Benefits of Native Plants

Harnessing Ecological Principles in Landscape Design: The Benefits to Incorporating Native Plants

When you think about incorporating ecological principles in landscape design, your first thought is most likely to include native plants. “Native plants” seems to be a buzz word in the industry currently. We acknowledge them as being the type of plant we should use to follow the sustainability trend. However, do we truly know why? 

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What is a Native Plant? 

A native plant is a plant that is part of the balance of the ecosystem in a particular region. This happens over hundreds of thousands of years of co-evolution with other organisms, topography, and environment making them well-adapted to local climate, soil, and environmental conditions.

An important note to accompany this is that in order for a native plant to qualify as truly native, they had to have existed in the ecosystem predating colonial settlement, and had to have originated in that ecosystem.

What is a Native Plant?

This unique and extremely important group of plants are incredibly diverse, with thousands of species adapted to various ecosystems around the world. They come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, colors, and growth habits, from towering trees to delicate wildflowers. They have developed unique adaptations to cope with challenges such as drought, heat, cold, and pests.

Native plants form the foundation of healthy ecosystems, supporting complex food webs and ecological interactions, and play a huge role in pollinator attraction. They provide nectar, pollen, and shelter for pollinators, supporting essential ecosystem services such as pollination and seed dispersal.

Benefits to Incorporating Native Plants 

There are many benefits to having native plants incorporated into your landscaping and gardening plans including conserving water, protecting the soil from erosion, and creating habitat to protect and feed many different birds, pollinators, and small mammals.

Native plants can also harness great, simplistic beauty, while providing a vital service to supporting local ecosystems. 

Biodiversity Preservation 

Native plants play a crucial role in supporting local biodiversity by providing habitat and food sources to a wide variety of wildlife, including insects, birds, mammals and microorganisms.

Native Plants Support Biodiversity - a Goldfinch Eats Coneflower Seeds
Native coneflowers are an excellent source of nectar to pollinators, and after pollination, their seeds are a great food source for birds, like this American Goldfinch

Plants which are native have co-evolved with the ecosystem and wildlife over time, forming intricate and complex relationships which contribute to the overall health and resilience of the ecosystem.

Preserving and enhancing biodiversity is crucial to fostering ecological balance and sustainability within a landscape. By incorporating native plants into their designs, landscape designers can promote this goal. 

Adaptation to Local Conditions 

Native plants are well-adapted to the specific climate, soil, and environmental conditions of their native region. As a result, they are naturally resilient and require minimal inputs such as water, fertilizer, and pesticides to thrive once established.

By selecting native plant species that are suited to the site’s conditions, designers can create landscapes that are more resilient to environmental stressors such as drought, extreme temperatures, and pests, reducing the need for ongoing maintenance and inputs.

Water Conservation

Native plants have evolved mechanisms to cope with local rainfall patterns and soil moisture levels, making them naturally drought-tolerant and water-efficient once established. Their deep root systems help them access moisture deep within the soil, reducing the need for supplemental irrigation.

Incorporating Native Plants into a Drought-Tolerant Landscape Design

By incorporating native plants into landscape designs, designers can create water-wise landscapes that require less water overall, promoting water conservation and reducing the environmental impact of landscaping practices.

Reduced Pesticide Use

Native plants have co-evolved with native pests and pathogens, developing natural defenses that make them more resistant to pest infestations and diseases compared to non-native species.

As a result, landscapes dominated by native plants typically require fewer chemical pesticides and herbicides to maintain, promoting healthier ecosystems and reducing the potential for harmful impacts on human health and the environment.

Invasive Species Control

Using native plants in landscaping helps reduce the spread of invasive species, which can outcompete native vegetation, degrade habitat, and disrupt ecological balance.

Native plants are better adapted to local conditions and have natural defenses against pests and diseases, making them less susceptible to invasion by non-native species.

By promoting native plantings, designers can help restore and protect native habitats, supporting the long-term health and resilience of ecosystems.

Erosion Control

Native plants are essential for habitat restoration and conservation efforts, helping to restore and protect native ecosystems, enhance biodiversity, and promote ecological resilience. They are used in projects such as wetland restoration, prairie reconstruction, and reforestation to create healthy, functioning ecosystems.

Why Incorporate Native Plants Into Your Landscape

The deep root systems of many native plants help stabilize soil, reducing erosion and soil loss, particularly on slopes and in areas prone to runoff. These plants help anchor soil in place, preventing erosion caused by wind, water, and other environmental factors.

By incorporating native plants with robust root systems into landscape designs, designers can help mitigate erosion, improve soil health, and protect valuable topsoil from being washed away.

Pollinator Support

Many native plants are important food sources for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, birds, and bats, supporting essential ecosystem services such as pollination.

Native Plants Support Pollinators - a Honeybee Feeds on an Apple Blossom in Spring

By providing nectar, pollen, and habitat for pollinators, native plants play a critical role in supporting the reproduction of flowering plants and the production of fruits, seeds, and other plant products.

By incorporating a diverse range of native plants into landscape designs, designers can help support pollinator populations and promote pollination services, enhancing the productivity and resilience of ecosystems.

Cultural and Aesthetic Value 

Native plants have cultural significance and aesthetic appeal, connecting people to the local landscape and enhancing the beauty and uniqueness of outdoor spaces. Many native plants have historical and cultural associations with specific regions, communities, and indigenous cultures, providing opportunities for storytelling, education, and interpretation within the landscape. 

Additionally, native plants offer a diverse range of colors, textures, shapes, and seasonal interest, allowing designers to create visually dynamic and aesthetically pleasing landscapes that reflect the natural character of the region.

Native Plant Benefits - Beyond Supporting a Healthy Ecosystem, Native Plants are Beautiful

Native plants provide seasonal interest throughout the year, with blooms, foliage color, fruit production, and structural elements that change with the seasons. They offer visual appeal and ecological benefits across all seasons, enhancing the beauty and diversity of landscapes.

Overall, the benefits of using native plants in landscape design extend beyond ecological considerations to encompass water conservation, reduced maintenance, improved soil health, enhanced pollination services, and cultural enrichment.

By incorporating native plants into landscape designs, designers can create landscapes that are not only beautiful and functional but also resilient, sustainable, and supportive of local ecosystems and communities.


Nicole Forsyth is a passionate Instructor of Plant Science at an agricultural vocational high school, and a certified landscape design professional, certified horticulturist, certified arborist, and the CEO of NF Landscape Design and Horticultural Consulting. Nicole’s core value is to transform outdoor spaces into living works of art that not only enhance the natural beauty of the environment, but also enrich the lives of her clients. She believes that harmony between nature and human design can create spaces that inspire, rejuvenate, and connect people with the world around them.We are proud to have Nicole join as a member of our expert panel.

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