DNR Q & A: Want to landscape with native plants?

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources field staff, resource managers and the DNR Information Center staff answer many questions every day about natural resources topics. Here is one of them:

Q. I’d like to incorporate native plants into my home landscaping. How will I know what species to plant, and do you have any advice for getting started?

A.  First of all, congratulations - using native plants will create better habitat for bees, butterflies, and other native animals in your yard, and can provide other environmental benefits such as soaking up storm water.

You will have the most success if you start by learning about your site and the surrounding landscape. It’s best to plant species that are adapted to your area and your conditions.

You can use historical vegetation information, as well as current nearby natural areas, for reference.

For example, if you live in a part of the state that was historically prairie, and your site is sunny with appropriate soils, prairie plants are likely the right choice.

On the other hand, if you live in a forested area, native forest vegetation might be the best choice. Local government offices such as soil and water conservation districts can often help make these determinations. Maps of current and historical vegetation for many counties can also be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/mcbs/maps.html. And you’ll find a statewide map of natural vegetation at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/mcbs/natural_vegetation_of_mn.pdf.

There are also many good books about landscaping with native plants. For the names of native plant nurseries, landscaping services and local organizations that specialize in native landscaping, visit the DNR website at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/gardens/nativeplants.

-- Hannah Texler, DNR regional plant ecologist

For more information, call the DNR information line at 296-6157 or go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.


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