You’ve got a full year of gardening under your belt, and you’ve probably had some success and some failures. Don’t be discouraged; even experienced gardeners have an occasional failure. Gardening is a continual learning experience.
If you’re wondering what to plant your second year, my vote would always be for native plants. Natives are beautiful, surprisingly easy to grow, and they offer a slew of benefits. If you aren’t sure, start with one or two plants.
What Are Native Plants?
Native plants occur naturally in a particular habitat or region. They aren’t planted by human hands, and they don’t come from other areas of the world. Unlike non-native plants, also known as “exotics,” they are in perfect harmony with their environment.
Many of the plants at your local big box store are non-native, including petunias, pansies, chrysanthemums.
Benefits of Growing Native Plants
Native plants provide vibrant color, usually from late spring until the first frost in autumn.
Additionally, native plants:
- Are healthier for people and animals because they require no synthetic chemical herbicides or pesticides. They are adapted to your particular region and they are naturally protected from pests and disease.
- Conserve water and soil. Native plants require very little water once established. They have extensive root systems that hold moisture in the soil, and prevent run-off that ends up in drains, and on to creeks, ponds, or streams. Natives also hold the soil in place, thus preventing erosion.
- Provide nectar for bees, and other pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Natives are substantially more pollinator-friendly than non-native plants.
- Provide vital habitat for wildlife. Birds eat the seeds after the blooms have faded. The “skeletons” of native plants offer shelter for songbirds and small mammals.
- Are tough and able to withstand conditions in your local climate, including harsh winds, punishing heat, and freezing cold.
- Are well-behaved. Although some native plants may be a little rambunctious, they aren’t invasive bullies like many non-natives.
How to Choose Native Plants For Your Area
The best place to find plants is usually a native plant nursery in your area, where knowledgeable people are available to provide advice if you’re new to growing natives. Master gardeners at your local university cooperative extension office can also provide valuable information.
You can also find databases or plant finders online, but be sure the plants are appropriate for your area.