Ask the master gardeners
Q: A friend suggested growing native plants. What are they and what are the advantages compared to exotic plants?
A: Native plants are indigenous to the area where you live. Because they are well adapted to the environmental conditions of your area, they are more tolerant of seasonal conditions (dry, humid summers and harsh winters), more resistant to pests and diseases and therefore are easier to grow than exotic species.
This saves you money and time by taking the guesswork out of whether or not a plant will survive in your garden. In addition, native plants support our wildlife such as butterflies, dragon flies, bees, birds and the like, with food and shelter, and they help create a healthy ecosystem.
Though exotic plants are beautiful, some may become invasive by taking over the habitat where the native plants grow, thus reducing their population and the wildlife that depends on them.
Here are some suggestions of native varieties for our area:
Ferns: Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides); maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum); ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).
Grasses: Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium); American beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata); broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicum).
Shrubs: American cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum); mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia); red bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi); buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).
Perennials: Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris); dogtooth lily, yellow trout lily (Erythonium americanum); creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera); wild geranium (Geranium maculatum); wild bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia); New England aster cultivars (Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potchke’); sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis); spreading Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans); Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana).
For more information on native plants for your area, visit www.gardening.cornell.edu or nativeplantcenter.org.
Laurie Lago Rispoli, Tappan, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland