Posts Tagged “Native Plants”

Native Plants for Small Gardens

Native Plants for Small Gardens

Native plants have a reputation of being wild and unruly, ignoring boundaries and growing wherever they wish. This reputation makes some gardeners wary of allowing them in their gardens.  This is especially true of gardeners with small gardens.  Gardeners that must work in strict boundaries are often cautioned at the wandering nature of native plants.

However, there are many well behaved, mild-mannered native plants that will support wildlife and keep your garden looking eye-catching all season long.  We’ve listed several species below to get you started.


Native Plants for Small Shade Gardens

  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Wood poppy
  • Michigan Lily
  • Hepatica
  • Partridge berry
  • Bottlebrush Grass
  • Smooth Penstemon
  • Ostrich Fern (Is a large fern, but makes a big impact as a feature plant in a small garden)
Small garden’s need not house small plants. While you will want to limit the number of large specimens, adding a few feature plants will pull focus and create eye-catching focal points.  Ostrich fern, blue false indigo and lead plant offer unique foliage, colour and texture.




Native Plants for Small Sun Gardens

  • Culvers Root
  • Tall Ironweed
  • Virgin’s Bower (Vine)
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Harebell
  • Wild Quinine
  • Indian Grass
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Prairie Smoke


Small gardens are usually only limited horizontally, so where the sky is the limit, take advantage of some of Ontario’s native plants that can bring height to your garden.  Ironweed, Indian Grass and Michigan Lily make great additions to a small garden, adding height without the excessive girth.


Trees & Shrubs for Small Gardens

  • Saskatoon Serviceberry
  • Leadplant
  • New Jersey Tea
  • Mapleleaf viburnum


Benefits of Using Native Plants

Benefits of Using Native Plants

Native vegetation evolved to live with the local climate, soil types, and animals. This long process brings us several gardening advantages*.

  • Save Water:
    Once established, native plants need little to any irrigation beyond normal rainfall.
  • Low Maintenance:
    Low maintenance landscaping methods are a natural fit with native plants that are already adapted to the local environment. Look forward to using less water, little to no fertilizer, little to no pesticides, less pruning, and less of your time.
  • Pesticide Freedom:
    Native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural pest control take over and keeps garden toxins out of our creeks and watersheds.
  • Wildlife Viewing:
    Native plants, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and interesting critters are “made for each other.”
  • Support Local Ecology:
    Gardens, small and large can provide a “bridge” to nearby remaining wildlands.

* Proper consideration of  the plant’s soil, light and moisture requirements when planting is important for reaping the full benefits.


Watch Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, speak about the importance of native plants in your garden.

What is a native plant?

What is a native plant?

This is a question I get asked a lot, and surprisingly there isn’t consensus. There are vague definitions as seen below, but the jury is still out on a strict definition of what constitutes a native plant.  The ambiguity lying in when human intervention occurred and in what space that place is native to. (i.e. a plant can be native to Canada, but not native to Ontario).  This can be taken down to ecosystems, with some native plant purists holding that a plant is only truly native if it existed in that plant community/ecosystem prior to human intervention …. but when was that again? You get my point.

Native plants are uncultivated flora indigenous to geographic regions, which have adapted over time to various environmental and social influences such as soil types and hydrology, micro-climates and human influence.
Ecological Landscape Association
Native plants are plants indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants).
Native plants are those that evolved naturally in North America. More specifically, native plants in a particular area are those that were growing naturally in the area before humans introduced plants from distant places. In eastern and central North America, native plants typically grew in communities with species adapted to similar soil, moisture, and weather conditions.
Wild Ones

For the sake of simplicity and non-native puritans, here is my interpretation of what a native plant is.

A native plant is one that occurs naturally in Ontario or a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat prior to European contact.

Alternative, sometimes confusing terms

Often used interchangeable with native plant, a wildflower does not mean it is a native plant. This can lead to some mis-representation from seed and plant growers, selling non-native species as wildflowers being marketed for the benefits of native plants.

A naturalized plant is also very similar to wildflower in the sense that the word holds little value when defining a specific plant.  For me, a naturalized plant is a native or non-native species that occurs naturally, without human intervention in an ecosystem. For example, a dandelion (non-native) found in a field is a naturalized plant.


Are native plants important?

Yes! Plants are a cornerstone of biological diversity. Native plants do the best job of providing food and shelter for native insects, birds and animals.

Learn more about why you should be including native plants in your garden.


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