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Gardening with Wanda

A common question asked of the Hall County Extension office, brought to you by Wanda Cannon

POSTED: October 3, 2008 5:01 a.m.

What are native plants?

Native plants are generally plants that have inhabited a particular region for many years. They are found in a particular area without being transplanted here from another region in the world.

Before the development of the nursery industry, native plants were the only choice for landscape plants. There are around 200 mainstream native plants found in Georgia.

Native plants, if established properly in a good site, are drought and pest resistant. They are a great way to responsibly landscape without much effort to the gardener. They usually are low maintenance, self-sufficient and highly adaptable to our local climate.

Weather extremes - either temperature or drought - are the most practical reason for using native plants. In essence, they adapt to local climate. Natives are a dependable choice that can give your yard a park like ambiance, which adds natural beauty to your landscape.

Native plants also provide "watchable" wildlife habitats. Natives can provide food and shelter for native wildlife, depending on the plant. They also provide a refuge for native plants losing their natural habitat due to development.

For example, the native trees river birch, white oak and southern red oak provide ample shade. Also, smaller trees such as dogwood, redbud and serviceberry will enhance your southern landscape. Native shrubs include Piedmont azalea, oakleaf hydrangea and beautyberry. These shrubs are prolific bloomers and enhance your garden color.

Native perennials that love the sun are black-eyed Susans, purple coneflower, swamp hibiscus and sunflower. Shade-loving perennials include cardinal flower, red columbine and foam flower. Native vines include crossvine, Carolina jessamine and wax myrtle.

There are many more varieties of plants to use. Make sure you have the right sun and soil conditions before you plant. Use native plants wherever possible in your landscape and try not to use non-natives known to be invasive. The extension office can help you identify invasive plants. Also, encourage your favorite garden centers and nurseries to sell natives.

Use these drought-resistant plants and enjoy the benefits of a beautiful woodland landscape!

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.


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