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The Benefits of Gardening with Native Plants—And How to Get Started

There are so many benefits of adding native plants to your summer gardening lineup. Here's what you should know, and how to get started.

Written by
Kristine Nguyen

As the weather gets warmer and you begin this summer's gardening journey, you may be thinking about which plants you want to grow. Instead of picking up random options from your local greenhouse, there are many reasons why you might want to consider adding native plants to your lineup instead.

What Are Native Plants, and Why Should You Use Them?

According to the National Wildlife Federation, "a plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction." Using native plants when gardening isn't just great for the environment, but also for the gardener.

The U.S. Forest Service says that because they're already adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, they don't require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides. They also require less water, help prevent erosion, reduce air pollution, provide shelter and food to the local wildlife, and promote biodiversity.

Helpful to the environment and less effort to take care of? It really can't get any better than that.

How Yardzen Is "Rewilding" Backyards

Yardzen is an online landscape design platform that helps you create the sustainable outdoor space of your dreams. Led by CEO Allison Messner, the company is made up of talented horticulturalists, software engineers, and landscape architects, among many other professionals.

Messner and her team are fans of utilizing native plants in these landscaping plans, as it's a great way to support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems right in your own backyard. In a recent post on Yardzen's blog, she talks with landscape architect Kevin Lenhart about why native plants are always at the top of their list.

"I always encourage our designers and our clients to be using native or climate-adapted plants in whatever design application they will fit, which is virtually any time you need to use plants," Lenhart says. "These are great plants. They span a huge spectrum of the types of plants we could be using in a design. By climate-adapted, we're basically meaning just plants that do well in the place where the client lives. And they're going to offer habitat and not take up a lot of water, just like native plants."

On top of having native plants, opting for sustainable hardscaping, using eco-friendly furniture, reducing heat islands, and capturing rainwater are some other things they say make a huge impact on both your yard and the planet.

After learning about the benefits of using native plants when gardening, Laura Alexander Wittig, Brightly's co-founder and CEO, wanted to try out one of Yardzen's plans for herself.

How Yardzen Enabled Us to Make an Easy, Eco-Friendly Yard

"When I moved into my new house, it was really lacking some curb appeal," Laura says. "The front yard was overtaken by bamboo (a non-native, invasive species) and I wanted to update it with plants that were friendly to the environment and could thrive within the Pacific Northwest ecosystem. The issue is, I'm not a landscape gardener and I find it really hard to visualize the way a finished yard will look when everything's grown in."

Yardzen worked with Laura to come up with a plan of attack, which focused on using native plants, plus species that were friendly to bees and local animal wildlife. To see the "after," watch for her in-depth, detailed review coming out next week.