Landscaping with Native Plants

Native plants may be a wise choice for many landscapes for several reasons. First of all, once native plants are established they seldom need watered, which can be very cost-effective due to the rising cost and shortage of available water. Besides providing ground cover, drought resistant deep-rooted native plants help hold soil in place and prevent erosion by taking up water that might otherwise cause flooding. Also, native plants help with biodiversity in the environment by producing the exact type of nectar, pollen and seeds that are needed as a food source for native birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. Furthermore, native plants that have evolved to grow in our conditions are usually less susceptible to diseases and therefore require fewer pesticides, fertilizes and other chemicals which is better for the environment.

Even with native plants, it is important to pick the right native plants for your area. Before selecting, look around your area and see what is growing in undisturbed natural areas. If you decide to collect native seeds, it is best to only take a portion of the available seeds from one area and leave some seed pods to insure the plant continues to thrive in that area. (Also, seed collection is prohibited in national parks.) The native flowers seeds of yarrow, Lewis’ blue flax, blanket flower and lupine are easy to collect and fairly easy to grow. Many native seeds need to be planted in the fall or winter because they need to be exposed to cold temperatures in order to germinate. Some seeds take scarification or abrasion and take several years before they germinate. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
has a booklet entitled ‘Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains’ which gives pointers on how to get native plants established and has native plant choices listed according to their bloom period. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1167611.pdf. A list of pollinator friendly plants that are native to Montana can be found at: https://plants.usda.gov/pollinator/Montana_Native_Plants_for_Pollinator-Friendly_Plantings.pdf.

Native landscapes provide a natural beauty which mimics nature and changes with the seasons. Instead of mowing or cutting back plants in the fall, learn to enjoy the seasonal beauty of dried materials in the landscape and let the plant function as a windbreak and wildlife habitat. A link to a list of native plants of our region that can add variety and beauty to your landscape can be found at http://www.plantnative.org/rpl-mtwy.htm#gr.  If you are looking to buy native seeds at a nursery, the Montana Native Plant Society has information on sources for native plants and seeds for our area. Blake Nursery in Big Timber, Oasis Environmental Nursery in Livingston, and Lawyer Nursery
in Plains all carry native plants.

Note: Wildflower Seed Mixes are not always Native species.

Submitted By: Elaine Allard

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