What You Should Know About Native Landscaping

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

There are more benefits than meets the eye with bringing native plants back into your landscape. Plants such as milkweed, coneflower, big bluestem, and switchgrass are just a few of the many native plants and grasses of Iowa. These plants can help beautify the landscape but they also offer a variety of environmental benefits.

Some environmental benefits of native plants include increased water absorption, reduced soil erosion, greater weed suppression, provide pollinator habitats, and requires less maintenance. Let's start with the first of many benefits, water absorption. Native plants increase rainfall absorption through their extensive root system. As stated in a Mid-American Regional Council article, "A typical lawn absorbs only 10 percent of the amount of stormwater that a natural landscape can absorb." The difference in water absorption is due to the difference in root structure between lawn grass and native plants.

Root structure leads us into our next benefit, reduced soil erosion. Soil erosion is reduced because native plants do a better job of holding it in place compared to typical lawn grasses. When a rain event occurs it is common for soils to be disturbed leading to soil erosion. With roots holding that soil in place, it acts as a barrier and makes it harder for soil erosion to occur.

The next benefit of growing native plants within your landscape is weed suppression. Weeds are a problem that many lawn owners face. This can lead to spraying herbicides or utilizing weed killing chemicals. These chemicals can cause problems if they runoff into storm water sewers or nearby rivers or streams. One natural remedy is increasing how many native plants are on your landscape. Native plants do a good job of shading weeds and not allowing them to get crucial sunlight. They also outgrow weed root systems which make it hard for weeds to establish and grow. Therefore, native plants are a great solution to weed problems!

Another benefit that native plants provide are habitats for pollinators. Pollinators are crucial to many facets of life. Therefore, providing pollinators with a habitat greatly influences the health of their population and ours.

The last benefit of including native plants in your landscape is that they require little maintenance and upkeep. Since they are adapted to Iowa's climate they are able to survive harsh winters and strong summer heat. They also are better adapted to withstand pest and disease problems.

Now that you've learned some of the environmental benefits with including native plants to a landscape, I hope you consider adding them to your landscape this upcoming spring! Included below is more information about native landscaping, how to get started, and plant information based on soil moisture conditions, height, and flowering period.

ISU Extension and Outreach Introduction
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Native Landscaping
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