Why Native Plants?
By slowly building a native backyard ecosystem one or two plants at a time, (or more, if you have the capability), home gardeners can help replace dwindling food and habitats, and attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Our insects and animals rely on the plants around them for survival as they have evolved over time to be able to use different parts of these plants for food and shelter. Local fauna cannot easily adapt to non-native plants. For example, milkweed is the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars. When we clear these ‘weeds’ and plant pretty annuals or something else, these butterflies cannot lay their eggs or survive in that area.
What exactly does it mean to be a “native plant”?
Native plants are generally recognized as a specific species that has been growing in a particular area (in our case, Northern New Jersey or the ‘mid-Atlantic area’) prior to European colonization, and have adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, providing food for native species.
Cultivars are created by cross-pollination between two different varieties of a plant, creating new colors, shapes, or fragrance. Although this can happen naturally, most cultivars exist because of human intervention. Even if the ‘parent plants’ are native, there are varying views on the inclusion of cultivars in native gardens. We feel that if the local insects or birds can eat or use these cultivars, it can be included in your native garden without concern. Hybrid plants are the intentional cross-pollination of two different species. Though they may be very pretty, or interesting, they don’t generally support the ecosystem they live in as the insects and animals cannot use them for survival.
We make it easy to incorporate native plants into your garden
Our native/pollinator display makes it easy to see what’s native to our local area at a glance. (Including cultivars that are known to be some pollinator’s favorites). We also include native plants throughout our other displays. Stop by the garden center and ask for a native plant list that you can refer to as you shop. You can also visit our plant finder page or click on our North Jersey Natives plant list. Make sure to read "how to use this resource".
Tips for a successful native pollinator garden
- Plant in full sun when possible
- Plant large groupings of flowers for a more attractive display
- Combine diverse plants that bloom from early spring into fall for a long season
- Diversity in color, fragrance and shapes is attractive to both pollinators and humans alike
- Bees are particularly attracted to shades of blue, purple, white and yellow
- Butterflies love red and purple blooms
- Leave some leaf litter, grassy, weedy and bushy areas to provide habitats for nesting and egg-laying
- Don’t clean up leaves in early spring—let the insects emerge after the days are over 50 degrees before raking
- Pollinators love the blooms of herb, vegetable and fruit plants too!
- Water sources, like a small bowl or birdbath with pebbles for perching, make your native yard attractive to pollinators
Remember, bees and butterflies aren’t the only pollinators. Other important backyard pollinators include, flies, wasps, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, and birds.
For more information, check out these websites: