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COLUMN: Embracing the native plants in your landscape

Jessica Maureen Hinsdill, Master Gardener Volunteer
Posted 4/30/23

Before eliminating all but your chosen cultivars this year, think about the role native plants have in the ecosystem.

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COLUMN: Embracing the native plants in your landscape


Before eliminating all but your chosen cultivars this year, think about the role native plants have in the ecosystem. Take the time to identify whether the plant may be native, introduced, or invasive and the strength it may bring to a natural habitat or the garden. 

The native plants that have been here the longest have learned to withstand a specific climate and niches in the area where they best grow. Supporting these plants protects natural habitats and brings an ease in maintaining the garden, working with nature instead of fighting against it. When choosing the right plant for the right place, a native garden requires light maintenance and no input of fertilizers or pesticides. Native plants are the best sources of food for the insects and animals that share this land with us, as the strength of the pollen and nectar decreases when plants are bred for other purposes. 

Based on your area, you may choose a plant that can withstand drought conditions or a plant that can reduce runoff and erosion. Consider those pollinator plants that support the bees and the beneficial insects during the warm months and are also a vital source of seed nutrition for our winter birds. Embracing the natives in your landscape can be as small as keeping plants for pollinators or going as big as rewilding your lawn space as a wildlife habitat or an ecosystem service design to prevent runoff.

Any step towards native biodiversity can bring us healthier gardens and the environment. A beautiful native garden space has the potential to educate, inspire and collaborate with the community to benefit not only our personal well-being but also preserve our natural ecosystem. 

An example of encouraging natural habitat would be to design a hummingbird-friendly yard. Choose native plants with tubular red and orange flowers, which provide more nectar than hybrids or exotics. Group plants together by type and vary the seasonal blooming for a long-lasting supply of flowers. Eliminate the use of pesticides, as insects provide additional protein for hummingbirds. Leave branches or bushes nearby for perching. Encourage a neighborhood hummingbird habitat corridor. The more, the better!

Natives that attract Ruby Throated hummingbirds are:

  • Bee Balm, Monarda didyma.
  • Red Columbine, Aquilegia canadense.
  • Canada Lily, Lilium canadense.
  • Red Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.
  • Wild Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata.

For further native plant lists and growing tips, please visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County website at

Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County answers home and garden questions which can be emailed to or call 315-736-3394, press 1 and ext. 333. Leave your question, name and phone number. Questions are answered weekdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, visit our website at or phone 315-736-3394, press 1 and then ext.100.


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