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Landscaping with Native Plants

A native plant is one which occurred within this region before colonization by Europeans. Native plants include:
  • Ferns
  • Clubmosses
  • Grasses
  • Sedges
  • Rushes
  • Wildflowers
  • Woody trees
  • Shrubs
  • Vines

There are approximately 2,100 native plants in Pennsylvania.

An introduced or non-native plant is one that has been brought into the state to become established in the wild. At the turn of the 21st century, about 1,300 species of non-native plants existed in Pennsylvania outside of gardens, parks, and agricultural lands. That is 37 percent of Pennsylvania’s total wild plant flora. More introduced plants are identified every year.

Native Plants for Landscaping, Restoration Buffers, and Meadow Establishment

The use of native plant species (PDF) offer many advantages to using non-native species.

  • Adapted for Local Climate and Conditions: Native plants are adapted to local soils, climate, and conditions and will persist through frost and drought.
  • Bird Food: Native plants provide seeds, insects and caterpillars.
  • Pollinators: A planting of native plants will attract native pollinators such as native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and hummingbirds.
  • Low Maintenance: Native plant species require less maintenance such as water and soil amendments. Once the plants are established they will require little else.
  • Maintaining Native Biodiversity: Native plants experience multiple threats such as habitat conversion, invasion of exotic species, deer herbivory, pollution, and over collecting. By using native plant species you can help to maintain the native biodiversity of Pennsylvania.

Tips for Landscaping with Native Plants

  • Minimize habitat destruction. First, conserve existing native vegetation and plant communities. Minimize habitat disturbance. Ecological restoration may be necessary, including native plantings, invasive removal, erosion control, or loosening soil compaction.
  • Use native plants. Well-chosen native plants can flourish in public and private landscapes. Avoid rare plants and choose common native plants. If you must use non-natives, choose plants that will not escape and become weeds.
  • Learn more about native plants. Learn what plants are native in your area. There are many field guides to wildflowers that can get you started.
  • Buy nursery-propagated native plants. Most retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs now offer native plants. For a list of nurseries that sell native plants, visit iConservePA
  • Do not remove native plants from the wild. Taking native plants from the wild depletes native populations. Also, many wild-collected plants do not survive transplanting. Prevent wild-collecting of plants by making sure that plants you buy are propagated at a nursery.
  • Practice responsible landscaping techniques. Choose the right plants for the site: wet or dry, shade or sun, acid or neutral soil. Learn to identify the local plants to guide plant selection. Plant nurseries, catalogs, books, or online information can help too. Also limit fertilizer and pest chemical usage. Never plant invasives.

Check out the iConservePA website for more information on native plants. These brochures provide information on native species for site conditions: