and pollinator populations throughout North America. Planting native species is beneficial to our health and well-being as well. How does choosing native perennials for your landscape help create a healthier environment for yourself, your family, and your community?
A Key to Climate Resilience! As ecological threats to people and the planet intensifies, it is important to recognize a fundamental characteristic of native plants - they support our climate. Research has shown that native perennial gardens store huge amounts of carbon, mitigate flooding and urban heat islands, and restore biodiversity! You can be part of rehabilitating nature right in your own backyard by planting native perennials to combat greenhouse gas emissions, growing wildlife habitats, and tackling air pollution.
- Water Conservation: Native Perennials are adapted to local environmental conditions; because of that, they require less water. This saves time, money, and the most valuable natural resource of all - water. Their deep root system also helps increase the soil’s capacity to store water, preventing erosion and significantly reducing water runoff and flooding.
- Natural Beauty! There is extraordinary beauty in intentional planting. Passing by a flowering native meadow covered in fluttering butterflies and hummingbirds, seeing firsthand their native home and haven. There is significance in not just the alluring pretty colors and fragrance of the flowers, but also in the intention of building an oasis for our awe-inspiring birds like blue jays, cardinals or ruby-throated hummingbirds, and seeing the beloved Monarch butterflies come back to life! Native Perennials will not only add elegance to your garden, but they’ll bring a bevy of colors and stripes in birds and pollinators as you enjoy watching your landscape come to life!
What Makes a plant Native to your Garden?
As excitement builds towards encouraging homeowners to transition their yard to more native plants, it is important to learn what is truly native and what isn’t. Some garden centers and nurseries may market certain plants as “native” though they have not grown naturally in the wild. As not all cultivars are created equal, many plants are being sold under the guise of a “native.” However, they are actually a cultivar of a native plant, meaning they were bred outside of their native environment to be similar yet biologically different and no longer native.
Non-native species can be harmful to the environment by disrupting the surrounding ecosystem and causing the extinction of native plants. Further impacting biodiversity, bird and wildlife habitats and can be poisonous to certain animals in your area.
At Bower & Branch, we wanted to help consumers by distinguishing a clear boundary between native and non-native species, which is why we partnered with the National Audubon Society for exclusively grown Audubon Native plants and trees for birds. Certified true Audubon Native Perennials, grown neonicotinoid free to bring beauty and life to your garden beds! We are the only trusted native growers for the National Audubon Society; together we can strive to preserve the natural wonder of nature, starting with exquisite blooms!
Choosing Native Perennials for Your Yard
Native Perennials add a dynamic touch to your garden with lush foliage, color, and seasons of bright blooms! They can rebuild the Monarch butterfly population by planting native milkweed or provide seeds for Goldfinches by planting native prairie blazing star flowers. Choosing the native perennials that are right for your backyard is essential. Here are a few tips for selecting the native plants that are best for you:
- The National Audubon Society offers an amazing resource for finding the native perennials in your area. Explore their Native Plant Database, using your zip code, learning about the best plants for the birds in your area!
- At Bower & Branch, we make it easy when you shop with your zip code; we only show the plants that are native to your planting region to help ensure your garden flourishes into a healthy bird sanctuary.
Considering your landscape is part of the selection. Is the ground soft or jagged? Sunny or shaded? Is the topography flat or hilly? Choosing the right Native Perennials for your garden can sometimes seem overwhelming, but we are here to help! Our horticulturist team of Plant Whisperers can help narrow down your vision and answer any questions you have! We have also hand-selected a few of our favorites depending on what you are looking for when it comes to your specific garden characteristics:
Native Perennials for the low, wet corners of your yard:
- Audubon Native Blue Flag Iris
- Audubon Native Swamp Milkweed
- Audubon Native Cardinal Flower
- Audubon Native Compass Plant
- Audubon Native Joe Pye Weed
- Audubon Native Swamp Rose Mallow
To brighten those tough shaded areas, seek out planting these Native Perennials:
- Audubon Native Prairie Alumroot
- Audubon Native Bigfruit Evening Rose
- Audubon Native Foxglove Beard Tongue
- Audubon Native Culvers Root
Native Perennials for those tough, rocky hillside areas of your garden:
- Audubon Native Purple Coneflower
- Audubon Native New England Aster
- Audubon Native Prairie Ironweed
- Audubon Native Butterflyweed
- Audubon Native White Wild Indigo
Celebrating Native Perennials!
Gardeners are both stewards and guardians of the environment, and planting Native Perennials can make a big difference in the fight against climate change, rebuilding the ecosystem, and strengthening biodiversity. There is a symbiotic relationship between Native Perennials with birds, insects, and wildlife. The fountain of beauty within these native spirits is in the importance and value of nature's lens. The elegant blossoms charming your garden season after season have a more profound impact and meaning that brings intention into the earth and a joy within yourself.
At Bower & Branch, we strive to have a meaningful impact as growers, and our exclusive partnership with The National Audubon Society offers homeowners a source of truth when it comes to native planting. If you plant it, they will come! Bring your backyard to life, and watch how simply planting even one native perennial can transform the lives of the winged citizens in your neighborhood!