Native Plants Offer Big Rewards in Georgia Landscaping

Native Plants
For many homeowners, landscaping is one of the pleasures of spring. Garden centers offer an array of colorful flowers, shade and fruit trees, and ground cover options to help homeowners bring their outdoor visions to life. It might seem like appearance is the only thing that matters when purchasing new plants for the yard, but horticulturalists and real estate agents warn homeowners to consider other factors before they start to dig.

In terms of appearance, nothing adds color to the yard like annuals. Better yet, some annuals are virtually trouble-free, granting you lots of beautiful blooms and colorful foliage with very little trouble and expense. Here are a few worry-free annual varieties for beds and planters in West Georgia, as recommended by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service:

• Celosia (Cockscomb)
• Coleus
• Dianthus (Pinks)
• Four-O’clock
• Impatiens
• Marigolds
• Portulaca

Another bonus of annuals is that if you want to freshen your beds with new blooms or different colors, it’s easy and inexpensive to do.

Shrubs and trees are a different matter. Not only do they often cost much more than flowers, shrubs and trees have a much longer lifespan. They also grow much bigger, requiring more careful planning and more care to get them off to a healthy start.

In the past, shrubs were commonly used to hide the foundation of a home. Since many contemporary homes do not have visible foundations, shrubs are often chosen for their foliage or flowers, especially on lots where ground space is limited.

Similarly, trees have long been used for shading homes from the hot Georgia sun. With the advent of air conditioning, trees became more popular for their blooms and fall foliage.

These changes in lifestyle as well as increased availability of plants from other regions and countries brought some unwelcome changes in the environment, however. Many non-native shrubs and trees, though very beautiful in a yard or landscape, have become hard-to-control invasive species in our woodlands and forests.

Birds eat the seeds of these non-native plants, dispersing them throughout forests, on roadways, and along fence lines. Once established, these invasive species can displace native vegetation, according to the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council. The result is lower quality of pastureland and forests, reduced income from these sources, and lower property values of the land.

Because of the threats, horticulturalists increasingly emphasize the importance of incorporating native plants in home landscaping. If you are planning a landscape project, check out this brief list of popular species that can be invasive and consider choosing one native alternative instead:

Grasses
If you like:  Congongrass or Chinese Silvergrass; Consider:  Sweetgrass or Muhly grass.

Vines
If you like:  English Ivy or Chinese Wisteria;  Consider:  Lamium (Dead Nettles), Creeping Phlox or Trumpet Creeper.

Native Plants Post (2)

A beautiful azalea bloom outside of our office.

Shrubs
If you like:  Nandina (Sacred Bamboo), Winged Burning Bush, or Privet (Japanese or Chinese); Consider:  American Holly, Azalea, or Common Witch Hazel

Trees
If you like:  Bradford Pear, Chinese Tallowtree, Popcorn Tree; Consider:  Serviceberry, Silverbells

(For more information on invasive plants and native alternatives, visit the website of the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council (GA-EPPC))

Another benefit of native plants is an increase in wildlife, particularly one of our favorite garden insects—the butterfly. Butterflies can be very fussy about where they lay their eggs because when those eggs hatch, the caterpillars will need a reliable food source. Some caterpillars are adaptable when it comes to their food, but others are very picky about what they eat. According to the North American Butterfly Association, these “specialists” may eat only one host species in a region or even throughout the species’ entire range.

Choosing small flowering trees that provide shade as well as habitat can solve this problem, according to Tom Oder of Mother Nature Network. In his article “Plant This, Not That: A Guide to Southeastern Native Plants,” Oder writes that “non-native flowering trees like crape myrtle, Kousa dogwood, and Brazilian pepper support very few caterpillars. However, the hackberry tree supports several species of butterfly, including the hackberry emperor, tawny emperor and snout butterfly. Dogwood flowers support the spring azure, and pawpaw supports the zebra swallowtail and pawpaw sphinx.” (Source: http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/plant-this-not-that-a-guide-to-southeastern-native)

Choosing a selection of flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees for your landscaping can be challenging, but it is also a lot of fun. The right choices make your yard attractive to human guests and a wide variety of animal and insect life. A well-maintained and landscaped yard also can make a difference when you are selling your home. Contact one of our Duffey Realty REALTORS® today to discuss your home’s major selling points and its potential on the West Georgia real estate market. Let us put the Duffey Personal Touch to work for you.