Sourcing natives plants for your wildscape

Native plants, as we’re finding, are a hugely untapped resource… Native ecosystems have the potential to improve almost any urban environmental problem.

Mark Simmons, Research Ecologist, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Nearly 100,000 plants highlighting the beauty and diversity of North America’s northeastern native landscapes are showcased at The Native Plant Garden, New York Botanical Garden Bronx. Ecological benefits of the plants – chosen for their biodiversity, sustainability and adaptability – include water filtration, erosion prevention, shelter for wildlife and support of the food web. Design by Oehme, Van Sweden

Sourcing native plants for your wildscape

Native plants should form the foundation for your wildscape, but can be hard to source. Credit Valley Conservation has put together a wonderful guide to native plant nurseries and seed suppliers.

Native plant myths

When choosing and sourcing native plants for your wildscape, keep in mind the following native plant myths described by Thomas Rainer, author of Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes.

Myth #1: Native plants are more drought-tolerant than their exotic counterparts

If you’ve ever bought a cardinal flower from a nursery because you read that they’re a hummingbird magnet, only to have them die, it’s probably because you didn’t plant them in the moist ecosystem they need to thrive
Image: Ivo M. Vermeulen, The Native Plant Garden, New York Botanic Garden

There are mesic (wet-loving) plants and xeric (dry) native plants. Just because a plant is native doesn’t mean it’s better adapted to the particular environment in your yard. You need to match the right plant with the right environmental conditions.

Myth #2: Native plants are not as tough as exotic plants

Poor shallow soil, periodic flooding and drought doesn’t prevent a unique and beautiful ecosystem
Alvar ecosystem in Collins Bay

There are many native plants adapted to harsh conditions. There are native plants that withstand blazing heat, drought, periodic inundations and infertile soil.

Myth #3: Native plants are not as showy or ornamental as exotic plants

Use the design principles in our wildscaping series to design beautiful native plant gardens
Image: Oehme, Van Sweden

The problem is not that native plants are intrinsically less ornamental than exotics; the problem is one of design. Use the design principles in our wildscaping series to design beautiful native plant gardens.