Reasons to Landscape with Kansas Native Plants
If you live in Kansas, you should really be using plants native to Kansas in your landscape. Here are some reasons why this is desirable.
Beauty & Interest
Many native plants add interest to the landscape. They are attractive, with showy flowers. And they are different from the typical plants that most people landscape with.
Most native species are very hardy. They have to be hardy to have survived in this area for thousands of years.They have adapted to local climate conditions. As long as their soil, moisture and sun requirements are satisfied, they will thrive.
Native plants are adapted to our environment. But each species of plant has specific site requirements. Some like well-drained soil. Some like moist soil. Some like full sun. Some like part sun or shade. For example Swamp Milkweed likes moist soil and full sun. It won't survive in dry soil. It also won't survive in heavy shade.
No Watering Needed
If planted in a site that matches their moisture requirements, they only really need watering, when first being established. You do NOT need to water native plants once they are established. This is a huge savings in time and money.
No Fertilizing Needed
Native plants do not need fertilizers to survive and flourish. Fertilizing them may make them grow too large. Many are well adapted to poor soils and even thrive in poor soil.
No Insecticides Needed
Native plants attract all kinds of native insects. By planting native plants you will create a mini-ecosystem with beneficial insects and birds that will help control any pest species. Butterflies require native plants to reproduce. In comparison, turf grasses sometimes succumb to pest species. A lawn is such an artificial "ecosystem" that it needs lots of inputs such as water, fertilizer, and pesticides to thrive.
Reduce Herbicide Use
Some exotic invasive species will still need to be controlled, but maintenance time is greatly reduced when landscaping with natives. Once established the native plants will keep most weedy species from growing. Unfortunately we have introduced species of plants that are very invasive. You will always need to keep on them. An example of an invasive that needs annual control is Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera mackii). The birds will bring in seeds yearly and they will germinate and quickly over take a landscape.
Improve your Soil
Many native plants will improve your soil. Most perennials have roots that are able to penetrate deeply into the soil. One reason the Prairie Region has such rich soil is because the prairie plants helped to build the soil.
Improve Water Quality
Native plants that replace turf grass will improve water quality by filtering the water and allowing less of it to run off. There will be no fertilizer or pesticides in the run off because there is no need for either in a native landscape.
Improve Air Quality
In comparison to turf grass, space landscaped with native plants make our air cleaner by reducing the need to mow. Lawn mower emissions contribute to poor air quality.
Native plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their tissues. Trees store carbon in their roots and woody parts. Prairie plants store carbon in their extensive root systems.
Beneficial to our native wildlife
All native insect that eat plants evolved with native plants. About 90% of plant eating insects only consume specific species or families of plants. Without the plants the insects would cease to exist. For example, a monarch butterfly exists because it fed on a specific native plant (milkweed) that it is adapted to. All of our native insects feed our native birds, ampibians, fish, spiders, etc. Without native plants, our native wildlife suffers. Plants are at the bottom of the food chain. Without the plants everything that feeds on plants or feeds on animals that eat plants suffer.
By using natives instead of introduced species, there is no worry of your garden plants escaping into the wild and eliminating habitat. Many non-natives have already done this. Bush honeysuckle has crowded out many native plants in our woodlands. The Callery "Bradford" pear is an invasive tree that is invading our prairies.
Native plants can be used for food, medicine, dye, and fiber. By growing them in your landscape you have a ready supply for your own uses.
Help Educate others
By using them in our gardens we can educate people about their importance. People need to see native plants in other people's landscapes to encourage them to do the same.
Increase their Populations
Their natural populations have declined because of people altering the landscape.
- Because of fire suppression, trees have invaded the prairie. Prairie wildflowers cannot survive in the shade of trees.
- Developments have replaced the native prairie with fescue lawns and other exotic species.
- Agriculture has eliminated native vegetation to grow row crops like corn and soybeans.
- Livestock has greatly reduced many species from intensively grazed pastures.
- Indiscriminate use of herbicides have eliminated many populations of wildflowers.
- Exotic invasive species have replaced our native plants in many areas.