Using Non-Native Plants in Your Landscape

Our yards are personal and unique. We have the ability to cultivate an incredible diversity of herbs, trees, and shrubs that fits our individual preferences, styles, and locations. When choosing the plants with which you populate your landscape, one important question is whether or not to incorporate non-native species, and if so, how to include them responsibly?

Even if a person is unfamiliar with the specifics of native versus non-native ecology, it’s easy to understand that having something present where it does not naturally occur can have a negative impact.

native florida plants

What is a non-native species? Non-native plant species have been moved by humans throughout history and brought to different places around the world (both purposefully and accidentally). Some of them fit in nicely with the native species of the area; others end up being invasive. These invasive species have no natural predators, and because of this are able to out-compete native species. They take over entire areas and prevent native species from being able to grow.

Native plants are best for our native pollinators, for our ecosystems, and for our weather patterns. They tend to thrive with minimal extra effort from the gardener. However, many ornamental plants available at garden nurseries are non-natives. By following the following tips, you can responsibly include non-native plant species in your landscape.

  • Do your research, and know the difference between non-native and invasive. As mentioned above, not all non-native species are invasive. If you want to include non-native species, be sure to avoid planting invasive species at all costs. Species like Japanese honeysuckle, Lantana (aka “shrub verbena”), and water hyacinth spread vigorously. They overtake fields, ponds, and forests if left unattended. We recommend avoiding these species and similar ones in your landscapes altogether so that you don’t inadvertently spread them further. Instead, try non-invasive non-native species that pose no threat to native plants, such as Japanese aralia, mandevilla, azaleas, boxwoods, camellias, and Australian tree fern are not indigenous to Florida, but do not exhibit invasive characteristics.

  • Keep them contained. Invasive or not, it’s not good for non-native species to spread where they aren’t controlled. You can keep them potted, or just be good about staying on top of pruning your vines and climbing non-natives so they don’t spread far. If they fruit, remove the fruits when possible before birds or mammals can get to them–animals spread seeds rapidly when they eat the fruit, then excrete the indigestible seeds in a different location.

  • Use a mix of natives and nonnatives in your landscape. Our native wildlife have evolved over thousands of years alongside our native plant species. They will receive better nutrition and protection from them than from plant species indigenous to another country. It’s possible to include non-native plants responsibly; however, we recommend planting a good mix of natives alongside your other ornamentals to still support your local environment and wildlife.

In short: it’s smartest to use native plants throughout your landscape. It’s best for the environment, best for saving water and effort, and best for saving you the money of having to replace, repair, or excessively water non-native plants. However, there are ways to use non-native plants in your landscape in a sustainable way.

Big Earth Landscape Supply has the soil. fertilizer,  mulch and tools you need to have a healthy and beautiful landscape.