Using Native Plants

— Written By Peg Godwin and last updated by
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Many gardeners enjoy creating landscapes using native plants. Native plants are those plants that were in North America before European settlers arrived.

There are many benefits to using native plants in your landscape. Native plants tend to thrive in our climate and frequently attract wildlife including birds and butterflies. They are best chosen to match the characteristics of the particular site. The site conditions include climatic conditions, soil type, water availability, amount of sun or shade, drainage, as well as nutrient availability and soil acidity. Knowing these characteristics helps gardeners put the right plant in the right place and increases success.

Choosing only native plants in your landscape helps limit the chances that potentially invasive, exotic plant species will be introduced around your home. Many introduced species can become adapted to our climate and grow without any natural pests to keep them under control. This leads to an overabundance of one particular species. The introduced exotic plants can outcompete native plants and potentially become invasive. It takes many years to determine if an exotic species will be invasive but it is something to consider when making plant choices.

Cogongrass is one of those plants that is labeled as a noxious weed because it forms dense stands that crowd out native species. It infests over 20 crop species and releases chemicals into the soil that suppress crop growth. It is native to southeast Asia but found on every continent except Antarctica. This plant infests over 1 billion acres worldwide and has extreme drought tolerance through specialized rhizome.

The Red Baron varieties of cogongrass also called Japanese Bloodgrass have been planted ornamentally for years and were thought to be non-aggressive and sterile. Recently two ornamental plantings have been found that have reverted to the green, highly invasive form. The plants were located in a public garden in Wake County. Six new infestations of cogongrass have also been found on roadsides in Pender and Duplin counties. It spreads readily by wind and rhizomes. See the NCDA&CS Cogongrass webpage for more information.

You can help provide wildlife a habitat they need to thrive. Find more information at the Going Native: Urban Landscaping website