Native plant varieties work well for you and insects, birds, and other native species that live around you, too.

The stay-at-home times many of us are living through at present due to coronavirus-related health guidelines have provided more time to focus on a task that’s near-and-dear to many people at this time of year – spring planting and yardwork.

If you’re getting out the gardening tools, putting on your gloves and thinking about what to plant, don’t forget about native plants. Many of the flowers, shrubs, and trees that are traditional landscaping favorites are non-native species, but beauty doesn’t have to be imported from elsewhere to improve the looks of your yard. Native plant varieties work well for you and insects, birds, and other native species that live around you, too.

Many of the grasses and flowers that we are familiar with are exotic species – plants that were brought here from other parts of the world. Maintaining the beauty of these plants is often a high-maintenance job. Many exotic species require high amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides or some other type of labor-intensive chore that takes more of your time – and money – than you had originally intended. An increasing number of people are realizing that native plants – the trees, flowers, and grasses that were here to begin with – can be just as beautiful to look at and a lot less trouble to grow.

Native plants are a good choice for landscaping whether you have a small plot in the city or large acreage in the country. Increasing environmental awareness, a desire to connect with nature on a personal level and limited time to devote to home landscape and land management projects are reasons to turn to natural landscaping alternatives. The plants and patterns that occur naturally in our prairies, forests, savannas, wetlands and glades can give us good landscaping ideas about what we can do around our homes.

There are many benefits associated with a well-planned, diverse native landscape. One of these is wildlife attraction. The songbirds, butterflies, small reptiles and mammals that you go to parks and other publicly owned facilities to see can often be enticed to your backyard with the proper plantings. These plants provide food, nesting and other habitat essentials required by these animals. Those instinctual needs will draw a variety of wildlife to specific plants whether they’re growing at a nature center or in your backyard.

As mentioned above, native plants usually require much less care than exotics. The reason for this is simple; millions of years of evolution have adapted these plants to the conditions found here. That means they’ve grown accustomed to the soil, weather, insect pests and many of the other factors that affect plant growth in the Ozarks. Exotic plants have few of these inherent adaptations and, as a result, can often only be sustained through extensive “life-support” procedures such as heavy watering, fertilization or pest-control applications.

Native plants come in many shapes, colors and forms. Those interested in growing indigenous plants have a wide variety of flowers, shrubs, grasses, small trees and large trees from which to choose. The best natural landscaping plan is one that involves a mixture of plant types, but space can be a limiting factor and, if it is – that’s still all right. Native plants can work for you whether you have 10 acres on the edge of town or a single flowerbed on the edge of your driveway.

Some people shy away from native landscaping techniques because they think a native-plant landscape will have a rougher, “woollier” appearance than the well-manicured flower beds to which they’re accustomed. That’s not necessarily a fair criticism because you still control the neatness of your plantings. Just because you have native plants doesn’t mean you can’t mow, weed-eat, edge and do all the other aesthetic maintenance procedures that are done with exotic plantings.

When Missouri Department Conservation offices re-open to the public, these offices are good sources of information about native plants. Another excellent source of information is the Grow Native program. This program, which is supported by a number of public and private organizations, including the Missouri Department of Conservation; contains excellent information about how native plants can fit into your backyard design schemes. Information about the program can be found at www.grownative.org

Putting native plants around your home is a stay-at-home activity, but if you decide to venture elsewhere for other outdoor activities, remember to follow all current health guidelines. These include:

Avoid crowded places.

Stay at least 6 feet apart from others.

Stay home if you’re sick.

Bring water, soap, and hand sanitizer.

Be considerate of others you may encounter when you’re out.

The more all of us stick to these guidelines, the sooner our lives will get back to normal. People can learn more about how to enjoy the outdoors while staying within the current health guidelines at this link https://youtu.be/2kD2hBSjFvo.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.