Wildflowers do much more than add beauty to the landscape. They help conserve water, reduce mowing costs, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, protect the soil and save money on fertilizer and pesticides. Also, as Lady Bird Johnson said, native plants "give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours."
But North American native plants, defined as those that existed here without human introduction, are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human activities, such as urban development, agribusiness and the introduction of invasive species. The loss of native plant communities has reduced wildlife habitat and the genetic diversity necessary for balanced ecosystems.
Unlike many non-native plants, native plants introduced into landscape plantings are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and unlikely to escape and become invasive. With properly selected native plants, it may not be necessary to modify soil characteristics at all to have thriving gardens. The great variety of plants native to any region give gardeners options that work well in any type of garden design. Because maintaining native plants requires less work, they provide excellent choices for large commercial landscapes as well as residential gardens.
Of course, native plants have other benefits. They are a potential source of food and of traditional and new medicines.
So take up Lady Bird Johnson's "special cause" and help preserve the wildflowers and native plants that define the regions of our land. Once your wildflowers are established, you will not only save time, energy and money, but also preserve a sense of place and regional identity.
Where to begin? Right here with our expert advice on gardening with native plants.